BARE BONES: REED’S POINT (2022)

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REED’S POINT (2022)

Sarah (Sasha Anne) and Alex (Evan Adams) are the sole survivors of an RV crash near the famed New Jersey Pine Barrens. Sarah’s cousin Kelsey (Madison Ekstrand) was never found, and Sarah is convinced something supernatural was involved, possibly the Jersey Devil itself. On the anniversary of the accident, Sarah convinces Alex to join her in returning to the spot and finding out what really happened that night, and to Kelsey. Obviously, their suspicion that something is not right in these legendary woods is frighteningly on-point.
 
Indie horror is well-directed by Dale Fabrigar from a script and story by Tricia Aurand, Sandy Lo and Suzanne DeLaurentiis. Fabringer does conjure some tension and the film certainly gets points for having some good gore and using a prosthetic creature over CGI. If the flick is held back a bit, it’s by some amateur acting—though lead Sasha Anne holds her own nicely—and focusing more on Sarah and Alex dealing with some sinister locals than the briefly, but effectively seen creature. There is a sub-plot about a longstanding feud with Sarah’s family and said locals, which disappointingly takes center stage, when Fabringer already showed us, he was very adept at handling the critter sequences. It is an economical 76 minutes in length, uses its locations nicely and while we didn’t get the outright monster movie we came for, Dale Fabringer does show potential as a filmmaker and maybe his next flick will be the full-on creature flick/horror movie we think he’d do a good job at. Also stars Anthony Jensen, Catherine Healy and Joseph Almani as the before mentioned locals. Flick arrives on digital streaming and home media on 4/12/22.
 

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Man in a suit over CGI any day!

Photo: Uncork’d Entertainment

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: SEE FOR ME (2022)

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SEE FOR ME (2022)

IFC Midnight flick finds blind Sophie (Skyler Davenport) cat sitting in a luxurious house and planning a little thievery while she’s there. The tables are turned, however, when professional thieves break into the home. Now Sophie’s only ally is an app called See for Me where an operator visually guides her via her smart phone. Lucky for Sophie, her guide is Kelly (Jessica Parker Kennedy) an armed forces veteran who acts as her eyes and helps her go on the offensive.

Crime thriller is directed by Randall Okita from a script by Matthew Gouveia and Drew Tyce. It’s a moderately engaging movie that never really feels like it takes full advantage of a clever premise. There are some tense moments and a few violent ones, too, but the film never really gets the firm grip on the viewer that it needs to. Maybe it’s because it’s heroine isn’t the most likable person to endear to, or that home invasion flicks are fairly one-note to begin with, and the Sophie/Kelly app gimmick is the only new wrinkle here. Other than that, it’s fairly routine with a very predictable outcome. Performances are good with Jessica Parker Kennedy being a standout as the tough but caring Kelly. Also stars Sons of Anarchy veteran Kim Coates as one of the invaders.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2021)

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LAST NIGHT IN SOHO (2021)

British thriller finds a young girl named Eloise (Thomasin McKenzie) traveling to London to become a fashion designer. Eloise also has a bit of a gift of sight and her sight activates upon taking a room in the home of the elderly Ms. Collins (Diana Rigg). She starts traveling back to the 60s where she begins to follow and live in the footsteps of a pretty young socialite named Sandie (Anya Taylor-Joy). First, she’s enjoying the experience and nightlife, until Sandie meets the mysterious Jack (Matt Smith) and things start to take a dangerous and dark turn for both Sandie and Eloise.

Flick is directed by Edgar (Shaun of the Dead) Wright from a script and story by he and Krysty Wilson-Cairns. As with all of Wright’s films the cinematography is sumptuous, the editing sharp and innovative and the soundtrack nearly perfect. Yet, despite being very well done, there is something missing here. Maybe it’s that we never really bond with McKenzie’s Eloise, or Taylor-Joy’s mysterious and aloof Sandie, to really get emotionally involved in what happens to them. Maybe it’s also that the clever and sometimes trippy set-up leads to a fairly routine murder thriller when all is said and done. The glitzy time traveling, spooky visions and Argento-like death scenes are well done, but it isn’t enough to really make us care about where this is all going. A pointless romantic subplot concerning Eloise and one of her coworkers doesn’t add anything either. There is an interesting twist in the last act, but once you peel back all the inventive smoke and mirrors, the story isn’t as involving as we would have liked and that twist not as impactful as it should have been. The cast, including Dame Diana Rigg and the legendary Terrance Stamp, are all good, though as stated, we never really warm up to McKenzie’s Eloise or Anya Taylor-Joy’s Sandie. Without the emotional anchor of being endeared to the lead characters, we just drift through the visual sea of Wright’s certainly interesting concoction. Odd, as endearing characters are usually one of Wright’s strengths. Liked it to a degree, but didn’t love it.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: DISAPPEARANCE AT LAKE ELROD (2021)

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DISAPPEARANCE AT LAKE ELROD (2021)

Thriller takes place in the small rural town of Elrod, Georgia where a woman named Charlie (Robyn Lively) mourns the disappearance of her daughter. When another girl goes missing, Charlie believes there is a connection and begins to investigate. While getting help from a mysterious woman named Amy (Shanola Hampton), the two find there may be a larger—and dangerous—conspiracy going on in this quiet town.

Flick is well directed by Lauren Fash from her script with Susan Graham. The basic plot sounds like one of those Lifetime movies, but it is elevated by some strong reveals in the last act and a very intense performance from Robyn Lively, as one of the only gay members of this small community. Lively really conveys the pain of a woman who’s not only lost her daughter, but her partner (Bethany Anne Lind) as a result. The mystery itself is rather routine, but Fash gives it some intensity and she and co-writer Graham do give us some surprises towards the end. Lively’s brooding and driven Charlie keeps us with this, even when we realize we’ve seen this small town with secrets flick a few times before. Slow burn thriller is available on VOD streaming.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: TIME NOW (2021)

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TIME NOW (2021)

Time Now is an indie drama with a thriller element, as single mother Jenny (Eleanor Lambert) returns home to Detroit to reunite with her estranged family after the death of her twin brother Victor (Sebastian Beacon) in a car accident. There are hard feelings and resentment on both sides, but as Jenny tries to reconnect with her family and meets with some of Victor’s friends, she comes to believe that something is not right with Victor’s death.

Flick is written and directed by Spencer King from his own script and he wisely avoids the theatrical melodrama that studio dramas of this type can have and that would only serve to distance audiences from the matters at hand. It’s played very low key and thus on a more realistic level, as Jenny confronts her family and faces not only some resentment on their part, but some of her own guilt and hard feelings over not having had a better relationship with her artist brother. Then there is the added caveat of mystery, as Jenny starts to get the feeling Victor’s DUI death behind the wheel, may not be the whole story. Again, the flick avoids theatrics and presents a slow burn as Jenny is trying to deal with family issues while investigating what happen to her sibling on that fateful night. Sometimes the flick is a little too laid back for it’s own good and as a result, the last act reveal is almost anti-climactic. It should have had more of a punch than it does. The flick rebounds with a last scene that does give us some stronger emotional resonance in which to leave us with, as the credits roll. Overall, this is an interesting and simmering indie flick with a strong performance from leading lady Eleanor Lambert, who is surrounded by a solid cast of fresh faces in support. Flick opens in limited theatrical release and On Demand on 10/26/21!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: DON’T BREATHE 2 (2021)

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DON’T BREATHE 2 (2021)

Flick takes place about eight years, or so, after the events of the first film. The Blind Man (Stephen Lang) is living in a remote house with young orphaned girl Phoenix (Madelyn Grace) whom he rescued—sort of—from a fire and now has raised as his own daughter. When a group of thugs invade his home to kidnap Phoenix, The Blind Man once again goes on the violent offensive. Things get complicated when one of the invaders, Raylan (Brandan Sexton III), turns out to be Phoenix’s real father.

Sequel is co-written by the first film’s director Fede Álvarez along with Rodo Sayagues, who takes over the directing reigns here and does a fine job of matching the look and feel of the gritty and violent original. For those concerned that The Blind Man—now called Norman—was going to be portrayed as a hero here, he’s not a good guy by any means, but those he goes up against are just as bad or worse. Their intentions for Phoenix are the furthest thing from a family reunion and despite “Norman” being a villain himself, you don’t mind seeing bad guy vs worse guys, when he comes to rescue his kidnapped “daughter”—whom he technically kidnapped himself. It’s vicious and very violent and while it does seem like a cash grab sequel, it also entertains in a basic way—if one is looking for some savage violence perpetrated against people who basically deserve it. Lang is good, once again, as the twisted Blind Man and Sexton and crew make perfectly acceptable deviants for him to go up against and violently dispatch. Young Madelyn Grace impresses as Phoenix, whom Norman has trained with survival skills, and Stephanie Arcila is likable as a fellow war veteran and friend of Norman and Phoenix, Hernandez, a good character who had far too little screen time. In the end, after all the bone-crushing violence, it may be a forgettable sequel, but Rodo Sayagues at least shows he did pay attention well to collaborator Álvarez’s work. Watch through the credits. Now available on VOD platforms such as Amazon Prime.
 

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SUPERHOST (2021)

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SUPERHOST (2021)

Disturbing yet fun flick finds travel vloggers and couple Teddy (Osric Chau) and Claire (Sara Canning) picking a remote house in the woods for the next installment of their failing vlog, Superhost. The home is owned by Rebecca (Gracie Gillam) a woman who seems a bit eccentric to say the least. The longer Claire and Teddy stay, the more they begin to feel something isn’t right in this house and something is certainly very wrong with their Superhost, Rebecca.

Flick is written and directed by Brandon Christensen (ZStill/Born) and despite being a familiar story, it is still a very effective and entertaining horror. Christensen lets us know from the start that something isn’t right with Rebecca and we know where it is all headed from the moment they get there, but unlike Teddy and Claire, this is about the ride and not the destination. What a ride it is, as we slowly find out, along with the couple, just how deranged Rebecca is and what she’s prepared to do—aside from what we find out she’s already done. What starts out as unsettlingly eccentric becomes diabolical and viciously violent, as the two are stranded in the middle of nowhere with the demented Rebecca watching their every move and listening to their every word. It’s a creepy fun flick, though it does get straight-up disturbing and bloodily violent before the credits roll. Christensen has a nice visual eye and creates an atmosphere of dread from very early on, then delivers a suspenseful and blood-spattered last act that might have you spilling your popcorn here and there—or even laughing uncomfortably in a few spots.

The small cast really helps make this work! Gracie Gillam, who, under her former stage name of Grace Phipps, starred in Some Kind of Hate, Dark Summer and Tales of Halloween, gives an over-the-top tour de force performance as the demented Rebecca. She’s unsettlingly cute and energetic one moment and full-blown vicious psychopath the next. She nears Heath Ledger Joker heights at times with her ability to change levels of crazy at the drop of a hat and being equally scary both in her exaggerated moments and in the calm ones, too. She and The Loved One’s Lola could be roommates no problem. Osric Chau is very likable as Teddy. Teddy is the weaker and more emotional of the couple, but is sweet and sympathetic. Claire is the more ambitious and business minded of the two…and the stronger. She sees Rebecca as prime ratings subject matter and is willing to continue with the episode long after Teddy’s alarms are going off about the alleged homeowner. Sara Canning plays her well and yet keeps her likable, despite her putting the vlog before boyfriend Teddy. Rounding out the cast is horror legend Barbara Crampton, who plays Vera, a woman with a grudge against Claire and Teddy. A solid cast!

Overall, this may be a familiar story and there is no doubt how this is going to end up, but it is a chilling hoot getting there. Brandon Christensen proves yet again he is a skilled director who can freshen up familiar tales and provide some nice atmosphere, chills and suspense. He has definitely become a filmmaker to keep an eye on. The small cast all perform well, with a delightfully demented performance from horror veteran Gracie Gillam. Superhost is now streaming exclusively on Shudder!

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 1/2 (out of 4) Superhosts.

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BARE BONES: TILL DEATH (2021)

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TILL DEATH (2021)

In an effort to rekindle a failing marriage, Mark (Eoin Macken) takes his wife Emma (Megan Fox) to a secluded cabin of theirs. In the morning, Mark handcuffs himself to Emma then commits suicide. Soon Emma finds out Mark was in trouble with the law, knew she was cheating on him with his employee Tom (Aml Ameen), and that this is all part of a last act of revenge. Worse still, two shady associates of Mark’s, Bobby and Jimmy (Callan Mulvey and Jack Roth), show up and are looking for a passcode to a hidden safe…a code only Emma may know. Now she must somehow elude these dangerous men while still handcuffed to Mark’s body.

Flick is solidly directed by S.K. Dale from a script by Jason Carvey and overcomes any silliness by simply telling it’s story well. It’s an entertaining enough thriller with some nice suspense, a bit of graphic violence and enough smarts to know when to milk it’s premise and when to cut Emma loose. Fox makes a strong and resourceful heroine and Mulvey a dangerous and effective villain as Bobby. There are some weak spots, like Bobby’s brother Jimmy having a change of heart at exactly the most convenient moment, but otherwise it’s an involving enough thriller, with a solid game of cat and mouse between the resilient Emma and her foes. It’s moves quickly and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at an economical 88 minutes in length. An entertaining watch on the couch. Available to stream on Amazon Prime.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR (2020)

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THE BOY BEHIND THE DOOR (2020)

Thriller has two young boys, Kevin (Ezra Dewey) and Bobby (Lonnie Chavis) kidnaped by a strange woman (Kristen Bauer van Straten) and her creepy accomplice (Micah Hauptman). Bobby is left to suffocate in the trunk of the car, while Kevin is taken and imprisoned inside a house. Resilient Bobby escapes his fate and instead of running away, enters the house with every intent of freeing his friend.

As written and directed by David Charbonier and Justin Powell, this is no Home Alone but a brutal and intense thriller about a young boy fighting for his life and that of his friend. There is some startling violence and bloodshed, as the tough and tenacious Bobby fights against two nasty individuals who had no problem leaving him to die a horrible death. Kevin is the far more timid of the two and is also incumbered by a shock collar that is activated by sensors in the house. This leaves it mostly Bobby’s fight, even once the two boys are reunited. The cast is really good here. with Lonnie Chavis doing a fantastic job as the tough but likable Bobby. This kid goes through some rough stuff and performs it well. Ezra Dewey is sympathetic as the weaker Kevin, who is traumatized by what is happening and also performs it well. Van Straten and Haupton make for disturbing and effective villains, as a pair who not only traffic in children, but have no problem tormenting or killing them. This is a brutal, violent and suspenseful thriller, all the more effective as it involves two kids and doesn’t hold back because of it. It’s a rough watch, with some tough subject matter, but a very intense and well made thriller from this promising directing duo. Filmmakers to watch Charbonier and Powell also directed Ezra Dewey in IFC Midnight’s spooky The Djinn released just last May. The Boy Behind The Door is now streaming on Shudder. 

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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BARE BONES: 1BR (2019)

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1BR (2019)

Pretty Sarah (Nicole Brydon Bloom) moves out on her own to LA. to escape some drama at home and start a new life. She moves into a gated community and soon finds out her dream apartment is a nightmare…one she may not escape.

Disturbing thriller is written and effectively directed by David Marmor. It’s an unsettling look at cults and their sometimes extreme methods of conditioning new prospects. Sarah is held prisoner and physically and mentally abused till she fits in as the perfect neighbor. The scenes of her “indoctrination” into the fold are not easy to watch, but Marmor knows when enough is enough and doesn’t linger on the unpleasantness. There is some cruelty and some violence, but we see just enough to have an effect, but not enough to numb us to it. Marmor balances it very well and it’s chilling to see unfold. Nicole Brydon Bloom is really good as Sarah, portraying an emotionally wounded young woman, who is vulnerable to her situation and needs to find her strength. Taylor Nichols is very good as the cult leader Jerry, a man who truly believes he is helping people. Same also goes for Giles Matthey, as a handsome young man who befriends Sarah with obvious ulterior motives. A well acted, well directed thriller that is a disturbing look at cults and their methods. It is a sometimes unpleasant watch, yet a very effective one.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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