BARE BONES: INFRARED (2022)

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INFRARED (2022)

Found footage horror finds paranormal investigator Geoff (Greg Sestero) teaming up with his estranged psychic sister Izzy (Leah Finity) to investigate an abandoned and allegedly haunted school. If personal tensions weren’t enough, the effects of a past tragedy and a sinister presence lurking the halls make this possibly the most real and terrifying episode of Infrared of all! 
 
Flick is written and directed by Robert Livings and Randy Lundlall Jr. and the duo try hard. There are a few spooky sequences, but like most found footage flicks it takes a long time to really get going and we spend at least an hour with Geoff and Izzy’s personal melodrama. It follows the formula almost too closely with anything interesting happening in the last act and then it ends suddenly with a cheap jump scare. Yes, there is an unexpected element that is revealed near the end, but it comes too little and too late to make things interesting and not enough is done with it before the credits roll. At least the directors give the flick a bit of a found footage feel, most of the time, though an overacting Jesse Janzen as the eccentric property owner Wes comes across as nothing but scripted hijinks. Seen worse. Seen better. Infrared premiers on VOD on 7/22/22 on the Terror Films Channel and 7/29/22 on all other digital streaming outlets.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: UMMA (2022)

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UMMA (2022)

Umma tells the story of Amanda (Sandra Oh) a woman of Korean descent that now lives on an American farm with her daughter Chris (Fivel Stewart) estranged from her family. When a relative (Tom Yi) brings the remains of her now deceased mother (MeeWhat Alana Lee) to Amanda’s farm, her spirit, angry at Amanda’s forsaking her duty to her and leaving, begins to the single mother and her daughter.

Written by Iris K. Shim, this is at its core a completely generic and routine haunting, elevated by being steeped in Korean tradition and a wonderfully strong performance by its leading lady. There are some spooky moments, but this story has been told many times before and better. What makes it engaging and watchable is a knockout performance by Sandra Oh as a woman haunted by her decisions and in turmoil over having lived her own life, instead of following generations of custom and duty. There is some commentary about tradition, respecting one’s family heritage and yet making your own choices, but we know how this story will ultimately end. It is worth taking the journey, however, to watch Oh give a two-dimensional character strong life, intensity and emotional depth. A perfect example of a weak script made something interesting by a veteran actress giving her all and enhancing the material. Also stars Dermot Mulroney and Odeya Rush.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES BOOK REVIEW: THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR by DARCY COATES

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THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR by DARCY COATES

Jo lives next door to The Marwick House, an ominous home that has a dark history and has seen more than one owner flee the residence in the middle of the night, never to return. When pretty Anna moves in, she and Jo become friends bringing Jo into the house for the first time. Jo and Anna soon find out that there is indeed a presence in this house, and it is very angry and may want something even more frightening than just its mere presence.

This is one of Darcy Coates more intense chillers and perhaps one of her darker stories. Aside from the angry spirit inhabiting the house, Anna’s abusive boyfriend also plays a part. There is an air of mystery as now Jo feels she must help Anna and is drawn into finding out who haunts the house and why. It has some very spooky moments and Coates weaves some very atmospheric imagery as the secrets of Marwick House are slowly revealed. There is more intensity here than in some of her previous haunted house tales and is delightfully a bit scarier that one usually expects from her. Another spooky and chilling read from Darcy Coates and one refreshingly darker than her norm.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: THE CURSE OF LA PATASOLA (2022)

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THE CURSE OF LA PATASOLA (2022)

Indie horror flick finds two young couples, Naomi (Najah Bradley) and James (Patrick R. Walker) along with Sarah (Gillie Jones) and Daniel (A.J. Jones) camping in a remote forest despite ominous warnings from a park ranger (Mark Pettit). There they encounter their own personal melodrama and a bloodthirsty creature from Amazonian folklore called La Patasola (Luciana Faulhaber).

Flick is directed by star A.J. Jones from a script by he and Shaun Mathis. As per its opening conversation, the film tries way too hard to be “woke” and it feels forced and not like natural conversations between friends. Daniel is also too ignorant in his views to be believable as someone the others would even want to hang out with. Naomi is South American in origin and thus provides the background exposition for our seductive creature and the film tries to set the mood with the ominous warnings of the park ranger as well. Cliché yes, but done right, the time-honored clichés still can work. Again, here it seems forced, as is Naomi relating the folklore of La Patasola as a campfire tale and it just so happens the creature is actually here in Florida, USA. What are the odds! The Amazonian folklore is interesting, but the character melodrama is not. The film is boring, not scary, so it’s faults only become more obvious, since there is nothing to distract us away. The acting is stale as is the dialogue. Only Luciana Faulhaber gives her role a little life, imbuing La Patasola with a bit of spooky sex appeal in her far too brief appearance as the human form of the creature. Disappointedly amateur and forgettable despite being based on actual untapped folklore.

-MonsterZero NJ

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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 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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