BARE BONES: 30 COINS (30 MONEDAS) (2020)

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30 COINS (30 MONEDAS) (2020)

30 Coins is a Spanish horror series from director Álex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus) currently streaming on HBO Max. It tells the story of a secret and sinister religious organization that is searching for the 30 coins Judas received to betray Christ. It is said these coins will bring them apocalyptic power and the last coin is in the hands of disgraced priest and exorcist Padre Manuel Vergara (Eduard Fernández) in the remote Spanish village of Pedraza. Hell is literally unleashed on this small farm town as the search for the coin tightens.

30 Coins is a very involving, disturbing and quite creepy series as atmospherically directed by Álex de la Iglesia from his scripts with Jorge Guerricaechevarría. Aside from all the spookiness, there is a lot of gore, some unsettling creatures and it’s not afraid to use heavy biblical lore and imagery in the story. There are some very interesting characters. Eduard Fernández is a badass hero, as disgraced priest and boxer Padre Vergara, Megan Montaner was a strong willed and sexy as hell heroine as village veterinarian Elena and Miguel Ángel Silvestre was a noble hero as Pedraza mayor Paco. Manolo Solo and Cosimo Fusco were also very effective as the scary bad guys. There was also a spooky score by Roque Baños (Evil Dead, Come Play) to add to the atmospherics. It wasn’t perfect. Sometimes the narrative wandered from the main story and there was some weak CGI to lessen the effect of some scenes. Ultimately, though, it was a spooky and disturbing eight episodes of horror television. Definitely would watch a season 2!

All episodes listed below were directed by Álex de la Iglesia and co-written with Jorge Guerricaechevarría :

1. “Cobwebs” (Telarañas)

2. “Ouija” (Ouija)

3. “The Mirror” (El espejo)

4. “Memories” (Recuerdos)

5. “The Double” (El doble)

6. “Holy War” (Guerra Santa)

7. “The Glass Box” (La caja de cristal)

8. “Sacrifice” (Sacrificio)

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE DARK AND THE WICKED and THE VIGIL

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This installment of MonsterZero NJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature pairs two of the spookiest flicks to come out in recent months. Both features present persons who are either non-believers, or of lost faith, who are faced with a malevolent demonic presence. Both are extremely spooky and make for quite a scary MonsterZero NJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature!

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THE DARK AND THE WICKED (2020)

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

Chilling horror finds siblings Louise (Marin Ireland) and Michael (Michael Abbott Jr.) returning home to their parent’s rural farmhouse, as their father (Michael Zagst) has taken gravely ill. Soon after, their mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) mysteriously commits suicide and upon reading her journals, the atheist brother and sister start to believe there is a dark and sinister force stalking their family.

Movie is written and directed by Bryan Bertino (The Strangers, The Monster) and is one creepy and unsettling film. The flick opens with some mood setting sequences that elude to the fact that there is something malevolent indeed stalking this house. As the siblings arrive and their mother’s suicide causes them to investigate what is going on, it becomes obvious that in her final days, their atheist mother began to believe something evil was after their ailing father’s soul. Bertino maintains a very unsettling atmosphere throughout the entire film and it really starts to get under your skin as the film progresses. It also makes it unnerving that these simple folk are atheists, yet come to believe something very sinister and supernatural is at work here. He turns up the tension and creep factor gradually, as farm animals are gruesomely harmed and visitors to the house, such as a very strange priest (Xander Berkeley), prove to not be what they seem. Some may not like that we never get a solid explanation as to who, what and why, but here it seems to serve the film’s dread-filled atmosphere to have the cause and exact nature of this malevolence remain somewhat ambiguous. The film has some shockingly violent moments and some really goose-bump inducing scenes and imagery. Bertino rarely uses jump scares, and crafts all of the scares we do get, which are frequent and very effective, with an expert hand. The flick rarely let’s you relax, much like the characters within it are constantly on edge.

As those characters, the small cast are very good. Lead Marin Ireland is very effective as the concerned and then very frightened Louise. The actress starts Louise out with a convincing performance as a woman conflicted and a little hurt by her mother’s demands that she stay away, but then someone who becomes very scared when it seems the things she doesn’t believe in may be all too real. Michael Abbott Jr. is also solid as her brother Michael. Unlike his sister, he has his own family to take care of and it’s no surprise the evil in the house uses that to it’s advantage, to separate and divide the brother and sister. Julie Oliver-Touchstone is quite spooky, as their haunted mother, in her brief screen time. Her performance helps set the tone for the film. Michael Zagst doesn’t do much as their comatose father, but he is an important character nonetheless and has some chilling scenes. Rounding out are a very creepy Xander Berkeley as a “priest” and Ella Ballentine (The Monster) is effective in what she has to do as farmhand Charlie’s (Tom Nowicki) granddaughter. A really good cast!

Overall, The Dark and the Wicked is definitely one of the best horror’s of the year and one of the most consistently creepy and unsettling horror movies in some time. Bryan Bertino keeps the unnerving atmosphere cranked up and gives us numerous sequences and events to chill and spook us. His frights are legitimate and he never resorts to cheap jump scare tactics to get a reaction out of us. Keeping his malevolent entity ambiguous only works in the film’s favor, as the director knows how to get under our skin and does so often. Even the cinematography by Tristan Nyby and the haunting score by Tom Schraeder is effective in giving us the creeps. Definitely one of the best horror films in a movie year where major new releases were few and far between and indie horror came to the forefront at drive-ins and on VOD. Now streaming on Shudder!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) ill-fated goats.

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THE VIGIL (2019)

Supernatural horror steeped in Orthodox Jewish culture comes from Blumhouse Productions and is released by IFC Midnight. The story tells of Yakov (Dave Davis), an emotionally troubled young man, who has left his Orthodox Jewish background and is out of work, in therapy and on medication. He is offered much needed money to be a Shomer for the night, someone who, in Jewish tradition, watches over and prays for the recently deceased till dawn. As he watches the body of a man called Litvak, he starts to realize there may be something malevolent in the house with him.

Yes, this story does evoke the classic flick The Viy, but is most definitely it’s own thing. The film is written and directed by Keith Thomas and is a very impressive feature debut. Thomas creates tension from almost the first scene by first establishing Yakov’s emotional and financial duress, but also then the tension between he and the members of the Orthodox Jewish community that want him back. Once Yakov enters the house, he finds out the first Shomer left in fear and the widow, Mrs. Litvak (Lynn Cohen from Feast of the Seven Fishes), doesn’t want him there, either. As the spooky goings on in the house begin to escalate, Thomas lets us know that not only did Yakov witness the death of his little brother as a result of a hate crime, a death he feels responsible for, but that the recently deceased Mr. Litvak (Ronald Cohen) was obsessed with combating a demon called a Mazzik (Rob Tunstall). Thomas knows how to create an atmosphere of dread and knows how to generate chills simply with his camera. The combination of lighting, spooky sets and shot composition, go a long way in making this flick very spooky all in itself. There are some familiar tropes that come with these type of demonic haunting flicks, but Thomas knows how to use them very well and knows when to mix in some new twists, such as demonic manipulation of Yakov’s cellphone. The entity uses Yakov’s past trauma and the voices of those he trusts against him and it is scary stuff. Add to all that a really effective score by Michael Yezerski (The Devil’s Candy) and some very unsettling cinematography by Zach Kuperstein (The Eyes of My Mother) and you have a legitimately scary movie.

The small cast is also very good, with Dave Davis pulling out a very strong, emotional performance of a man already on the edge, being pushed by something unearthly. He makes Yakov sympathetic, so we connect with him and feel badly as the demonic presence really puts him through the ringer. We also are behind him when he digs deep into his abandoned faith to fight back. Solid work! Lynn Cohen can be very spooky as Mrs. Litvak, a woman suffering from loss and a touch of Alzheimer’s, but also somewhat likable as we get to know her. Menashe Lustig is also good as Reb Shulem, an Orthodox Jewish community leader who wants Yakov to return to them and gives him this job as a way of coercing him back. A very good cast.

Keith Thomas delivers what might be the first truly scary horror flick of 2021. Despite the flick playing festivals and internationally since 2019, it is only now being released here in the U.S by the awesome folks at IFC Midnight. It is simply a good, old fashioned, scary movie that uses atmosphere, tension and some super creepy camera work to scare you. Thomas builds a lot of tension before the scares even begin and gives us an emotionally troubled main character to get put through a truly hellish night. All his characters have some history and depth to them, that the telling of which is woven cleverly into his simple, but layered story. A very spooky, scary horror with some nice emotional depth behind the proceedings, a refreshingly different cultural perspective and some really effective use of the familiar tropes and trappings. Keith Thomas is definitely a filmmaker to keep an eye on. The Vigil is available to stream on Amazon Prime and other streaming outlets, while also in a limited theatrical release.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) candles.

 

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE VIGIL (2019)

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THE VIGIL (2019)

Supernatural horror steeped in Orthodox Jewish culture comes from Blumhouse Productions and is released by IFC Midnight. The story tells of Yakov (Dave Davis), an emotionally troubled young man, who has left his Orthodox Jewish background and is out of work, in therapy and on medication. He is offered much needed money to be a Shomer for the night, someone who, in Jewish tradition, watches over and prays for the recently deceased till dawn. As he watches the body of a man called Litvak, he starts to realize there may be something malevolent in the house with him.

Yes, this story does evoke the classic flick The Viy, but is most definitely it’s own thing. The film is written and directed by Keith Thomas and is a very impressive feature debut. Thomas creates tension from almost the first scene by first establishing Yakov’s emotional and financial duress, but also then the tension between he and the members of the Orthodox Jewish community that want him back. Once Yakov enters the house, he finds out the first Shomer left in fear and the widow, Mrs. Litvak (Lynn Cohen from Feast of the Seven Fishes), doesn’t want him there, either. As the spooky goings on in the house begin to escalate, Thomas lets us know that not only did Yakov witness the death of his little brother as a result of a hate crime, a death he feels responsible for, but that the recently deceased Mr. Litvak (Ronald Cohen) was obsessed with combating a demon called a Mazzik (Rob Tunstall). Thomas knows how to create an atmosphere of dread and knows how to generate chills simply with his camera. The combination of lighting, spooky sets and shot composition, go a long way in making this flick very spooky all in itself. There are some familiar tropes that come with these type of demonic haunting flicks, but Thomas knows how to use them very well and knows when to mix in some new twists, such as demonic manipulation of Yakov’s cellphone. The entity uses Yakov’s past trauma and the voices of those he trusts against him and it is scary stuff. Add to all that a really effective score by Michael Yezerski (The Devil’s Candy) and some very unsettling cinematography by Zach Kuperstein (The Eyes of My Mother) and you have a legitimately scary movie.

The small cast is also very good, with Dave Davis pulling out a very strong, emotional performance of a man already on the edge, being pushed by something unearthly. He makes Yakov sympathetic, so we connect with him and feel badly as the demonic presence really puts him through the ringer. We also are behind him when he digs deep into his abandoned faith to fight back. Solid work! Lynn Cohen can be very spooky as Mrs. Litvak, a woman suffering from loss and a touch of Alzheimer’s, but also somewhat likable as we get to know her. Menashe Lustig is also good as Reb Shulem, an Orthodox Jewish community leader who wants Yakov to return to them and gives him this job as a way of coercing him back. A very good cast.

Keith Thomas delivers what might be the first truly scary horror flick of 2021. Despite the flick playing festivals and internationally since 2019, it is only now being released here in the U.S by the awesome folks at IFC Midnight. It is simply a good, old fashioned, scary movie that uses atmosphere, tension and some super creepy camera work to scare you. Thomas builds a lot of tension before the scares even begin and gives us an emotionally troubled main character to get put through a truly hellish night. All his characters have some history and depth to them, that the telling of which is woven cleverly into his simple, but layered story. A very spooky, scary horror with some nice emotional depth behind the proceedings, a refreshingly different cultural perspective and some really effective use of the familiar tropes and trappings. Keith Thomas is definitely a filmmaker to keep an eye on. The Vigil is available to stream on Amazon Prime and other streaming outlets, while also in a limited theatrical release.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) candles.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: THE EMPTY MAN (2020)

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THE EMPTY MAN (2020)

Flick opens in 1995 with a group of four friends (Aaron Poole, Jessica Matten, Virginia Kull and Evan Jonigkeit) backpacking in the Himalayas. After one has an encounter with a strange skeleton in a cave, the trip goes horribly wrong. The film then picks up twenty-five years later with an emotionally troubled detective (James Badge Dale) trying to find a missing girl. His investigation leads him to a cult who are trying to conjure a malevolent supernatural being they call The Empty Man.

Ridiculously long and generic horror is directed by David Prior from his own script, based on a comic series by Cullen Bunn and Vanesa R. Del Rey. It is basically yet another movie that has someone evoking some sort of boogeyman. A generic and routine boogeyman The Empty Man is at that. With a 137 minute runtime, this film is at least 40 minutes too long and is a tedious chore to sit through, as it is neither scary, nor involving. It’s definitely nothing new. Of course the opening scene…that could have simply been done as a flashback…links to what is going on in present day. No surprise there…or anywhere for that matter. Other than a cast that tries hard, flick is generic, routine and simply way too long, thus giving little to recommend. Boring waste o.

-MonsterZero NJ

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BARE BONES: THE FUNERAL HOME (2020)

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THE FUNERAL HOME aka LA FUNERARIA (2020)

It’s trouble enough for funeral home owner Bernardo (Luis Machín) to have a normal family life with having married abused widow Estela (Celeste Gerez) who has a rebellious daughter, Irina (Camila Vaccarini). It’s harder still, with the house being filled with the supernatural presences of those being given their final rest and having to appease them before they move on. A home filled with spirits is unsettling enough, but Bernardo and his new family now have to deal with a malevolent presence that has moved in with them. Who, or what, is it and why has it come here?

Argentine haunted house flick is chillingly written and directed by Mauro Iván Ojeda. It has loads of atmosphere and Ojeda fills his tale with some very spooky images and unnerving moments, as this already haunted family tries to find out why something darker has targeted them. There are some interesting reveals and the story evokes the recent horror tales from Indonesian filmmaker Joko Anwar, as it is filled with dark family secrets and occult activities, as a catalyst for the current supernatural hijinx. There are a lot of familiar elements and the basic story is nothing new, but Ojeda uses and presents them well and with his own slant. The film can also get a bit bloody, especially in the last act. Spooky flick is available to rent on Amazon Prime and also stars Susana Varela as Ramona, the family’s paranormal medium. Recommended!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC (1981)

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THE QUEEN OF BLACK MAGIC (1981)

1981 Indonesian horror is the basis for the recent quasi remake of the same name that has gotten some online attention. It has a very simple plot. The story finds pretty Murni (Suzzanna) betrayed by her lover (Alan Nuary) over another woman and accused of practicing black magic. She is thrown off a cliff by the terrified villagers, but survives. She is rescued by shaman Gendon (W.D. Muchtar) and given the powers of black magic to exact revenge on those who betrayed and tried to murder her.

Original version is directed by Lilik Sudjio from a script by Subagio Samtono, and aside from a revenge seeking woman named Murni and some gory black magic practicing, there is little carried over to the 2019 Joko Anwar written flick. This film is a fun and very gory supernatural revenge flick with plenty of maggots, flying heads and levitations. There is even a dash of martial arts. The FX utilized range from simple but effective to delightfully cheesy. After what Murni was put through, we don’t exactly root against her, when she gruesomely kills those who tossed her off a cliff. Actress Suzzanna is very pretty and charming one minute and fierce the next. Her Murni is reluctant at first, but soon finds the anger to exact her vengeance. There is even an interesting twist during the climactic confrontation that will pit student against teacher. While it lacks the remake’s depth of background story, this version knows to give us a break now and then and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 89 minutes in length. Overall, this is an amusing and fun supernatural horror with both versions now available to stream on Shudder. Either version is worth a look.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WIND CHILL (2007)

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WIND CHILL (2007)

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

A young woman (Emily Blunt) takes a ride share with another student (Ashton Holmes) on her way home from college on Christmas break. The pair are off to a rocky start, especially when he takes a side road off the main highway and through the woods. The two are run off the narrow road by an oncoming driver and are now stranded deep in the woods and in deep snow. That’s not the worst of the girl’s problems, as not only is she suspicious of her driver’s true intentions, but there may be something unnatural lurking in those bitter cold woods.

Flick is directed by Gregory Jacobs from a script by Joe Gangemi and Steven A. Katz. The movie starts out interestingly enough with Blunt’s unnamed young woman, being suspicious of Holmes’ unnamed young man, as his conversations with her reveal he has not been honest with his fellow student. As the film progresses and they are trapped together in the stranded car, with no heat, no food, no water and in extreme cold, we start to learn more and more about his true intentions. It’s enough to give this film tension and make it a bit unsettling as it is. Jacobs and the writers then add a supernatural element with mysterious figures lurking in the woods and a few corpses, both animated and not. It’s all very spooky and adds an interesting caveat with stalker-ish guy and snooty girl bonding over mutual fear and concern. Aside from a few briefly seen supporting players, this is a two person show and both perform well. Blunt is strong as the somewhat difficult yet likable “Girl” and Holmes is appropriately a little off as the “Guy” who lies his way into a ride with the pretty student from his class. If anything holds this unnerving little movie back a bit, it’s that it takes a while to “warm up” and sympathize with our lead characters, with him being an awkward stalker and she difficult and rude to him, even before she starts to suspect their ride comes with ulterior motives. While ambiguous for quite some time, we do start to get clues as to what is going on here supernaturally. It is satisfying and spooky in a Twilight Zone kind of way, but at the same time, a little disappointing considering the build-up had us expecting something a bit more bizarre. It still works and effectively portrayed, even if familiar.

Overall, this is an enjoyably spooky flick even if what it turns into is something a little more routine than we hoped for. It is still well done and our leads help us overcome somewhat negative characters to like and sympathize with them. The film is shot nicely, with good use made of the wintery woodland locations and it has some nice atmosphere without relying on violence or gore to give us the chills. Flick is currently streaming free on Crackle, or as a cheap rental on Amazon Prime. Supporting cast includes Ned Bellamy, Martin Donovan and Chelan Simmons.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) rolls of duct tape, which adds sealing malfunctioning car windows to it’s 1001 uses.

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: THE DOLL (2016)

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THE DOLL (2016)

Daniel (Denny Sumargo) has a problem his first day supervising a construction site. There is a creepy looking doll up in a tree and his workers are afraid to cut it down. The doll is supposedly the property of a little girl that was murdered and the superstitious workers are afraid they will anger her spirit. So, Daniel comes to the only logical course of action…he takes the doll home to his pretty wife Anya (Shandy Aulia). I think you all know what happens next.

Indonesian horror is nothing new story-wise, but director Rocky Soraya, from his script with Riheam Junianti, has fun with it. If you’ve seen even one possessed doll movie than you’ve seen most everything presented here, save for a fun attack by a swarm of bats. Soraya obviously has a love for these type of movies and it translates to the film, even if it adds little new to the creepy doll sub-genre. His cast play it straight and pretty Shandy Aulia makes for a good heroine, as the terrified Anya, who always seems to find herself alone in the couple’s expansive new house with the possessed doll. Like his 3rd Eye movies, Soraya makes this one look good and knows his tropes well and effectively rolls them out. The make-up and FX crew do good work and the haunted toy looks effectively creepy. If you can get past a guy bringing this ugly doll home to his wife, even after hearing it’s back story, you might have a good time with this. Soraya and Riheam Junianti would team for two more of these flicks, which are all streaming on Netflix. Also stars Sara Wijayanto as the “Lorraine Warren” of the flick, Mrs. Laras, who has a past with the doll.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE 3RD EYE 2 (2019)

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THE 3RD EYE 2 aka MATA BATIN 2 (2012)

Sequel has sisters Alia (Jessica Mila) and Abel (Bianca Hello) now trying to use their third eye sight to help spirits in need. A tragic occurrence has Alia wanting to start a new life and she goes to work at an orphanage. Fate, however, has other ideas and Alia once again finds herself immersed in a mystery and surrounded by spirits both in need and out for revenge. Worse still, this haunted house, and the ghosts within, may hold the truth to Alia’s own recent, painful loss.

Indonesian horror sequel is once again directed by Rocky Soraya from a script with Riheam Junianti. They once more borrow from many a supernatural thriller, though, at least some of it is intentional, such as a fun homage to Friday the 13th Part 3. You’ll know it when you see it. This flick does feel a bit more of it’s own thing, like some spooky sequences set inside the spirit portal, despite there still being a lot familiar. Jessica Mila once again makes a good heroine as Alia. She’s likable, caring and gutsy. Citra Prima also returns as intense spiritualist Mrs. Windu and the new cast members all perform well, too. Soraya does get good work from his actors in his flicks. The make-up and gore are again well rendered and the visual FX a bit stronger this time. As a supernatural mystery thriller, this sequel is entertaining and has some surprises, though it is also a bit overlong and can get somewhat repetitive at times. Rocky Soraya does have a good visual eye for how a horror flick should look. He also knows to present his material seriously, as something like this could get very silly…and almost does a few times. Sequel is also on Netflix like it’s predecessor.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE 3RD EYE (2017)

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THE 3RD EYE aka MATA BATIN (2017)

Flick has sisters Alia (Jessica Mila) and teen Abel (Bianca Hello) returning to their childhood home after an accident claims the lives of their parents. Abel is afraid, as she feels there is something unnatural in the house. Alia and Abel go to a spiritualist, Mrs. Windu (Citra Prima), who informs them Abel can see the dead because her spiritual third eye is open. To understand what is occurring, Alia asks to have hers opened as well, to see what Abel sees. Be careful what you wish for, as Alia not only finds that the house has a tragic past, but becomes plagued with visions and attacks from spirits both benign and malevolent.  

Derivative but fun Indonesian horror is directed by Rocky Soraya from his cliché ridden script with Riheam Junianti. They borrow things from Poltergeist to The Sixth Sense and everything in between, but it is fun to watch as they do try hard to deliver something spooky, even if we have seen it all before. Heck, they even throw in an exorcism for good measure! It’s not very scary, a few effective moments aside, but it is entertaining and pretty Jessica Mila makes a solid, beleaguered heroine as Alia. The rest of the cast are good too, with Citra Prima giving spiritualist Mrs. Windu some nice gusto and Bianca Hello being endearing as Abel. There is some cheesy CGI, but most of the FX are done live with well rendered make-up and gore FX and Soraya has a nice visual eye. Amusing flick is currently streaming on Netflix along with it’s sequel. Also stars Denny Sumargo (The Doll) as Alia’s boyfriend Davin.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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