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 axes.

 

 

 

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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: THE ICE CREAM TRUCK (2017)

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THE ICE CREAM TRUCK (2017)

Flick finds pretty, married mom Mary (Deanna Russo) moving from Seattle back to her old suburban neighborhood. She’s arrived a week ahead of her family to get the house ready while the kids finish school. Mary suddenly realizes this is the first time she’s had to herself in over a decade and plans to enjoy it. Two things, though, impact Mary’s return to suburban living and “me” time…the tempting advances of her neighbor’s hunky teenage son, Max (John Redlinger) and a creepy ice cream man (Emil Johnsen) who has taken notice of the new woman on the block.

The Ice Cream Truck is written and directed by Megan Freels Johnston who successfully mixes the two stories of a woman reconnecting with herself and a slasher stalking an unsuspecting neighborhood. She gives us a likable heroine in Mary who is having trouble readjusting to suburban life and the nosey, eccentric, judgmental, neighbors she’s surrounded by. Being a wife and mother for so long, she has a chance to unwind and is certainly tempted by Max, her pot smoking, well-built neighbor’s son who has taken an interest in the pretty older woman. In the midst of Mary’s self proclaimed “reconnecting with her youth” there is the creepy ice cream man stalking the neighborhood and killing anyone who doesn’t follow his old fashioned sensibilities. Johnston does a good job having these stories run parallel to each other till it’s time they collide when Mary and the creepy confections vendor face-off. Johnston has a very interesting visual style and her shot composition does evoke John Carpenter at times as did Michael Boateng ‘s very 80’s/Carpenter-esque score. There is tension and we are certainly unnerved when the ice cream man is onscreen. The kills are bloody but routine, though they aren’t the point. This isn’t a gore flick. On another level, we also watch the tale of a woman simply enjoying being a little frisky for a few days and that works too. If the film falters a bit, it is in first, the confrontation between Mary and the psychotic ice cream vendor is far too short and over before it has time to have impact. The other is the “wait…what?” ending. Without giving away any details, it seems to imply that much of what we just saw might have been in Mary’s head. It undos some of what we just witnessed and makes us wonder if writer Mary was just daydreaming a little excitement, letting her imagination run a bit wild, to relieve the boredom of waiting for her family to arrive. Either way, it does’t have the impact it was probably intended to have, though does set up a potential sequel and Mary was a strong enough character that we would’t mind seeing more of her experiences in surreal suburbia.

As Mary actress Deanna Russo really nails it in what is basically her show. She presents us with a woman who has lived for others for far too long and now suddenly has a chance to cut loose a bit, smoke some pot, have the house to herself and enjoy that she has the attention of a much younger man. And what makes this work is that Russo doesn’t play her like the stereotypical MILF, she is a little awkward and has a bit of a sarcastic sense of humor, but is naturally pretty and has a sexuality to her that is just part of her personality and not something forced. She’s just being herself and is naturally sexy, especially when she starts to let herself enjoy Max’s attention. The two have a chemistry on screen and the scenes of high school grad Max’s awkward seduction attempts do crackle with a sexual tension. Credit to actor Redlinger here, too as the object of Mary’s temptations. Russo also makes a good final girl…and it was refreshing to have one that wasn’t a high school or college girl…though, these moments were far too short to really enjoy. As stated, John Redlinger did a good job as the infatuated Max and he was charming and one could understand how his awkward attempts at getting in Mary’s pants, could actually be a bit endearing to a lonely older woman looking to feel not so mom-like for a bit. Finally we have Emil Johnsen who is properly unnerving as the ice cream man. Not much info is given and we have no idea of his true motives, but he presents a very creepy dude and he is chilling in his scenes. The flick also has an appearance by Rob Zombie regular Jeff Daniel Phillips as a creepy delivery man. Poor  Mary seems to be a magnet for creepy dudes, as well as, high school hunks.

Overall, this was an interesting mix of slasher flick and drama of a woman trying to reconnect with her youthfulness and sexuality. This ties in well as bad behavior is usually what attracts slashers in the classic format, so it works here. Megan Freels Johnston appears to be a filmmaker to keep an eye on with some very impressive shot framing and imbuing the film with some nice atmosphere both as a slasher and a tale of a fish out of water in oddball suburbia cutting loose much to her neighbors’ chagrin. The flick may have stumbled in it’s last scene and with not letting it’s confrontation between Mary and maniac play out a bit longer, but it is an enjoyable little movie and hopefully a sign that Megan Freels Johnston might be someone to watch out for in the future.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 ice cream trucks.

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BARE BONES: DON’T KILL IT and DARK FOREST

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DON’T KILL IT (2016)

Horror/comedy follows the exploits of demon hunter Jebediah Woodley (Dolph Lundgren) as he hunts a nasty body hopping demon in a small town. The demon’s murderous activities attracts the attention of the FBI and now Woodley is forced to team with sexy FBI agent Evelyn Pierce (Kristina Klebe from RZ’s Halloween and Tales Of Halloween) to hunt it down…if he can convince her it really exists and he’s not crazy.

Goofy, fun and delightfully over-the-top gory, flick is directed in Sharknado style by Mike Mendez from a script by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen. Sure it’s silly and never scary for a minute, but the cast seem to be having a good time and Mendez brings his energetic and humor filled style to the proceedings such as he did with Gravedancers and Big Ass Spider. Mendez can take the most ridiculous of premises and just run with it and this flick is no different. Lundgren plays it straight, as does Klebe who proves once again she can pull double duty as leading lady and action hero. Goofy, harmless and blood-spattered fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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DARK FOREST (2015)

Slasher homage finds four gal pals, Emily (Laurel McArthur), Michelle (Veronica Ternopolski), Francine (Jalin Desloges) and Jolene (Weronika Sokalska) all heading into the woods for a girls camping trip. Unknown to them, they are being followed by Peter (Dennis Scullard), Emily’s psychotic boyfriend who wants revenge for being defied and embarrassed by the four party girls. As our unsuspecting hotties enjoy their trip, Peter cuts a bloody path of pursuit into the woods leaving a trail of bodies behind him.

Flick written and directed in 80s slasher style by Roger Boyer may be a bit amateurish at times, but has it’s bloody heart in the right place. Boyer may not conjure any real scares, but the film does have a strong 80s slasher vibe, including 80s style soundtrack and gives us some abundant gore and an equally abundant cast of hotties, much like the horrors of that era did. Our four leading ladies are actually quite fine in their roles and are very likable characters to root/fear for while Scullard does make a creepy killer. Boyer’s slasher may be short on story, but at 75 minutes, the flick is kept short and sweet and doesn’t wear out it’s welcome. Sure there are some editing weaknesses and the film looks very low budget, but these are things a filmmaker can overcome with experience and low budget horror is where the heart and soul of the genre resides anyway. A nice effort that pays respectful tribute to it’s influences.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS (2015)

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THE GIRL IN THE PHOTOGRAPHS (2015)

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

Flick is most notable for being the last film to be attached to the late, great Wes Craven as he was executive producer. Director and co-writer Nick Simon tries to give it a bit of Craven’s style, but the film is a mixed bag and a prime example of how a character and the actor playing them, can sink a flick like a stone. Story has pretty grocery clerk, Colleen (Claudia Lee) being sent photos of mutilated women by a couple of psychopaths. The photos also capture the attention of pretentious and self-centered, L.A. photographer Peter Hemmings (an awful Kal Penn) who, for some reason, travels to Spearfish, South Dakota to meet Colleen. Suffice to say this new attention  to Colleen does not sit well with the psychopaths in question and people start to die.

Co-written by Oz Perkins and Robert Morast, the film, obvious by the plot description, has a weak story that ultimately doesn’t really go anywhere. Major plot holes abound, like the local police practically laughing off the fact that Colleen is getting pictures of dead girls and despite disappearances in the area, these local Barney Fifes (including a wasted Mitch Pileggi) don’t seem to feel there is anything worth investigating here. Add to that, gratingly annoying photographer Hemmings, finds out everything he needs to know about it online on a blog and feels these photos are personally calling him out, even thought they are being sent to Colleen, not him. If you are scratching your head, you are not alone. So Hemmings and entourage go to Spearfish and instead of investigating the photos, Hemmings becomes obsessed with making Colleen his new model. Ummm…what? This sets in motion more brutal murders from our killers, who we meet early on and are never given any sort of motive or reason for their actions. Just two redneck weirdos (Luke Baines and Corey Schmitt) who enjoy brutal killings and for no real reason have become obsessed with Colleen. There are a few brutally effective scenes and our psychos are very creepy, if not underwritten, but the plot never comes together or makes all that much sense as a cohesive story. There is very little suspense and the flick basically comes to a sudden and unsatisfying end. At least the production had legendary cinematographer Dean Cundey to give the film an atmospheric look.

The cast are a very mixed bag, too. Claudia Lee is fine as Colleen and she is a girl who can handle herself. She is pretty, though the character lacks the magnetism that seems to attract psycho killers and jerk photographers alike. Speaking of which, Kal Penn is absolutely awful as Hemmings, who is a an annoying character to begin with. The character is just a self-absorbed, prima donna and with Penn’s performance, it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard whenever he speaks. He is completely unconvincing as a sexy, genius photographer and really drags down an already weak movie. Kenny Wormald is fine as Colleen love interest…another plot element that goes nowhere… and member of Hemmings entourage, Chris. He seemed like a bit too much of an ass-kisser to get the interest of a strong-willed, independent girl like Colleen, IMO. There is also scream queen Katharine Isabelle, former Disney channel star Christy Carlson Romano and the awesome Mitch Pileggi all wasted in small roles.

Suffice to say, it’s disappointing the Wes Craven’s legacy ends with his name on this misfire. The flick has barely a cohesive story, there is no real suspense and none of the characters have much motivation for what they do. Kal Penn is not only insufferable as Hemmings, but the characters is awfully annoying as written and really serves no purpose, like a lot of the characters here. There are a few effective scenes, mostly because they are brutal and the redneck psychos are creepy, if not purposeless in what they do. Saving grace has former Carpenter D.P. Dean Cundey lensing the flick and the appearance of some fan favorites in small roles. Not completely awful but definitely forgettable.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 knives.

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