TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: DARKMAN (1990)

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DARKMAN (1990)

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

Darkman is Sam Raimi’s first big studio film and is a fun horror movie/superhero flick mash-up. It tells the tale of Dr. Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson), whose life’s work is to create synthetic skin. His lawyer girlfriend Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand), however, has unintentionally crossed paths with ruthless land developer Strack (Colin Friels) and crime boss Robert Durant (Larry Drake) who send thugs to Westlake’s home/lab to collect some incriminating paperwork. This results in Peyton being brutalized and badly burned with his work destroyed. Now horribly disfigured and without the ability to feel pain, Westlake continues his work in hiding and uses his ability to create skin masks to infiltrate the criminal organization…and exact gruesome revenge!

Flick is directed by Sam Raimi from Raimi’s story and a script by he and four other writers. That’s a lot of scribes for what is basically Phantom of the Opera meets Batman, but it’s far from the mess that number implies. Darkman is actually a fun and amusingly gruesome superhero/revenge flick as Neeson’s scientist turned vigilante hunts down Durant’s thugs, while carving out a path towards the gangster and his crooked developer partner. He also tries to restart his romance with Julie with a hilarious and tragic amusement park scene being the result of that epic fail. The film has a strong comic book vibe, with over-the-top characters, such as Evil Dead II’s Dan Hicks playing a one-legged thug with a machine gun in his wooden leg. There is a lot of action, but as this is a horror film, too, some cartoon-ishly gruesome death’s for Durant’s men. Raimi isn’t afraid to get bloody, as this is rated R, yet maintains the feel of a comic book, which probably got him the job directing three Spider-Man flicks. He takes his material seriously, yet has a lot of fun with it.

The cast all get the material. Neeson plays Westlake as a charming but dedicated scientist and then makes for a very Phantom of the Opera-esque vigilante when he transforms into a vengeful anti-hero. Frances McDormand is good as Julie, who is at first fooled by Strack’s charms. As Strack, Friels makes for a charming yet slimy villain. Drake is very good as the brutal crime boss Durant. He can be ruthless and cruel and is a perfect match for the once kind, now vengeful Westlake. The supporting cast including Nicholas Worth, the before mentioned Hicks and a cameoing Bruce Campbell, all get the tone of the material and their characters.

Overall this is a really fun flick that captures the comic book spirit sometimes better than the straight-up superhero flicks of the time. The cast all get the tone of the material and despite the overabundance or writers, it’s a clever script that balances the comic book style with the horror elements perfectly…as does Raimi’s direction. There is action and drama and some gruesome ends to some very deserving creeps. Inspired a pair of direct to video sequels with The Mummy’s Arnold Vosloo taking over as Westlake.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 an 1/2 Darkmen (out of 4).

 

 

 

 

 

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ASH VS. EVIL DEAD SEASON 3 GETS A TRAILER AND POSTERS!

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I know I’m a little late with this, but…A new trailer…and some cool character pictures…of Ash vs Evil Dead season 3 are here! Bruce Campbell is back with returning Ray Santiago as Pablo, Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly and Lucy Lawless as Ruby, with Aussie actress Arielle Carver-O’Neill joining the cast as Ash’s daughter, Brandy. The series premiers on Starz on 2/25/18 and I personally can’t wait!

-MonsterZero NJ

Sources: Youtube/Starz

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ASH VS. EVIL DEAD SEASON 3 GETS A TEASER!

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The first footage of Ash vs Evil Dead season 3 is here! Bruce Campbell is back with chainsaw in hand…or as hand, as the case may be…as are Ray Santiago as Pablo, Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly and Lucy Lawless as Ruby, with Aussie actress Arielle Carver-O’Neill joining the cast as Ash’s daughter Brandy. The series premiers on Starz on 2/25/18

Sources: Youtube/Starz

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BARE BONES: DARKNESS RISING (2017)

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DARKNESS RISING (2017)

Silly and dull flick has the already ludicrous plot of pretty young Maddie (Tara Holt) breaking into her childhood home twenty years after her mother murdered her baby sister and her father then killed her mother. Once inside the house, which is slated for demolition, she and her friends (Katrina Law and Bryce Johnson) become trapped by both a vicious version of Maddie’s childhood dog and a force field of some kind…no, really! There is a dark force inside the house that won’t let them leave and wants to finish what it started all those years ago.

Directed by Austin Reading from a mess of a script by Vikram Weet, this routine haunted house flick is far more filled with clichés than scares. It’s familiar one minute with the usual possessions and ghostly figures and borderline dumb the next with Maddie thinking nothing of making out with her boyfriend a room away from where her loved ones were murdered…and why would you need a demonic dog to keep the trio trapped inside if the house is surrounded by a force field? Asking such questions will not get any answers as one wonders why Maddie would want to spend the night in a house with such painful personal history anyway, especially finding out it has a history of death. While on the subject, just who owns the house now anyway, if it’s been empty for twenty years? Apparently not Maddie if she has to break in. But with characters continually doing stupid things, like trying to steal medication that is literally two decades old, why would you expect any other aspect of the script to make sense. A real waste of time that makes 80 minutes seem like three hours. Also features Ted Raimi in a small role in the framing segments, which add nothing.

MonsterZero NJ Rant: I’ll never understand how junk like this gets financed, yet a talented filmmaker like Stevan Mena can’t get the money to finish Malevolence 3. Grrrrrr!

-MonsterZero NJ

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FIRST LOOK AT “ASH VS. EVIL DEAD” SEASON 3!

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It’s been a slow week here at MonsterZero NJ’s Movie Madhouse, but at least the man, the myth, the legend, Bruce Campbell has posted our first look at Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead season three with the caption “You should see the other guy.” It’s not much, but we’ll take it, as the first two seasons of this show have been a blast!

Obviously, Bruce Campbell is back for season three as are Ray Santiago as Pablo, Dana DeLorenzo as Kelly and Lucy Lawless as Ruby with Aussie actress Arielle Carver-O’Neill joining the cast as a new regular. Can’t wait till the Fall! Groovy!

Sources: Twitter/Arrow in the Head.com

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CULT CLASSIC CUTIES: ELIZABETH COX as JENNIFER in INTRUDER!

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Cult Classic Cuties are characters from some of our favorite cult classics and midnight movies who captured our hearts and/or actresses who got our attention, but sadly never returned to these type of flicks. They’re femme fatales and final girls whose sexy stars shined only briefly, not quite achieving scream queen status. And this installment’s cutie is…

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ELIZABETH COX as JENNIFER in INTRUDER (1989)!

Intruder is a fun 1989 slasher that has the night crew of the Walnut Lake Market being stalked and killed one by one by a mysterious assailant. One of the employees is adorable cashier, Jennifer, as played by pretty Elizabeth Cox. Jennifer is currently being staked by her delinquent ex-boyfriend (David Byrnes), but does he want her back bad enough to kill all her friends? You’ll have to watch Intruder to find out and if you love 80s slashers, that shouldn’t be a problem, especially with this Cult Classic Cutie as our valiant final girl!
Elizabeth Cox fits the Cult Classic Cuties profile perfectly as she had a relatively short career on camera from 1984 to 1989 before disappearing from movies. The Chicago born actress had her first part as a student in the John Hughes classic Sixteen Candles before performing in small roles in not one but two cult classics in 1986, The Wraith and Night of the Creeps. She had another small role as a student in the Susanna Hoffs headlined comedy The All-Nighter, before her first and sadly last, starring role in this cult classic slasher. Too bad, she made a cute and resourceful final girl that we’d liked to have seen more of!

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(click on the poster for a full review)

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Stalked by her ex, about to lose her job and the target of a killer! Rough night at work!

Soon, collecting shopping carts will be the least of her worries!

Something is very wrong at the Walnut Lake Market!

Trapped between breakfast cereal and a serial killer!

Will help come in time for poor Jennifer?

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Elizabeth Cox may have left movies after only a few flicks, but seems to have kept very busy with wildlife conservation, news anchoring, magazine editing, working for the El Paso Zoo and having a family. She has a BA in Broadcast Journalism from USC, so this cutie is no dummy! Whatever Liz is doing now, we will always remember her Jennifer in this fun, supermarket set 80s slasher!

A recent photo reveals she’s still a beauty!

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Be sure to check out our Cult Classic Cuties (click right here on the link) section to see more crush worthy ladies from cult films and midnight movies!

-MonsterZero NJ

source/ IMDB

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“ASH VS. EVIL DEAD” SEASON 2 PROMO POSTERS!

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Starz’s Ash vs. Evil Dead series (click HERE for our season 1 review!) is set to return soon for a second season. The adventures of Ash, Pablo and sexy Kelly will continue on 10/2/16 as Ash returns to his hometown in Michigan to battle the Deadites!

For now, here’s some great character posters, including new cast members Lee Majors as Ash’s dad Brock, Ted Raimi as old friend Ted Kaminski, Michelle Hurd as old flame Linda and Joel Tobeck as new bad guy “Baal”, to enjoy while we wait!

Ash-vs-Evil-Dead-Season-2-characters

 

Sources: Dread Central, Starz

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: BLOOD RAGE (1987)

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BLOOD RAGE (1987)

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

This is an odd and lesser known 80s slasher that tells the story of twin brothers Todd and Terry. It starts in 1974 where the young brothers are at a drive-in with their mother (Louise Lasser) and her boyfriend. Terry and Todd sneak away only to have Terry senselessly murder a patron and then blame it on the catatonic Todd. Todd is institutionalized and only begins to remember that awful night ten years later. Now an adult, Todd (Mark Soper) tells his doctor that Terry (also Mark Soper) is actually the killer and when no one seems to believe him, he escapes on Thanksgiving night to confront his brother. When informed of Todd’s escape, Terry embarks on a bloody killing spree knowing his sibling will be blamed once more and locked away forever.

Written by Bruce Rubin and directed by John Grissmer, this is a strange slasher. We are never given a reason for the murder at the drive-in, nor why Terry is so quick to frame Todd. Once Todd escapes a decade later, the deranged Terry just picks up where he left off and starts to murder not only his own friends, but anyone who might believe Todd. The film does make some good use of the fact that the two are identical twins and they are played by the same actor. The gimmick would have worked better, though, if director Grissmer gave the film a bit more intensity and life. It’s got some atmosphere, but the film is directed very by-the-numbers, is very dreary in tone and the cast, including vet Lasser, are very wooden for the most part…though Soper does do a good job making a noticeable difference in the two brother’s personalities and seems to be having fun with the role. There is some graphic gore and bloodshed in the flick and it has a very bleak ending and one must wonder what the film would had been like, guided by someone more willing to really go for broke with it’s premise. It’s a mediocre film that could have been more of a stand-out in the 80s slasher canon, if only it cranked things up a bit and wasn’t played out quite as somberly.

Blood Rage is a moderately entertaining 80s horror. It has a decent body count, with some very good gore, but never really comes alive with by-the-numbers direction and it’s very somber mood. Actor Mark Soper seems to be having fun playing the brothers, but lead Lasser acts as if she’d rather be somewhere else. There is some fun with hero and villain both being twins, though the script and director could have made even more use of the premise and had a lot more fun with it. A decent enough watch, but could have used a director who really could take the story and milk it for all it’s was worth. Flick was made in 1983, but took four years to finally find distribution. Watch for Ted Raimi in a brief cameo role in the drive-in sequence.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 serrated machetes.

blood rage rating

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: SHOCKER (1989)

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SHOCKER (1989)

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

While it has it’s fans, this is definitely one of the weakest in Wes Craven’s filmography and a real mess that appears quite overindulgent for a director who usually had good command over when to be subtle and when to turn things up to eleven. The story has an L.A. community being stalked by a vicious and brutal serial killer whom is skillfully eluding police. It’s not until he attacks the family of the detective investigating his case, Det. Don Parker (Micahel Murphy) that it falls apart. Parker’s adopted son Jonathan (Peter Berg, who is currently a prolific director) dreamed the whole thing while it happened (there is a vague explanation on why this occurs) and claims he can locate and identify the killer. He does…though, at the cost of his girlfriend Alison’s (Cami Cooper) life…and soon murderer and black magic practitioner, Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi) is sitting in the electric chair. Despite getting thoroughly juiced, Pinker’s dark magic allows him to leap to another body and soon Pinker is going from body to body trying to get his revenge on Jonathan and anyone close to him.

Also written by Craven, the tone and story are all over the place in this borderline mess. The usually, very skilled director can’t decide whether this is a straightforward slasher with some brutally violent sequences, or, an outright comedy with Pinker and Jonathan battling it out inside TV signals and thus their fight getting inserted in various TV shows and broadcasts. It’s absurd. It’s bad enough Pinker is a sub-par Freddy Krueger, who’ll even possesses a little girl in his effort to kill his adversary, but, he can invade TV signals and travel through electrical outlets? The film gets more ridiculous as it goes on and at 109 minutes, is at least 15-20 minutes too long. Craven seemed intent to create a new franchise with a new boogeyman and simply went overboard. It’s not like the director can’t mix horror and humor, The Hills Have Eyes has some darkly comic moments, as does Elm St. Here, it’s very intrusive with the darker elements and just creates a very schizophrenic tone. There is also little of the director’s trademarked suspense and tension and as a villain, Pinker seems too bloodthirsty to have successfully evaded police when corporeal and makes some bad choices in body hosts when he’s a vengeful spirit. His one-liners are also forced and without the disturbing wit of Mr. Krueger. Craven still has a good visual eye, as in all his films, there are some nice shots and the dream sequences all look appropriately surreal…such as Allison’s spirit gliding through a fog shrouded lake. The gore effects are also gruesomely effective and there is a lot of it. The visual effects are quite cheesy at this point, though, and the various metal tunes peppered throughout the soundtrack are obtrusive and obviously only there to create a marketable soundtrack CD…which actually does have some cool stuff on it.

Cast-wise, Mitch Pileggi, who went on to play Skinner on The X-Files, has a fun time here with what he’s got but, the script let’s him down from being truly memorable. Future director Peter (Lone Survivor) Berg is an OK hero. He’s not quite bland but, never really makes Jonathan endearing or memorable like Langenkamp’s Nancy. Michael Murphy is fine as his father and the case detective but, he and the rest of the characters, for that matter, go along with a lot of unproven nonsense when it comes to Jonathan’s claims about Pinker’s powers. Cami Cooper basically just needs to be pretty and angelic as Allison and then her ghost and for that, she’s fine but, also not very memorable. Cast also features Ted Raimi and Richard (Shakedown) Brooks as Jonathan’s football teammates.

So, what happened here? The director of the viciously brutal Last House On The Left and nightmarish A Nightmare On Elm Street, delivers what might be one of the biggest fails of his storybook career. Craven may have had his share of misfires but, this one is such a mess in both story and tone, you wonder what he was thinking. It’s tedious, ridiculous, over-indulgent and fails to create the new franchise it was so obviously made to do. There are still some nice visual scenes from Craven and the gore is abundant and very effective, but, overall, those things are sunk by the weight of a silly and convoluted story and some uneven direction from a highly competent filmmaker. Craven would bounce back, somewhat, two years later with the oddball and amusing People Under The Stairs and then fully rebound with the classic Scream in 1996…which would redefine the slasher and horror genre for years after.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 fried Pinkers.

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: INTRUDER (1989)

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INTRUDER (1989)

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

 Intruder is a fun and delightfully gory late 80s slasher that perfectly exemplifies the direction the sub-genre took from the more somber and intense early 80s entries. These flicks now had a sense of humor about themselves and were far more ‘self-aware’ than the ones that were inspired by Halloween and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. These films were more colorful, focused far more on bloody body count and were made knowing there was a slasher/horror savvy audience watching and openly acknowledged the films that came before them.

This film takes place at the Walnut Lake Market where the night crew is closing up and getting the store ready for when it reopens the following morning. But the mood is somber as the employees have been informed that the store is being sold and they soon will be out of jobs…that and pretty cashier Jennifer’s (Elizabeth Cox) thug ex-boyfriend Craig (David Byrnes) is out of jail and is harassing her at the store. But soon the night shift becomes a nightmare as someone is stalking the employees one by one and slaughtering them in the most gruesome ways. Is it the spurned ex-con Craig?…or is there someone else out there with a grudge against the market and demented enough to kill them all. Will any of them escape The Walnut Lake Market alive?

Written and directed by Scott Spiegel from a story by he and producer Lawrence Bender, this flick is a whole lot of slasher flick fun. The proceedings are taken seriously, but the film is written and directed with a wink to the audience that the filmmakers know they are watching and know what to expect and they are going to get it, covered in buckets of blood. The film is not very suspenseful, but does have some nice atmosphere, thanks in part to Fernando Argüelles’ cinematography and a cool score by the great Basil Poledouris. It’s made with the understanding that you know who’s getting it and when and now it’s the anticipation as to see which gruesome manner it should be…the ban saw, the butcher knife, the trash compactor…or all of the above? And we get those gruesome kills with some delightfully nostalgic prosthetics and gallons of blood. The film knows that the premise that no one notices they are being offed one by one, or hears any of the screams is ridiculous, but goes with it, yet, never makes a joke out of it. Spiegel takes a likable bunch of young working stiffs and decimates them effectively in the setting of the empty grocery store and has a good time doing and so do we. The slasher formula is followed well and the film never insults us by assuming we haven’t seen it all before. In fact, the nods and winks to the genre make this ooze with nostalgia all these years later as, it is both slasher and slasher homage all in one.

Getting back to the likable bunch of employees/victims…Elizabeth Cox makes a solid lead. She’s pretty, perky and when she finally realizes what’s going on, she is a resilient heroine as is part of the slasher tradition. Sam and Ted Raimi have small parts as butcher and produce workers respectively and the tools of their trade make the killer’s job a lot easier. Craig Stark is fine as Tim, a potential love interest for Jennifer and pretty much the male lead. David Byrnes is appropriately slimy as Craig who is obviously, as dictated by the formula, being set up as our #1 suspect. The rest of the supporting cast are also lively in their cliché roles which includes fun cameos by Spiegel, Bender and horror icon Bruce Campbell.

I had a real blast with this film. I love the 80s era horror and this flick not only is one, but it’s self-aware tone sets it up as a homage as well, which makes it a fun nostalgic viewing all these years later! In fact, I will go as far too say that it probably works far better now as homage than it did back then, at a point when the slasher genre was burning itself out. It’s got plenty of inventive and very gory kills and while it concentrates more on killing off it’s cast than trying to generate any real tension, it gets away with it by being obvious about it’s intentions and having fun with the fact that it respects that this is not the first horror flick we have all seen. A fun, deviously gory slasher flick that all these years later now works as a nostalgia filled homage, as well as, a fun horror flick. A very underrated and entertaining 80s slasher.

3 and 1/2 butcher knives.

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