NEW SLASHER “INITIATION” GETS A POSTER AND TRAILER!

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NEW SLASHER “INITIATION” GETS A POSTER AND TRAILER!

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A trailer and poster for the new slasher Initiation has arrived!

“Whiton University unravels the night a star-athlete is murdered, kicking off a spree of social media slayings that force students to uncover the truth behind the school’s hidden secrets and the horrifying meaning of an exclamation point.”

The film is directed by John Berardo from his script with Brian Frager and Lindsay LaVanchy and stars Isabella Gomez, Yancy Butler, Jon Huertas and Freddy vs Jason’s Lochlyn Munro. R-rated slasher flick is due to be released theatrically and on demand on 5/7/21!

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-MonsterZero NJ

Source: Horror Society and IMDB

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BARE BONES: LUCKY (2020)

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LUCKY (2020)

Writer May (an excellent Brea Grant) believes a man is stalking her. Each night he appears and breaks into her house and she has to fight him off. Her husband Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh) seems to be very glib when discussing it, to the point where he leaves May and goes to stay with his parents, when she confronts him about his cavalier attitude. Even the police don’t seem to be taking her very seriously. Feeling abandoned and alone, May decides to deal with it in her own way, as each day the mysterious stalker (Hunter C. Smith) returns. Is this all in May’s head?…or is someone really out to hurt her?

Film is directed by Natasha Kermani, who gave us the interesting Imitation Girl, from a script by star Brea Grant. The film is partially commentary on how female victims of sexual assault, or harassment, become the ones under scrutiny and who have to prove themselves amid disbelief. May constantly fights to be believed and finds herself having to defend herself to everyone around her. Lucky is also about living in constant fear after such a trauma and learning to confront those fears. With each encounter, May becomes stronger and more resilient, as the mysterious attacker gets bolder and more violent. The people around her also become more and more dismissive and are of no help, so she is on her own. If it seems like something is a bit off here, with so many people not believing and even patronizing May, you would be right. It’s a slasher film as a metaphor for trauma and it’s effects. If there is anything predictable about the unconventional Lucky, is that this obviously isn’t going to end like a typical slasher movie and everything is not what it outwardly seems. We also know from early on there is more beneath the surface than Kermani and Grant are telling us, or plan to tell us. There is no spoon feeding here, or revelatory reveal. It’s up to the viewer to fill in the blanks and the pieces are there if you want to put them together. The film may ultimately be unsatisfyingly ambiguous to some, but as someone who grew up in a household with an abusive parent, the film’s messages about alienation, trauma and living in fear are well received, as are those of learning to face those fears and fight back. Another bold and innovative film from Kermani and a strong, clever script by Brea Grant. Lucky is streaming on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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REVIEW: FREAKY (2020)

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FREAKY (2020)

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

Blumhouse’s latest is a slasher twist on the classic body switch scenario. While the town of Blissfield is being stalked by a serial killer, misfit high school teen Millie (Kathryn Newton) has her own problems to deal with. She is still mourning the death of her father, her mother (Katie Finneran) has turned to drinking, her crush Booker (Uriah Shelton) doesn’t even notice her and she is not exactly the most popular girl in school. The paths of she and The Blissfield Butcher (Vince Vaughn) are fated to cross and when they do, the use of an ancient Aztec dagger, procured from a previous victim, causes Millie and her attacker to switch bodies. Now, on Friday the 13th, of all days, Millie, in the Butcher’s body, has till midnight to fix things before the switch becomes permanent. She has to convince her best friends Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) that it’s really her, avoid her cop sister (Dana Drori) and stop The Butcher, who is using Millie’s body to stalk new prey in her high school’s very halls. It’s going to be a freaky Friday the 13th indeed!

Flick is directed by Christopher Landon from his script with Michael Kennedy. Landon is responsible for writing a number of Paranormal Activity sequels and directing that series’ The Marked Ones installment, as well as, directing and writing the fun Happy Death Day movies. It’s an entertaining mash-up of slasher meets Freaky Friday, though not quite the energetic fun that was his previous slasher meets Groundhog Day flicks. It is a lot more gruesome than Happy Death Day, though, and earns it’s “R” rating, while still being filled with some fun dialogue and generous movie references. The script is fairly clever with getting the Aztec dagger “La Dola” into The Butcher’s hands quickly, to get the story rolling, and using web savvy teens to give us the exposition we and Millie need, as to how the dagger works and what needs to be done. This sets in motion the race to regain possession of La Dola, before midnight passes and Millie is trapped forever in the body of a middle aged murderer…which The Butcher realizes may not be a bad thing. The film only falters a little when a few sentimental dialogue scenes go on for a bit too long and the filmmaker’s desire to be politically correct becomes a little too obvious in spots. The last act could have been a bit punchier, too, with it’s teen filled party in a warehouse setting. Otherwise, it’s a fun slasher/high school flick homage with some witty banter, some bloody carnage and a hip sense of humor.

The flick wouldn’t have worked nearly as well, if it wasn’t for our two leads having a blast playing each other’s parts. Kathryn Newton is very good, first as the awkward, likable and sympathetic Millie, and then as the sadistic serial killer. Newton is very successful as oozing evil and malice from within a high school girl’s veneer and has a threatening presence despite being a very pretty young girl. It’s Vince Vaughn, however, that really has a chance to take the ball and run with it as Millie in The Butcher’s body. Vaughn is hilarious as the awkward high school girl in the body of a middle aged serial killer and his mannerisms and body language are just as funny as his line delivery. He is even very threatening when he is The Blissfield Butcher back in his own body, in case you forgot he was a sadistic killer. Supporting cast is solid, too. Celeste O’Connor and Misha Osherovich as Nyla and the flamboyantly gay Josh are a fun duo. They play off Vaughn very well and have some amusing dialogue and comic bits as they race to help get Millie back in her own body. Katie Finneran is good as Millie’s lonely, mourning mother, as is Dana Drori as Millie’s tough, sarcastic cop sister. Uriah Shelton is likable as Millie’s crush, Booker, who is dragged into this mess and Ferris Bueller star Alan Ruck appears as a harsh wood shop teacher.

Overall, this flick was fun and was a nice mash-up of two types of film’s one wouldn’t immediately think of mixing up. The cast are really good, especially our body swopping leads, who have a blast playing each other. It can be gruesome, but is very witty and clever as well. It does drag in a few parts, due to some lengthy attempts at adding some sentimentality to the proceedings, but otherwise is an entertaining homage, though not quite the infectious fun of Landon’s Happy Death Day flicks…which Landon recently conceded take place in the same universe. Freaky Death Day someday maybe?

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) chainsaws which pretty Kathryn Newton wields quite well.

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: RABIES (2010)

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RABIES (2010)

Rabies has the notoriety of being the first Israeli slasher flick and does put an interesting spin on the genre. The film opens with a brother and sister running away from home and coming across a serial killer stalking the woods. Soon more characters are fated to converge, including a forest ranger, two cops and four twenty-somethings. That’s where Rabies takes off from the generic serial killer flick it starts out as. Characters are soon meeting horribly brutal deaths but, not by the serial killer’s hands, but for various reasons, by their own. Whether it be jealousy, mistaken identity or self defense, the characters are split off into groups with their own stories going on and start offing each other quite brutally while the serial killer is sidelined. This may be the first slasher film where the actual killer doesn’t rack up any body count.

While the premise was quite interesting, and the turning the genre formula upside down was amusing to see unfold, Rabies sadly wore out its welcome long before it was over. After a while, the brutality and absurdity of the situations that always ended in violence just became tiresome. Film is from Big Bad Wolves directors/writers Ahron Keshales and Navot Paposhaddo, who have some clever ideas and work well behind the camera, but get a little too carried away with their own cleverness. Rabies stopped being suspenseful after about 1/2 hour in and then just bludgeoned the viewer with far-fetched and brutal scenes, losing any tension or impact they might have had, had the filmmakers not gone so overboard. Rabies is an interesting near miss and Keshales and Paposhaddo do show potential as filmmakers.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: DON’T LOOK (2018)

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DON’T LOOK (2018)

Routine backwoods horror has five friends, Lorena (Luciana Faulhaber), Ted (Jeff Berg), Sebastian (Javier E. Gómez), Nicole (Lindsay Eshelman) and Alex (Curtis K Case) traveling to a remote house in the country for a holiday getaway. There are some twisted redneck neighbors (Jarrod Robbins and Hailey Heisick) they cross paths with and a masked psycho soon starts stalking and killing them one by one. You’d think, at this point, city folk would stop vacationing in rural farmhouses or cabins in the woods, but…nope.

Low budget horror is produced, directed and co-written, with Jessica Boucher and Danielle Killay, by star Luciana Faulhaber (The Night Crew). Story-wise there is definitely nothing new here, though following a classic horror storyline did seem more like the point. Film is low budget and has a bit of an amateur production feel, though Faulhaber does direct well enough and makes good use of the rural Plowville, Pennsylvania locations. The cast are fine, performances vary with Faulhaber giving her fiery Lorena some sex appeal and strength, though oddly Lorena takes a backseat to another character in the last few scenes. Robbins and Heisick are also amusing as the twisted rednecks who live on the property and the flick does take a while to let us know if they are the killers, or a red herring (redneck herring?). There is a last act twist that isn’t totally unexpected, but fits in with the familiar tropes this film embraces. Not a lot of suspense, but there is some intensity in the last act. There are some decent kills with a sufficient amount of gore and the flick doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at a scant 71 minutes long. Overall, it’s an amusing enough watch for the spooky season on Amazon Prime and if Luciana Faulhaber continues to hone her craft she might turn into a director to keep an eye on.

Personal Note: I always support independent horror filmmaking and love the fact that Faulhaber didn’t sit around waiting for a movie role, she made her own movie! You can get your movies made, filmmakers!-MZNJ

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE FURIES (2019)

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THE FURIES (2019)

The Furies is a derivative, but intense horror flick that is basically Battle Royale meets…well, pick any slasher. After having an argument with her friend Maddie (Ebony Vagulans), Kayla (Airlie Dodds) and Maddie are kidnapped. Kayla wakes up in a box in the middle of some remote woods and soon finds some very disturbing facts. First of all, she’s not the only woman abducted and deposited here, second, they are also being hunted by a group of armed, masked killers. Now the meek Kayla must learn to fight for her life, as she searches for Maddie, all the while trying to survive her relentless pursuers.

Tony D’Aquino writes and directs this Australian mash-up of flicks we’ve seen before, but does so well. The film can be intense at times and the attack/fight sequences can be quite brutal and vicious. There is a lot of very well rendered gore, as body parts and blood on both sides are spilled quite frequently. There are some clever additions to the ideas D’Aquino has borrowed, such as each girl…or “beauty”…has a corresponding killer…or “beast”. When a beauty is killed, her corresponding beast’s head explodes, literally. This sets up an interesting angle as beasts must protect their corresponding beauties to survive and beauties must protect their beasts to protect them from the other killers. This sets beast against beast and beauty against beauty at times. It changes the game up a bit. We don’t know much about who or what has set this game of horrors up. We see brief glimpses of a surgical procedure as devices are attached to the participants eyes, so whoever’s watching can see it from a POV perspective. We also get a dark glimpse of some sort of control room. It is only in the last scenes where we get some of the answers to our questions, though the movie looses some momentum when the film switches gears for the reveals…and we’ve seen that all before as well. The killers are effective, although they are simply large men in grotesque masks with sharp objects and they never speak. Are they kidnapped maniacs, or something? Who knows? The girls are alright, but with all the running and carnage, we don’t get to learn too much about them before they are killer fodder. The small cast are all fine with Airlie Dodds making a decent final girl as Kayla, with Linda Ngo as Rose being the only other girl getting any significant screen time. The real star here is Larry Van Duynhoven, whose prosthetic make-up and gore are a sight to behold, even to the most jaded horror fan.

Overall, this flick is far from original, but it an entertaining mash-up of recycled ideas with a few fun twists thrown in. Tony D’Aquino keeps things moving at a fast and furious pace, with the blood spattering quite frequently and thus little time for us to ask too many questions till it’s over. Sure we’ve seen it all before, from masked killers to folks hunted for sport and entertainment, but the gore effects are worth watching it for alone and there are some brutal and intense fight sequences to keep us munching our popcorn for the economical 82 minutes it lasts. Blood-soaked flick is available on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 (out of 4) axes.

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE SLEEPER (2012)

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THE SLEEPER (2012)

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

Flick bares a very close resemblance to Black Christmas by having a disturbed individual making eerie phone calls to the Alpha Gamma Theta sorority, then stalking and killing it’s members and whoever is close to them. It opens with the grisly murder of one of it’s pretty residents in 1979 and then jumps to 1981 with new pledges arriving. One by one the pretty Thetas fall, as the killer (Jason Jay Crabtree) cuts a bloody path to new pledge Amy (Brittany Belland).

Written and directed by Justin Russell there is obviously nothing very original here, even setting the flick at winter time like the 1974 classic it emulates. What Russell does succeed at is giving the film loads of atmosphere and really nailing the look and feel of a slasher flick from the era it’s set in. From the lighting, to camera shots, to the really nostalgic score by Gremlin, the film could pass for something made at that time period. It’s not all that scary or suspenseful, though it does have some spooky moments, and even the killer is very derivative…most likely on purpose. It still has a creepy late 70s early 80s vibe to it and the kills are gruesome at times. The killer’s preferred weapon is a hammer and the FX can be cheesy, which is fine since many of the films of that time period were restricted by small budgets. If anything, Russell knows his influences very well and his film is atmospheric, nostalgic and it even has a disco dance sequence, how can you hate that!?

Being set in a sorority there are some pretty faces in the cast, including scream queen Jessica (Silent Night) Cameron as Cindy. It’s girl-next-door Brittany (Clowntergeist) Belland that makes an impression, though, as new pledge and final girl Amy. Belland, who sadly passed away in November of 2018, has a down-to-earth beauty and a natural charm and is very effective in the final girl role. The rest of the Theta actresses are fine as eye candy and killer fodder, as are the gents playing their ill-fated boyfriends. As for our killer, the mask-less Jason Jay Crabtree is suitably unsettling even if he reminds one quite a lot of the killer from the original Black Christmas.

Overall, it’s not a great horror, or a very original one, but is very effective as the homage it was intended to be. It has the look and atmosphere of a horror from the late 70s and early 80s with the traditional blood, sex and electronic score. The late Brittany Belland makes a very good final girl as Amy and even if the killer is a bit too familiar, he and his kills are effective enough. A fun and nostalgic throwback to an era which obviously served as an inspiration to many of today’s filmmakers. Also features the legendary Joe Bob Briggs in a cameo.

The Sleeper is available from Scream Team Releasing who brought you The Barn, 10/31 and The Witching Seasonhttps://screamteamreleasing.com/products/the-sleeper-special-collectors-edition-blu-ray-dvd-combo-pack

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) hammers.

 

 

 

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Farewell and RIP Brittany Belland

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HELL FEST (2018)

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HELL FEST (2018)

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

Hell Fest is a slasher flick that finds pretty Natalie (Amy Forsyth) reluctantly going to a Halloween Haunt with her friends on All Hallow’s Eve. Hell Fest is almost a Renaissance faire for horror fans with costumed performers and dozens of mazes, fun houses and ghoulish games. What Natalie and company don’t know, is that a real serial killer (not listed in the cast 😱) has entered the park and she and her friends have gotten his attention in the worst way.

Flick is a routine but fun slasher, as directed by Gregory Plotkin (Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension) from a script and story by six people, no less. It’s not especially scary, though there are a few effective moments, mostly in the last act. The body count is unusually low for a modern day slasher, but there is some good gore and Plotkin at least has a very cool stetting that he can take advantage of…though more could have been done with the concept. All the tropes are followed and handled well enough to entertain, though there is nothing inventive enough to really make an impression and the generic masked boogie man was serviceable at best. The cast of characters are all fairly stereotypical, though the attractive cast does make them likable enough for us not to be completely apathetic with their fates. Lead Amy Forsyth (Torment) is a decent final girl, though she didn’t leave a strong enough impression to make her Natalie overly memorable. If any of the cast members stood out, it was Bex Taylor-Klaus as the cute but obnoxious horror buff Taylor. The rest of the supporting cast make decent killer fodder and there is a brief appearance by genre legend Tony Todd as a Hell Fest carnival performer. The film ends a bit suddenly and the denouement is both interesting and anti-climactic at the same time. Only time and box office numbers will tell if the makers can expand on that ending, if there ever is a Hell Fest 2.

Overall, Hell Fest is an entertaining enough horror flick as long as you are not expecting anything groundbreaking or innovative. Plot-wise it was by-the-numbers slasher hi-jinx and it’s killer was effective just enough, but not so much to make one look forward to an ongoing franchise. There was some nice gore, the Hell Fest setting was fun and the young cast was likable enough, so we weren’t detached from the proceedings. The film is also helped by the fact that it was nice to have a horror movie out this Halloween season that didn’t involve found footage or increasingly ridiculous traps. Routine but fun and you could do a lot worse during the spooky season..

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 masked killers…generous, but hey…it’s Halloween 🎃

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: RUIN ME (2017)

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RUIN ME (2017)

Shudder exclusive finds pretty Alex (Marcienne Dwyer) out of rehab and going on “Slasher Sleep-out” weekend with her new boyfriend Nathan (Matt Dellapina) and four other participants. It’s supposed to be a simulated slasher flick in the woods, but something strange is going on and Alex starts to believe that this Slasher Sleep-Out is far more real than they bargained for. Is it all in Alex’s troubled head?…or is this more than a game?

Flick is directed well by Preston DeFrancis from a script by he and Trysta A. Bissett. It’s a fairly fun movie that works in some of the familiar tropes and then plays with them a bit as this simulated slasher weekend starts to go awry…or does it? The concept that we are never sure if this is all part of this faux horror movie weekend, or if someone is having deadly fun with our bunch, works well enough, even if we can see certain things coming. The cast are all good, especially lead Dwyer, who makes a sufficient final girl…or is she? There is entertainment to be had and some surprises, too and while it’s not perfect, it actually surpasses the moderate expectations one might go in with. Worth a watch.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE REDWOOD MASSACRE (2014)

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THE REDWOOD MASSACRE (2014)

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

Completely derivative U.K. slasher has a group of friends heading into the woods to camp near a farmhouse that hosted some grisly murders two decades earlier. Apparently a farmer (Benjamin Selway) heard voices which drove him to brutally kill…and partially eat…his family. Perfect location! Obviously the hulking madman is still on the premises, all these years later and this little camping excursion goes bloodily south real quick.

Multi-tasking David Ryan Keith writes, directs, edits, produces and even does the cinematography on this slasher, though there isn’t an original bone in it’s bloody body. It’s basically a Texas Chainsaw retread with a dash of Halloween thrown in as a Scottish farmer goes bonkers and becomes a mask wearing psycho. He still haunts the same farmhouse where he killed his own family and slaughters anyone who comes near…and the notoriety of the place brings him plenty of vittles for his slaughter house. Despite the lack of originality, there is a sense of fun here, or at least a good effort on the technical side from filmmaker Keith. The gore is plentiful and fairly effective and Selway’s burlap-bag-masked killer works well enough. It isn’t very suspenseful or scary, but it passes the time adequately and all the tropes are there for those who like the redneck cannibal genre for it’s own sake. The cast are OK enough with cute girl-next -door Lisa Cameron making a decent final girl, though Lee Hutcheon‘s revenge seeking hunter doesn’t accomplish much. All in all, you could do worse as far as cookie cutter slashers go.

So, maybe it’s nothing you haven’t seen before and not done in any way innovative, but you have to admire David Ryan Keith‘s effort just a bit. It’s a formula redneck cannibal slasher with a lot of gruesome kills and fairly decent production value for something made on a very low budget. The killer works within his familiar context and the cast is attractive enough to fall under his blades satisfactorily. Our final girl Pamela does her job adequately and there are worst ways to spend 80+ minutes on the couch with your favorite poison. If you are a redneck cannibal completest, you might want to check it out.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 2 and 1/2 (out of 4) axes.

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