BARE BONES: THE WASTELAND aka El PÁRAMO (2022)

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THE WASTELAND aka El PÁRAMO (2022)

Netflix streaming horror finds a family, husband Salvador (Roberto Álamo), wife Lucia (Inma Cuesta) and their young son Diego (Asier Flores), living on an isolated farm far from wars and the evils that men do. When Salvador leaves and doesn’t return, the loneliness and isolation start to embrace Lucia and Diego. Worse still, they have told Diego about a beast that roams the wasteland between their farm and the rest of the world and Diego believes it is now stalking his fragmenting mother.

Spanish film is directed by David Casademunt from his script with Martí Lucas and Fran Menchón. As such, it is a bleak and depressing film as we watch the loneliness and hopelessness set in on the mother and son, as the days drag on and Salvador does not return. It’s also heartbreaking to watch as Lucia starts to go mad and becomes suicidal, with little Diego having a terrified front seat to it all. The film looks great, as Casademunt has an effective visual eye, but The Wasteland is more tedious than scary, as the scenes with the stalking beast are few and far between. Is it real?…or just the specter of death pursuing the desperate Lucia and her frightened son Diego? Overall, it is a somewhat effective movie with some gruesome gore, spooky visuals and very good performances, especially from young Flores and his screen mom Cuesta. Overall, though, the film is far too bleak to be truly engaging or to be considered entertaining.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: LAST RADIO CALL (2022)

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LAST RADIO CALL (2022)

Flick has police officer David Serling (Jason Scarbrough) disappearing after a routine call at an abandoned hospital. A year later, his wife Sarah (Sarah Froelich) is frustrated with the lack of answers and decides to look into it herself, using a documentary crew to record her investigation. Sarah soon finds an ancient and sinister force may be behind David’s disappearance and, worse still, may now be focusing on her.

Found footage horror is written and directed by Isaac Rodriguez and one can appreciate his effort, especially in trying to do something a little different by adding some Native American folklore to his supernatural story. Unfortunately, the film falters with some performances that takes us out of the illusion that this is real footage of real people, as does his use of some very familiar tropes that come across as far too theatrical to be found footage. The abandoned hospital that serves as a setting for the beginning and end segments is a creepy location, but Rodriguez doesn’t conjure up too many scares of his own, otherwise. Despite the original story, the film follows horror formulas far too closely to really scare us. Flick is available January 14th on the Terror Films Channel before becoming available on VOD on January 21st.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: MONSTERS IN THE CLOSET (2021)

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MONSTERS IN THE CLOSET (2021)

Flick finds horror author Raymond Castle (Tom CIkowski) mysteriously passing away. His pretty daughter Jasmin (Jasmin Flores) returns home to investigate how he died. She finds he was resorting to using dark forces to write his latest horror and when read aloud, his latest chiller comes frightening to life. Will Jasmin survive?

Anthology of sorts is directed by The Snygg Brothers from a script by Luke Couzens, Shanna Bess and Valerie Bittner, who also star. It’s an amusing enough low budget flick, though very amateurish, that does show some heart and a love for horror movies. Flores makes a likable heroine and Cikowski is effective as Castle, who is seen in a digital message viewed by his daughter. The creatures, zombies and gore are amusing enough, and a story told from the POV of a woman bitten by a zombie and slowly turning, is one of the better bits. All in all, you could do worse.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES BOOK REVIEW: SEASON’S CREEPINGS: TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR by RONALD KELLY

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SEASON’S CREEPINGS: TALES OF HOLIDAY HORROR by RONALD KELLY

A fun and spooky collection of ten Christmas themed horror tales by author Ronald Kelly. Stories like the opening Jingle Bones and fairy tale-like Then Came a Woodsman are, for the most part, consistent in chills and fun. The two stories that stand out as the best, however, come towards the end of the book, with the chilling Christmas tree horror Beneath the Branches and the holiday fireside folktale The Peddler’s Journey. For those that like a little creepy in their Christmas, this is a fun and spooky anthology of holiday horror stories from Nashville native Ronald Kelly!

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: REPOSSESSION (2021)

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REPOSSESSION (2021)

Jim (Gerald Chew) is in his fifties and suddenly finds himself broke and out of a job. Worse still, while his life is in a downward spiral, a literal demon from his past comes back to haunt him.

Tedious and dull flick is written and directed by Ming Siu Goh and Scott C. Hillyard. Neither director seems to have actually been on set, as the actors recite their lines all in the same monotone delivery as if this was some sort of script reading and not an actual film shoot. The flick does try to make commentary about age discrimination and people’s desire for status, but those messages are lost in the lifeless melodrama that unfolds. The movie has zero energy or intensity. The unscary demonic scenes are few and far between and don’t seem to serve much purpose other than to just give Jim an even harder time than he is already having. Poor guy can’t get a break, even from the supernatural. It’s all so boring and a bit depressing and there isn’t even any kind of payoff at the climax for sitting through all this. it’s 96 minutes of wasted time.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: ANTLERS (2021)

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ANTLERS (2021)

Lucas (Jeremy T. Thomas) is a young boy who has only his schoolteacher Julia (Keri Russell) and her sheriff brother Paul (Jesse Plemons) to turn to when an encounter with an ancient and evil entity transforms his father (Scott Haze) into a monster.
 

Gory and unsettling flick is directed by Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace) from his script with C. Henry Chaisson and Nick Antosca (Brand New Cherry Flavor), based on Antosca’s book The Quiet Boy. It is a disturbing film that not only tells a tale of horror about a vengeful and evil Native American spirit but touches on the real-life horrors of abuse through its emotionally scarred characters. It is a slow burn, but it serves the story to build gradually to the film’s more gruesome moments, as the man turned malevolent creature eventually finds its way into the surrounding woods of this small mountain town. The film is very atmospheric and has some very horrifying imagery to give its audience the continual creeps, and when it’s Wendigo is on screen, it’s a very effective critter with top notch creature and gore FX. The cast is very good, with especially strong work from Keri Russell, as a teacher with her own emotional traumas, and young Jeremy T. Thomas as the embattled Lucas. The slow pace and unsettlingly real subject matter may not be for some, but Antlers is a creepy and effective film for those who can appreciate Cooper’s grim and dreary approach. Rustic horror movie also stars Graham Greene as a retired Native American sheriff and Amy Madigan as a concerned school principal.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES BOOK REVIEW: DEAD LAKE by DARCY COATES

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DEAD LAKE by DARCY COATES

Another spooky tale from Darcy Coates, this one set at a remote cabin on the shore of a lake, where there have been some disappearances as of late. Artist Sam intends to spend a week at her uncle’s self-built cabin to try and finish an art project for an upcoming exhibit. She soon starts seeing a mysterious figure and it becomes apparent that she is not alone in these woods, and someone may be stalking her.

Coates gives us something different from her traditional haunted house and paranormal tales, though this story does have some supernatural elements. It’s a very creepy and unsettling tale as we quickly endear to struggling artist Sam and given a good idea of just how isolated and alone she is there. Not only does she start seeing this figure, but there is evidence someone is entering the cabin and she is painting frightening portraits at night of a very grim looking stranger…paintings she has no recollection of doing. Of course, there is a mystery element and there is a spirit involved and it all comes to a very intense and unnerving climax, where we get some startling answers. The book also comes with four spooky and entertaining short stories, the nerve-wracking Whose Woods These Are, the chilling Mannequin, the bizarre Hitchhiker and the haunting Bellamy. Another very spooky book for nights under the covers from an author who has yet to disappoint!

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: ACHOURA (2021)

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ACHOURA (2021)

Twenty years ago, four friends, Samir (Omar Lotfi), his brother Ali (Younes Bouab), Nadia (Sofia Manousha) and Stephen (Moussa Maaskri) were lured into an abandoned house where they encountered a creature of folklore. Bougatate feeds on children and three of the friends barely escaped with their lives. Samir did not return and after two decades, Ali and Nadia have convinced themselves he was simply abducted, while Stephen still suffers nightmares about the malevolent entity they saw. When Samir suddenly resurfaces, Nadia, Ali and Stephen must confront the truth about Bougatate and find a way to stop the creature from harming anymore children, especially Nadia and Ali’s son Youssef (Mohamed Wahib Abkari).

French/Moroccan horror is well directed by Talal Selhami from a script by he, Jawad Lahlou and David Villemin. The film’s press materials call it a cross between The Babadook and IT and that the film certainly is, story-wise. Selhami still delivers a spooky and atmospheric mash-up and certainly has a strong visual eye, as the film looks impressive and like a horror flick should. He gives the film some tension and quite a few creepy moments and that this supernatural thriller is steeped in Moroccan folklore, makes it a refreshingly new perspective, even if the story evokes things we’ve already seen. The title is derived from The Festival of Achoura, a festival for children, where the film’s malevolent being can have it’s fiendish pick of potential victims. As for the film’s villain itself, Bougatate is an interestingly designed and effective enough specter, that helps add to the elements that make this movie work, despite it familiar story elements. Add to that, is a strong and effective cast, especially our four leads and the kids who play them twenty years earlier.

Supernatural horror is from Dark Star Pictures and is set for premiere on VOD and home media on 12/14/21. If you are interested in horror from other cultures, you might want to give this one a look. Achoura also stars Jade Beloued, Abdellah El Yousfi, Gabriel Fracola and Noé Lahlou as the younger Nadia, Ali, Stephen and Samir respectively, in the spooky IT-esque flashback sequences.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2021!

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2021!

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features a relatively new girl on the block, though technically not a total rookie. She did appear in 10 episodes of season 2 of AMC’s The Terror series in 2019, but didn’t get her first lead role in a horror movie till the 2021 Netflix original No One Gets Out Alive. The Mexican born actress made an impression in her final girl debut as Ambar, an undocumented immigrant, who has moved into the wrong boarding house. The actress displayed some strong final girl/heroine qualifications, gave the role some nice emotional resonance and did some major ass-kicking! So without further ado…MonsterZero NJ’s Halloween Hotties rookie of the year 2021 is…

CRISTINA RODLO!

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 CRISTINA RODLO as AMBAR in NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE!

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Cristina as Ambar, an undocumented immigrant just looking to make a living.

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Harassed at work and taken advantage of, may be the least of Ambar’s problems!

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Something very wrong is going on at this boarding house!

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This was not part of the rental agreement!

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Cristina’s Ambar is a tough girl who won’t give up without a fight!

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Photo Credit: The Movie Database
There’s no telling where this beautiful and talented actress will show up next. She seems to keep busy and has been acting steadily since 2008. Hopefully she’ll return to the horror genre soon, as she made a kick-ass final girl!

-MonsterZero NJ

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

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

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BARE BONES: DEMIGOD (2021)

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DEMIGOD (2021)

When her grandfather dies and leaves her everything, Robin Murphy (Rachel Nichols) travels back to her childhood home in the German Black Forest with her husband Leo (Yohance Myles). Soon they and a group of others are kidnaped by the cult-like followers of a forest deity known as The Great Hunter. True to it’s name, they are released into the dark woods and hunted by the hooded pagans—and possibly something far more unearthly. 

Flick is directed by Miles Doleac from his script with Michael Donovan Horn and is an entertaining and sometimes spooky supernatural/survival horror. It can be atmospheric at times and the basis in pagan folklore does add some atmosphere as well. It is methodically paced and that is by design. Performances vary with Nichols doing solid work as heroine Robin and Doleac himself playing the role of local hunter Arthur. Yohance Myles tries hard, but seems to get the worst of the dialogue to recite as Leo and remaining cast member’s playing the hunted seem to be there just to provide body count. Those portraying the pagan worshipers are appropriately creepy and dangerous, as they should be. There is some effective violence and graphic gore and even if we have seen the innocents being hunted scenario many times before, it’s not badly done here, with the hunters using primitive weapons rather than guns. The forest setting also works well to create a sense of isolation and hopelessness for our prey, as the are relentlessly pursued. The flick has some effective visuals, as photographed by Nathan Tape, with a fitting score by Clifton Hyde. Horror fans will appreciate that there is a slasher element to the proceedings and the last act changes gears from the hunt to a more straight-up and bloody horror conclusion.
 
Overall, an entertaining little indie that is a mash-up of backwoods pagan horror and the hunt scenario. If you are looking for something a little different than the usual spooky season fair, you might want to give this flick a watch. Demigod will be available On Demand and in select theaters on 10/15/21!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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