HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE NUN (2018)

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THE NUN (2018)

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The Nun is the latest film in The Conjuring film series now referred to as “The Conjuring Universe”. The film explores the origins of the demonic nun that plagued the Warrens in Conjuring 2 and is a spooky fun entry in a series that, up till now, has taken itself a bit too seriously at times. The story opens in 1952 where a veteran priest, Father Burke (Demián Bichir) is asked by the Vatican to travel to Romania to investigate the suicide of a nun at a remote Abbey. He is asked to bring along young Sister Irene (Taissa Farmiga) who is about to take her vows to join the sisterhood. There they find that the locals think the place is cursed and maybe with good reason as the Abbey is housed in the castle of a duke who used to perform occult ceremonies. Something evil he conjured has been reawakened and now needs a human host to escape. It’s focused on Irene and so she, Burke and a French-Canadian migrant named Frenchie (Jonas Bloquet), must find a way to send this demon in nun’s clothing (Bonnie Aarons) back to the hell it came from before it releases it’s bad habits upon an unsuspecting world.

Flick is directed by Corin Hardy (The Hallow) from a script and story by James Wan and Gary Dauberman. Hardy brings loads of atmosphere and some incredibly spooky visuals to the proceedings. The man knows how a Gothic horror should look. He manages some spooky scenes and delivers loads of nods to other movies such as Fulci’s City of the Living Dead, Raimi’s Evil Dead and at times it even evoked the Blind Dead series and obviously, some of the nun themed horrors out of Europe in 70s, like Jess Franco’s The Demons. It’s never truly scary, even if it does play it’s story straight, but it’s fun in that it throws it’s familiar tropes at us fast and furious and mixes and uses them quite well. We get frightened villagers, ominous woods, exorcisms, fog strewn graveyards, re-animated corpses, folks buried alive and more crosses than you can shake at a demonic nun. We do find out who the demon in question is and why it’s here, but other than liking the style or mocking it’s prey, it’s never clear why it prefers to dress like a nun. But with all the spooky goings on, do we really need to know? What the heck…It works. By the rolling of the credits a good time has been had and the film does gives us that vital link to the Warrens that makes the Conjuring connection. After the holy smoke clears we haven’t seen anything new, but are amused by the way Corin Hardy took all the familiar tropes and ran with them…and run with them he does. He also had good support from Maxime Alexandre’s sumptuous cinematography and a really Gothic score by Abel Korzeniowski.

The cast work well, especially young Taissa Farmiga as Sister Irene. She portrays well a young woman of the cloth whose faith and strength are tested against something not even The Bible has prepared her for. She’s a good actress much like her older sister Vera Farmiga from The Conjuring films. She makes for a good heroine. Demián Bichir is good as the priest with a past. He has a grizzled demeanor and a gravelly voice which essays a man who has seen a lot in his lifetime and experienced some harsh events. Of course the demon uses those events from his past against him and it makes things interesting. Jonas Bloquet is OK as the French Canadian Maurice or ‘Frenchie’ as he is known to the locals. He has some of the weakest lines and his character disappears for a long stretch, so his character development is the weakest. Rounding out is Bonnie Aarons as our demonic nun Valak, and she is effective under the make-up and CGI, but never appears long enough to really chill us like she should.

Not being the biggest fan of this Conjuring Universe, the general opinion is that they run hot and cold with the original The Conjuring still being the most effective of the lot, with Annabelle: Creation and now The Nun being the more enjoyable spin-offs. The Nun is full of things we’ve seen before, but mixes them well and serves them up at a rapid pace with some real nice atmospheric and visual support from director Corin Hardy. It’s played straight, but one can tell Hardy is having fun throwing all the crosses, headstones, spooks and specters at us and the film is more self aware and a bit less serious than it’s predecessors in this series…and that’s a good thing. Spooky fun.

For those who haven’t seen Corin Hardy’s first film The Hallow, I recommend you check it out! -MZNJ

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 demonic nuns.

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE (2016)

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IN A VALLEY OF VIOLENCE (2016)

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

Western homage is written and directed by Ti West who is known for horror films like The House Of The Devil and the recent The Sacrament. This is a departure for West and shows he can do more than just horror with this tale of revenge. Flick has ex-soldier Paul (Ethan Hawke) wandering into the small town of Denton, New Mexico. He is just passing through, but in true western fashion, has an altercation with the town bully/deputy, Gilly (James Ransone). Paul is commanded to leave town by Gilly’s sheriff father (John Travolta), but is pursued into the desert by Gilly and his thugs. Upon being ambushed, his beloved dog, Abbie is murdered and Paul himself left for dead. Surviving Gilly’s attempt at payback, the lone drifter heads back to Denton with death and revenge on his mind.

In A Valley Of Violence may not be perfect, but it is a fun homage to both spaghetti and American westerns. Ti West creates a classic drifter in Paul, a man who grew tired of killing Native Americans senselessly and left the army behind, too ashamed to return home to his own family. He wants no more to do with death, but is forced by the slimy Gilly and his father into picking up gun and knife once more. We also get the classic love interest in young Mary-Anne (Taissa Farmiga) who happens to be the sister of Gilly’s fiancé, Ellen (Karen Gillan) and takes a shine to the handsome drifter. In telling this classic story, West’s horror background does come through. Paul uses an assortment of weapons to gain revenge, including gun, straight razor and bludgeoning a man with his own boot heel. The flashback to the Native American massacre the broke him down is also very reminiscent of his set up for the sacrifice scene in The House Of The Devil. This western is also a bloody one, thought he does not go overboard with it. If West stumbles a bit, it’s with the film’s odd sense of humor. It is a bit intrusive in a few spots such as during the climactic scenes with Paul stalking Sheriff Martin and his posse throughout the town. There are a couple of moments where some humorous dialogue interrupts the tension that West has built, such as after witnessing a cohort gunned down, one of Martin’s thugs (Tommy Nohilly) declares, in a rant, that he no longer wants to be called “Tubby”. The humor is blended fine most of the time, but here it seems to slow the momentum a bit and break the suspense. It doesn’t damage the film, but the climactic showdown could have been tighter and more tense. On a technical level the film looks good. Cinematographer Eric Robbins makes good use of the New Mexico locations and Jeff Grace gives it a homage filled western score that evokes Morricone at times.

West also gets good work out of an impressive cast. Hawke may be no Clint Eastwood, but he plays the tortured drifter very well. Paul is a man who has come to abhor violence, but is forced back into it, reluctantly, by the bully Gilly. His dog Abbie is the rock that what humanity he has left clings to and when she is taken, the killer is unleashed again. Hawke makes Paul likable, yet a bit distant and we do believe he is lethal when the time comes. Travolta is very good as Sheriff Martin. He plays him as not quite a bad guy, but obviously someone who lets his son and thugs have their way around town. He knows enough to not mess with the ex-soldier Paul, but sadly is not convincing enough to his son. As Gilly, James Ransone is appropriately slimy and full of himself. Gilly is a bit too much of a jerk to really be completely menacing and Ransone plays him as someone a bit too over confident to know when to quit. Taissa Farmiga is sweet and spirited as Mary-Anne, the lonely impressionable young girl who falls for Paul and Karen Gillan is also entertaining as her snooty sister Ellen, who is engaged to the bully Gilly. Indie flick icon Larry Fesenden also appears as one of Gilly’s three thugs along with Toby Huss and Tommy Nohilly.

Overall, I liked this odd little western homage and was entertained. The story is common to the genre as are the stereotypical characters, but that is completely on purpose. This is some nice tension and suspense to go with the bloody action and the cast all perform their parts well. If the film falters somewhat, it is in that sometimes it’s quirky humor comes at the wrong moments when things should stay tense. Otherwise this is a fun western from a man who has already impressed with his horror flicks and Blumhouse who continues to support indie filmmakers. Also stars Burn Gorman as a less than typical priest.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 six-shooters.

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BARE BONES: THE FINAL GIRLS

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THE FINAL GIRLS (2015)

Max (Taissa Farmiga) is the daughter of the late Amanda Cartwright (Malin Akerman), actress and star of the cult classic 80s horror movie Camp Bloodbath. At an anniversary showing of the film, that Max is coerced to attend, a bizarre accident transplant’s Max and her friends into the film itself. Now trapped within the movie, Max must find a way for them all to survive as Jason-like killer Billy Murphy (Dan B. Norris) is not only after the cast, including her mother, but she and her friends as well…and the film’s original final girl has accidentally been killed!

Flick is directed by Todd Strauss-Schulson and written by M.A. Fortin and Joshua John Miller as a tribute to 80s horror flicks and definitely has it’s heart in the right place. The filmmakers have some clever fun with the tropes of those horror flicks, as well as, mixing in characters from the present with knowledge of what is going to transpire and why. If the film stumbles a bit it’s because, if you are going to pay tribute to 80s horror flicks, PG-13 is not the way to do it. The type of flicks they are trying to pay tribute to were in an age where blood, boobs and body count were a main ingredient. Here, the tame teen-friendly tone neuters what they are trying to do, to a degree. Also, some of the contemporary camera wizardry looks way out of place in an 80s homage that’s supposed to take place in 1986 before computer FX. Otherwise, there is a good cast that has fun with the material and the scenes with Max reuniting with her dead mother do have an effective sentinmentality and sweetness to them. Not a great movie, but a harmless and entertaining horror homage that has some clever fun with the tropes of the era.

3 star rating

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-MonsterZero NJ
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