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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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: NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE (2021)

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NO ONE GETS OUT ALIVE (2021)

Book based horror finds undocumented immigrant Ambar (Cristina Rodlo) coming to America and facing all sorts of challenges, from the creepy landlord (Marc Menchacha) at the boarding house she is staying at, to her demanding boss (Mitchell Mullen) at the sweatshop she works at, to the extreme costs of fake IDs. Those are the least of her worries, though, as the boarding house has a dark past, might be haunted and a terrible fate possibly awaits her and her fellow borders there.

Flick is well directed by Santiago Menghini from a script and story by Jon Croker and Fernanda Coppel based on a book by Adam Nevill. Aside from being very spooky and atmospheric, Menghini conjures some very chilling and effective imagery and some unsettlingly bloody violence. Through Ambar, director and writers also paint a tale of undocumented immigrants being taken advantage of, abused and cheated, as going for help would only get them deported. This gives the flick some emotional weight amongst the scares. Add to that, something very wrong is going on in this boarding house and a malevolent supernatural force may be after Ambar and the other girls and you have a fright flick that is not without something to say. Menghini creates some nice chills and scares and delivers a very unsettling and gruesome last act when evils, both paranormal and not, come out of the shadows. The fact that the cast is good, with Cristina Rodlo making a really strong heroine, adds a nice bonus to an already solid horror flick from Santiago Menghini and company. Recommended! Now streaming on Netflix.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE TOKOLOSHE-THE CALLING (2021)

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THE TOKOLOSHE: THE CALLING (2021)

The Tokoloshe: The Calling is a South African supernatural thriller that finds writer Arish (Arish Sirkissoon) staying with his wife Angelina (Angela Balkovic) and their adopted daughter Thembi (Shezi Sibongiseni) at an abandoned hotel, so he can write. The hotel has a dark past and before you can say The Shining, Arish and his family fall under attack from a demonic spirit known as a tokoloshe.

Supernatural thriller is directed by Richard Green, from his script with star Arish Sirkissoon, and despite the interesting South African supernatural folklore, chooses to focus more on being a retread of The Shining. It’s too bad, as the tokoloshe sounds like an interesting bit of untapped folklore for a movie such as this, but Green instead decides to replay moments of the Stanley Kubrick classic. We get spectral children, ghostly bartenders and guests, along with a writer whose temperament is become shorter by the day. Thembi even rides her bike through the hallways a la Danny. If we didn’t get the idea that Green is a Stephen King fan, there is also an appearance by a red balloon to make sure we do. There is such a missed opportunity here, as with so little known about South African supernatural folklore, this flick really could have been something fresh in the haunting sub-genre. Instead we only get sparse background on this demonic creature of South African legend. Green does make good use of his spooky hotel setting and does create some atmospheric shots, even in broad daylight. Maybe next time he will have more faith in his own ideas and leave recycling his influences behind. Flick gets a little extra credit for trying something new with what tokoloshe folklore, that it should have been even more about, and for it’s South African locations. The Tokoloshe: The Calling is a tight 72 minutes in length and is available today (09/03/21) on VOD.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

BARE BONES: QUEEN OF SPADES (2021)

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QUEEN OF SPADES (2021)

Latest teen-centric horror is supposedly a remake of a Russian film, though seems like it could be a retread of a dozen recent movies. Flick finds a group of teens summoning an urban legend entity called the Queen of Spades and thus begin to fall victim to her. Sound familiar?

Film is decently directed by Patrick White from a script by John Ainslie based on the Russian film Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite by Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy. It could have been based by any number of recent flicks, though, where teens summon a malevolent urban legend specter. In this case it’s the ghost of a Russian woman, who ran an orphanage where she murdered the children and was brought to violent justice by local villagers. She can be summoned by the now traditional ceremony in front of a mirror that teens in these movies can’t seem to get enough of. A cross between Freddy Krueger and any number of the Creepy Pasta rogues gallery, she is a routine spook. It’s all very dull and uninvolving, even though the young cast tries hard and there are a few unsettling moments. Otherwise we’ve seen flicks like this far too often lately and this one is not innovative enough to get around the familiarity.

-MonsterZero NJ

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