HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: WE GO ON (2016)

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WE GO ON (2016)

Original slant on a haunting flick finds a man named Miles (Clark Freeman) suffering an almost fatal car accident. Even when his injuries are healed, Miles finds himself living with his mother Charlotte (Annette O’Toole) and living in fear. Not only is Miles timid about driving again, but now terrified of dying. To try to ease that fear, Miles takes out an ad promising $30,000 to anyone who can give him definitive proof of the afterlife. Initially he finds nothing but disappointment from the various scientist, paranormal experts and psychics that apply, until a strange phone call gives proof to the old adage ‘be careful what you wish for.’

Flick is co-directed by Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland from their script and story. It has a very interesting and clever premise with a man suffering a close call and now being terrified of death. He will go to any lengths to prove there is an afterlife to alleviate that fear, and as this is a horror film, that pursuit comes back to bite him. Mitton and Holland provide some very spooky scenes, even when Miles is scammed by con-artists, as some of those sequences are still creepy, before being revealed as fraud. When Miles gets a phone call from a mysterious man, things get even creepier, especially when we learn who this man is and what his intentions are. It then takes the film in an interesting new direction, when to free himself from what he’s gotten himself into, Miles is faced with a moral conundrum. Miles is forced to confront his morality, as well as, his mortality. He is also forced to confront some truths about his own past, as well. The resolution to Miles’ tale is interesting to say the least. A solid idea well carried out in both script and direction. As with Mitton’s The Witch in the Window, there are some make-up FX which are well rendered and it appears all the FX are in-camera. If not, any CGI is very subtle. This is a spooky and disturbing flick that asks some interesting questions and goes in some provocative directions. The duo of Mitton and Holland prove that the spookiness in Yellowbrickroad was not a fluke and is even more well-honed with a solid and less ambiguous story. The flick is not for everyone, as with any paranormal themed film, it depends on your beliefs in such as to how effective it will be for you.

There is a small but solid cast. Yellowbrickroad veteran Clark Freeman is very good as Miles. He is a man terrified and living in fear and wanting to find a way out. This puts Miles in a position to find definitive answers to some age old questions about life and afterlife and is even morally challenged as well. The actor handles all these facets of Miles’ journey very effectively. Annette O’Toole is very good as his caring mother Charlotte. She is very protective of Miles and is probably more skeptical of the answerers to his ad than he is. Jay Dunn is appropriately spooky as the author of the phone call, the mysterious Nelson. There is more to Nelson than meets the eye and that’s all that need be said. In support, we have good work from Laura Heisler as Nelson’s girlfriend Alice, veteran John Glover as a scientist and Giovanna Zacarías as a psychic who might be more legit than Miles first believes. A good cast that take the material seriously and give down-to-earth performances which suit the tone and material.

Overall, Andy Mitton and Jesse Holland prove they are filmmakers to watch in the indie film arena. They have come up with an intriguing and original slant on the haunting scenario, carry it out effectively and take it in some provocative directions. The film has some very spooky and disturbing moments, as well as, some thought-provoking questions. It can be low key at times, but the slower burn keeps it from getting theatrical and that keeps it grounded…and it’s all the more effective for it. Another flick that can be found on Shudder.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) cellphones on which to receive ominous messages!

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW (2018)

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THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW (2018)

Flick opens with mom Beverly (Arija Bareikis) sending her son Finn (Charlie Tacker) from New York City to Vermont to stay with his estranged father Simon (Alex Draper). Finn saw something traumatic online and his mom wants to get him out of the city and away from such negativity for the summer. Simon is flipping a house in a rural area, though secretly hopes he can bring his family back together there. Local electrician Louis (Greg Naughton) tells Simon that the house was once owned by Lydia (Carol Stanzione), a woman said to be a witch, who may have murdered her own family and then herself died in the house. Soon Simon and Finn begin to hear and see things in the house, as they renovate and come to believe Lydia may still be there and want her house back.

Flick is written and directed by Andy Mitton, who was one of the filmmakers on the spooky indie Yellowbrickroad. It does vaguely evoke the 1976 Burnt Offerings, and has a familiar basic story, but is definitely it’s own thing. Mitton crafts a slow burn haunted house flick that has some very thick atmosphere, for a film that avoids the classic tropes of the genre, yet remains very effective. There are no fog shrouded nights, full moons, or even any blood or gore. Most of the film takes place in broad daylight and Mitton still achieves some solid chills. There are maybe only two jump scares in the film and they are all well-earned, not cheap. Things get really freaky in the last act, for reasons that won’t be spoiled here, and while the ending is quite subtle, it is also very effective. That is what is so refreshing about Andy Mitton’s supernatural chiller, is that it achieves a very spooky tale without falling back on familiar tropes, or relying on an abundance of SPFX. Aside from Lydia’s make-up, there are no visual FX, no blood, no gore and no CGI. It’s all done in-camera with some really impressive cinematography from Justin Kane, an atmospheric score by Mitton himself, good direction and solid performances from the small cast.

As for that cast…one of the reasons this flick works so well, is because the performances are all very good. Alex Draper does a really good job as a flawed, but loving father who wants to bring his family back together. His love for his son is evident and his need to finish this house, despite the warnings, is heartfelt. Charlie Tacker is good as Finn. He’s a typical rebellious 12 year-old, but one caught in the emotional turmoil of being in the middle of a parental separation. This brings about the not unexpected behavioral issues. Tacker and Draper have really good chemistry and their scenes together crackle with authenticity of a real father/son relationship. Arija Bareikis is solid as mom Beverly, a woman who may be a little over-protective, but loves her son. Greg Naughton is good as the very scared electrician and neighbor, who may not be telling Simon everything, despite all he has told him. Finally, Carol Stanzione is very spooky as Lydia, despite having only one word of dialogue…in her original form anyway.

In conclusion, Andy Mitton delivers a spooky and subtle movie without falling back on the clichés of this type of flick. He accomplishes some solid chills with some simple camera work, atmosphere and the performances of his actors. It’s a slow burn and a bit of a familiar story, but one that requires no CGI or SPFX, aside from some simple make-up. It’s a good example of it being the filmmaker, not all the bells and whistles, that a spooky flick makes. Available to stream on Shudder and certainly recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) hammers used to renovate a witch haunted house!

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: Z (2019)

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Z (2019)

Spooky flick tells of the Parsons family, mom Beth (Keegan Connor Tracy), dad Kevin (Sean Rogerson) and young son Josh (Jett Klyne). Josh is a bit of an introvert and starts talking to an imaginary friend named “Z.” At first it seems perfectly natural, then Josh’s behavior starts to change. The boy becomes verbally crude and violent to classmates, to the point of getting indefinitely suspended from school. As his parents seek help from the family psychiatrist (Stephen McHattie), Beth starts to see things and begins to believe that Z may be more than imaginary and certainly no friend.

Spooky flick is directed by Brandon Christensen from his script with Colin Minihan (Extraterrestrial, What Keeps You Alive). He directs his story well and creates a lot of spooky and disturbing scenes. It’s a familiar story, but Christensen avoids using too many of the traditional tropes and when he does, he uses them sparingly and effectively. It’s an unsettling and creepy film, especially when Josh badly hurts a friend (or does he?) and when Z starts to taunt and appear to Beth. There are some chilling moments, specifically some using an old Speak N’ Spell for example. There are some interesting twists, too, as to what this malevolent entity really wants and a startling revelation from the past, that isn’t expected. The film takes a different and disturbing direction in the last act and it is only here where it stalls a little bit. When the film makes it’s turn, while it still chills, we also start to ask where this is all going. It does answer that in the last few scenes, but for a period of time if feels like it loses some of it’s momentum before it’s unsettling climax. The film also evokes The Babadook at times, as it does share some similar themes, elements and imagery, but not enough to feel this film isn’t it’s own thing. It is. Christensen proves to be a talent to keep an eye on, as the film contains elements that might have been silly in less capable hands, such as Z’s apparent preference for 2% milk. Here it’s chilling and it works. Christensen also avoids anything too graphic and shows us only quick glimpses as to what Z really looks like, letting us use our imaginations to fill in the blanks. A solid horror flick from Brandon Christensen.

The cast are really good here. Keegan Connor Tracy is a real standout as mom, Beth. She plays first a woman dismissive of her son’s imagined pal, then one who is slowly becoming concerned at her son’s behavior. This becomes fear once she starts to believe something malevolent is actually attached to her son and takes her performance in yet another direction, when revelations and reveals change the film’s gears. Great work. Sean Rogerson is good as dad, Kevin. He is more of the ‘kids will be kids’, ‘boys will be boys’ mentality and is the Scully to his wife’s Mulder. He never comes off as a jerk, on the contrary he is a loving, caring father, but one maybe too busy in his own work to really notice his son is acting so strangely. Speaking of Josh, young Jett Klyne does strong work as the Parsons’ boy. He is sympathetic and sometimes scary and the actor conveys both very well. Veteran actor Stephen McHattie (Ponypool) is effective as family psychiatrist Dr. Seager and Sara Canning is also good as Beth’s somewhat trouble sister Jenna. Tracy and Canning have good chemistry and are convincing as siblings. A good cast.

Despite a bit of a dip in momentum in the last act, Z is a spooky and disturbing horror flick. It has a familiar story, but tells it well and uses the familiar traditions of such a story sparingly and to good effect. It has some surprising twists and revelations and is bold enough to take it’s story in a different direction before an unsettling and somewhat ironic finish. There is a very sold cast who perform the material well and Brandon Christensen shows he is a talent to watch. A spooky Shudder Original!

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 (out of 4) Zs!

 

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: BEHIND YOU (2020)

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BEHIND YOU (2020)

Supernatural thriller finds teen Olivia (Addy Miller) and her little sister Claire (Elizabeth Birkner) sent to live with their Aunt Beth (Jan Broberg) after their mother passes away. As this is a horror film, there is a malevolent entity imprisoned in the house, whose malicious acts 40 years ago, Aunt Beth has been blamed for. The entity tricks little Claire into releasing it and now Beth and Olivia must try to find a way to free Claire from it’s grasp and imprison the demonic force once more.

Flick is well directed by Andrew Mecham and Matthew Whedon from their own script. It’s atmospheric and has a few spooky moments, but is far too familiar and routine, story-wise, to really be effective. Tropes are used fairly well, but we’ve seen it all before. There is a strong been there, done that vibe here and a lot more innovation would be needed to make things feel fresh. It’s a little too traditional for it’s own good, especially at a time where haunting flicks like this are a dime a dozen. The cast are fine, the girls are likable and it was effective for them to first think Aunt Beth is a villain. From the opening flashback, we, the audience, already know something is going bump in the night. It’s also a little convenient that whenever the script needs something, all Aunt Beth has to do is read from an ancient book from her library and problem solved. She’s a regular Van Helsing and one wonders, with her literary resources, why 40 years later, she’s still having problems with this thing. Still, it is the first horror flick to use a peanut butter allergy as a weapon against demonic possession. Points for originality there. Behind You has a few deaths, but only one scene of any real bloodshed, as it is mostly about the spooky stuff. Overall, it’s not a bad movie, the filmmakers tried hard, but as possession/haunting flicks go, it’s very routine. Also stars Philip Brodie as Beth’s friend Charles. It’s on Amazon Prime, if you want to give it a try.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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MONSTERZERO NJ’S SATURDAY NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE: THE DEVIL’S CANDY and BLISS

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Been a long time since the last MonsterZero NJ’s Saturday Night Double Feature, but after re-watching Joe Begos’ Bliss, I realized it would make a great double feature with Sean Byrne’s The Devil’s Candy. Both flicks feature tortured artists, supernatural influences on their art, hard core music and neither skimps on blood and gore. So, on to the sex, gore and Rock n’ Roll!…

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THE DEVIL’S CANDY (2015)

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

I’m a huge fan of Sean Byrne’s The Loved Ones and was obviously looking forward to seeing another flick from him…and finally, after eight years, it’s here. The Devil’s Candy is Byrne’s newest film, made in 2015, it’s only now getting a proper release on VOD and in select theaters from the cool folks at IFC Midnight.

The story here is of heavy metal loving artist Jesse (Ethan Embry), who moves to an old rural farmhouse with his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and chip-off-the-old-block teen daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco). While Jesse and Astrid know that the couple that formerly lived there died in the house, what they don’t know is that it is also home to some kind of malevolent influence. If it’s not bad enough that Jesse’s art starts to take a dark and ominous tone soon after moving in, Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince), the child murdering son of the previous owners, wants to come home…and he has set his demented sights on Zooey.

While not quite as intense as The Loved Ones, and lacking it’s twisted sense of humor, this is still an atmospheric, disturbing and sometimes brutally violent horror flick. The mix of heavy metal music and demonic horror, obviously works as the two have been paired up since Black Sabbath took to the airwaves in 1968. While the demonic influence elements are nothing new, they are very effective as used by Bryne, draped in his thick atmosphere of foreboding. The most disturbing elements, though, are obviously Ray’s need to “feed” The Devil his favorite candy…children. He stalks Zooey right out in the open and the distraction the malevolent entity feeds Jesse by way of his art, leaves poor Zooey unprotected. It creates some very unsettling scenes as Ray gets closer to obtaining his goal, including one in Zooey’s bedroom that is absolutely bone chilling. This all leads up to not one but two harrowing sequences with Zooey and the rotund pervert, each more intense than the last. There are some drawbacks. The film comes in at a very tight 79 minutes and it sometimes feels too quickly over for it’s own good. We wish we had a little more time to let certain scenes resonate and be given a little more time to let the disturbing nature of what is transpiring sink in before moving on to the next dramatic moment. It is also never quite clear whether it is this demonic influence that led Ray to kill, or was it his homicidal habit that brought the entity into the house…if not…why is it there? On a technical level the film looks great and while there is some week CGI during the climax, the rest of the FX work is solid and there is a really atmospheric score from Mads Heldtberg, Michael Yezerski and the band Sunn O)))

If anything helps one past some of the flaws, it’s a really good cast. Ethan Embry has become a fixture in some good horror/thrillers lately such as the frustrated son in the awesome Late Phases, or the ill-fated gun dealer in The Guest. He is really good here, not only as metal head/family man Jesse, but in portraying Jesse’s gradual transformation from attentive father into obsessed artist. As his frustrated and scared wife, Shiri Appleby is solid as a woman whose family life is disrupted from both within and without. She has a suddenly moody and unfocused husband at home and a hulking child killer lurking about after her daughter. Appleby makes her a bit more than a damsel in distress, though she isn’t given as much to do when all hell breaks loose as we’d have liked. Kiara Glasco makes a really good impression as Zooey. A teen who walks to the beat of her father influenced drum but is her own person. She’s a tough kid and a little rebellious and the young actress has a great chemistry with Embry, so their father/daughter relationship really works well on screen. She has a couple of tough scenes to portray and does a good job. Making this all come together is a really disturbing performance by veteran actor Pruitt Taylor Vince (recently seen as “Otis” in The Walking Dead). Vince really makes Ray a creepy person who makes you uncomfortable every moment he’s on camera. It really makes you fear for Zooey, especially when he catches up to her…more than once. He makes your skin crawl. A solid cast just as in Byrne’s first flick.

So maybe writer/director Sean Byrne hasn’t quite equaled The Loved Ones in his sophomore feature flick, but he has delivered another disturbing, atmospheric and bloody movie that is of a different sort than his previous twisted love story. This plot may be a bit more commonplace, but he uses the familiar tropes very effectively. The theatrical cut…wikipedia lists a 10 minute longer festival cut…may be a little too short for it’s own good and there are some unanswered questions, but a really strong cast and a director who knows how to turn the screws makes up for a lot of it. Highly recommended. especially if you loved Sean Byrne’s previous work.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and1/2 (out of 4) screaming guitars!

 

 

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BLISS (2019)

Dezzy (Dora Madison) is a down on her luck artist and drug abuser who is having trouble finishing a piece that could turn her life around. She vents her frustration in a night of debauchery, involving alcohol, a new drug from her dealer and a threesome with friend Courtney (Tru Collins) and Courtney’s boyfriend Ronnie (Rhys Wakefield). Not only does this get her working on her painting again, but gives her an insatiable appetite for blood.

Joe Begos writes and directs this sometimes hallucinogenic tale of artistic block, depravity and vampirism. Begos’ first two features Almost Human and The Mind’s Eye were homage heavy flicks, though very entertaining. Here he shows he can do something outside of his influences and do it well, even on a very small budget, which seems to suit Begos. While not a traditional vampire tale, as Dezzy has no fangs and doesn’t turn into any creatures of the night, it has some gory demises once Dezzy’s thirst drives her to kill. Whatever she is, can be killed by a wooden stake, as Courtney demonstrates by finishing off one of Dezzy’s victims, and apparently sunlight can be lethal, too. Vampires or not, this is a tale of excess and Begos sometimes put’s his audience inside Dezzy’s head trips and it gives us a sense of the state of mind the troubled artist is in. It’s a trip and a disturbing one for all the right reasons. The gore is very plentiful and well orchestrated and the film itself has a raw feel to it that works very well, as it revels in the seedier side of Los Angeles nightlife. A contemporary vampire tale substituting ancient curses and cloves of garlic for sex, drugs and rock n’ roll.

While there are quite a few supporting players, it’s very much a one woman show and lead Dora Madison (Exists) rises to the occasion. She dives into the role with a passionate yet very real performance. One doesn’t feel like they are watching a movie character, but a real person whose artistic nature has her living a life of excesses and extreme stimulation, and this is before she is transformed into a creature of the night. Her role requires a lot of nudity, drug use and hedonistic behavior, not to mention outbursts of rage, anger and violence when she realizes something is very wrong with her and her bloodlust takes hold. The actress performs it all very well. The supporting cast, such as Collins as Courtney and Jeremy Gardner as Dezzy’s “friend” Clive all create interesting people who seem to dwell more within the underground lifestyle of L.A. A good cast of interesting characters.

Overall, Begos is once again proving he is a filmmaker to watch. His homages to The Thing (Almost Human) and Scanners (The Mind’s Eye) were solid flicks that paid respectful tribute to their inspirations. Here Begos shows he can operate outside his influences and presents a tale of a young woman’s downward spiral into madness, depravity and murder all in the name of artistic expression. It’s trippy, gory and dirty and sleazy in all the right places. Looking forward to Begos’ upcoming VFW about a group of war veterans under siege at a VFW hall.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 and 1/2 (out of 4) fangs, even if Dezzy doesn’t have any.

 

 

 

 

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BARE BONES: BELZEBUTH (2017)

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BELZEBUTH (2017)

Mexican horror opens with a massacre in a hospital maternity ward where police detective Emmanuel Ritter (Joaquín Cosío) loses his infant son. Five years later, he is given a case of a similar massacre at a school…one right out of today’s headlines. Aside from the painful similarities, Ritter doesn’t see a connection till Vatican paranormal expert Ivan Franco (Tate Ellington) arrives. Franco warns Ritter these killing may be the work of rogue priest Vasilio Canetti (Tobin Bell) and an ancient demonic presence. At first Ritter is skeptical, but soon his eyes are opened to things he’s never imagined, especially when he finds out the reason all these innocent children are being slaughtered.

Film is effectively directed by Emilio Portes from a plot heavy script by he and Luis Carlos Fuentes. There is a lot going on, but the film has some spooky and intense moments, especially the shocking maternity ward scene which sets the tone. The flick has biblical implications, some interesting plot twists and some very familiar demonic possession tropes, but uses them effectively for the most part. It is a bit overlong, but the cast is good and Portes has a visual style that works well with the horror elements. There is some graphic violence which has impact and Portes uses his Mexican locations atmospherically. Even the traditional exorcism is effective enough, despite the familiarity. An entertaining horror, even if a bit cliché heavy. Also stars Liam Villa as Isa, a little boy who is the focus of the demon’s attention and Yunuen Pardo as his mother.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: SWEET HOME (1989)

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SWEET HOME (1989)

Hard to find haunted house flick has TV producer Kazuo Hoshino (Shingo Yamashiro) bringing a crew to the supposedly haunted Mamiya mansion that has been sealed for thirty years. It was the home of famed artist Ichirō Mamiya and Kazuo believes his final works rest inside. Along for the production are his daughter Emi (Nokko), reporter Asuka (Fukumi Kuroda), cinematographer Ryō Taguchi (Ichiro Furutachi) and Akiko Hayakawa (Nobuko Miyamoto) his producer whom he has feelings for. Once inside they find that all the rumors are horribly true as a terrible incident decades earlier has left a vengeful spirit lurking inside the mansion.

Film is written and directed very effectively by Kiyoshi Kurosawa. All the haunted house traditions are present with the mansion itself being a very spooky and deserted place. There is a tragic backstory to give our haunting it’s purpose and a group of individuals who refuse to believe the folklore of the house, until it’s too late. Stormy nights, grotesque phantoms and some gory deaths are presented in a very entertaining fashion with Kiyoshi Kurosawa giving us just enough time to get to know the characters before the spooks hit the fan. It even has an old gas station attendant, Yamamura (producer Jûzô Itami), to give the traditional warnings and exposition. It’s a lot of spooky and gruesome fun and the make-up effects are not only nostalgically practical, it was the 80s after all, but done by make-up effects legend Dick Smith. When we finally see Lady Mamiya’s spirit in full view, it doesn’t disappoint. There are some chills, thrills, some blood spilled and a very exciting and suspenseful climax, as our survivors face the angry spirit head-on. You even need to watch through the credits for something extra. It’s a very entertaining haunted house flick that can stand on it’s own up against flicks like Poltergeist which set a standard in the 80s. Atmospherically directed, the house setting itself is great and there is just enough humor to make it fun without offsetting the scares. Despite being a familiar tale, the movie has it’s own creepy identity and likable characters to fear for.

As those characters, we have a solid cast. Yamashiro is good as Hoshino. He’s a likable guy and avoids the arrogance most characters like this carry. His intentions are good. Popstar Nokko is endearing as Hoshino’s teen daughter Emi. She’s rebellious, though not annoying and serves as a damsel in distress in the final act. Nobuko Miyamoto is widower Hoshino’s producer. A pretty woman he has feelings for and a strong heroine when all Hell breaks loose. Ichiro Furutachi and Fukumi Kuroda are fine in their roles, though they serve more as body count. Rounding out is producer Jûzô Itami, who is good in the classic role as Yamamura. An efficient and likable cast.

In conclusion, this flick desperately needs a blu-ray release! It was spooky, gory fun and had a likable group of characters ignoring the classic warnings to suffer the consequences. There were some great practical make-up FX from the late, great Dick Smith and a very creepy house where it’s paranormal action takes place. A very solid and old fashioned haunted house flick from Japan.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 and 1/2 (out of 4) spooks

 

 

 

 

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR (2019)

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GIRL ON THE THIRD FLOOR (2019)

Flick has Don Koch (Phil Brooks, a.k.a. former WWE Superstar CM Punk) trying to right past wrongs for his pregnant wife, Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) by buying an old house and renovating it. The house has a history, though, and there were acts committed in the former brothel that may come back to haunt Don and his family…literally.

Haunted house horror is effectively directed by Travis Stevens from a script and story by he, Paul Johnstone and Ben Parker. The flick is entertaining, though a bit uneven, which does hold it back a little. There are some nice subtle, spooky touches early on in the proceedings, some good gore and some amusingly bonkers stuff here and there that achieve more Evil Dead II level supernatural hi-jinx. There are also stretches that are a bit dull, the tone is a little uneven and it’s hard to feel concerned or sorry…not that we’re supposed to…for Don when he is such a jerk. Don cheats on his wife, he deceived his clients, he’s a liar, a drinker and just seems like a bit of an all around a-hole in general. It’s like he’s getting what’s coming to him, especially when dealing with the sexy, mysterious and troublesome Sarah (Sarah Brooks). As such, it’s hard to sympathize and be afraid for a guy meeting the karma train head on. By centering the film on an unlikable character, you get more apathy than empathy from your audience, whether his comeuppance is the point or not. The flick does switch focus to his far more likable wife in the last act and douche Don seems to disappear for quite some time, while his pregnant spouse then deals with the horrors of the house. The sudden switch of focus is s a little off-putting, but we do like and fear for Liz far more and it makes for a very effective last act.

On a production level, the flick looks great and the FX well rendered. Stevens also makes great use of the old house location. The cast are fine with Brooks doing a good job in a role that is often a one man (and dog) show at times and pretty Trieste Kelly Dunn doing strong work when she shows up in the last act and the house reveals all. Sarah Brooks (no relation to Phil) is both sexy and spooky as Sarah, Karen Woditsch is good as insightful neighbor Ellie and Travis Delgado is effective as Don’s fed-up friend Milo.

Overall, flick is definitely worth a watch. A few things hold it back from firing on all cylinders, but it is atmospheric, spooky and can be both effectively subtle and delightfully over-the-top when it needs to be. There is some good gore, a few novel twists added to the haunted house tropes and the cast are all solid. Travis Stevens could be a filmmaker to keep an eye on.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) marbles.

 

 

 

 

 

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2019!

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HALLOWEEN HOTTIES: ROOKIE OF THE YEAR 2019!

This newest installment of Halloween Hotties features a new final girl on the block, who appeared in her first horror flick in 2019 and made an impression in her debut! With the release of Brian Childs’ indie financed Hell of a Night, we were introduced to this fresh face in the role of the film’s heroine, Blake! Blake gets into double trouble when getting away from it all on her own, as the farmhouse she rents is haunted and she is being stalked by a far more earthbound threat. The actress portraying her displayed some solid final girl qualifications, so without further ado…MonsterZero NJ’s Halloween Hotties rookie of the year 2019 is…

RACHAEL HEVRIN!

RACHAEL HEVRIN as BLAKE in HELL OF A NIGHT!

Sharing some big sister love with younger sibling Shaine (Grace Powell).

Place looks peaceful enough…but they always do!

A quiet moment before the vaycay turns cray cray…

Poor Blake cant even have a peaceful shower without things going bump in the night.

Blake is a good girl who makes the mistake of trusting some bad people.

Isolated and alone, girl-next-door Blake is having a Hell of a Night!

Blake has had enough…

…and decides to heat things up for foes both supernatural and corporeal!

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Actress and model Rachael Hevrin has a very natural girl-next-door appeal that really made Blake a very likable character to carry this small cast horror flick. She handles double trouble from both human and spiritual opponents and shows that even in her damsel in distress moments, she doesn’t need a hero to rescue her. Like all classic final girls, she has a wholesome quality, yet is resilient and quite the fighter. Currently, the Texas native seems to be keeping busy with modeling, short films and commercial work, though with her down-to-earth good looks and endearing screen presence, we hope to see more of her in our favorite genre soon!

-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: POLAROID (2019)

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POLAROID (2019)

Teen centric horror was filmed in 2017 and due to Dimension Pictures’ financial woes, has not found release until recently on VOD and streaming formats. Plot finds high school student and photographer Bird (Kathryn Prescott) getting an old polaroid camera from friend Tyler (Davi Santos), who works with her at a local antique shop. Later that night at a costume party, Bird takes pictures of her friends with the old camera. Soon her friends start dying and it seems anyone who she takes a picture of, falls victim to some kind of supernatural entity. Can Bird find out who, or what, this thing is and how to stop it.

Flick is directed by Lars Klevberg based on his short film, which has been adapted to feature length by Blair Butler. It’s a fairly generic teen horror that closely follows the pattern of today’s PG-13 horror trend targeting teenage audiences. As such, it’s not all that bad. It has a few spooky moments, the young cast are likable enough and it plays well the Scooby Doo mystery solving element. It actually has a few interesting twists. There is very little gore and when the specter is portrayed with CGI, it can be quite cheesy looking at times. Not the best of this recent horror-lite trend, but far from the worst. Also stars Haunt’s Katie Stevens, Galaxy of Terror’s Grace Zabriskie, X-Files’ Mitch Pileggi and prolific creature performer Javier Botet, for the none CGI entity segments.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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