10 PERFORMANCES THAT PROVE WOMEN RULED HORROR IN 2018!

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10 PERFORMANCES THAT PROVE WOMEN RULED HORROR IN 2018!

Horror was one of the first genres to provide strong roles for women. From Gloria Holden as Dracula’s Daughter to Jamie Lee Curtis as quintessential final girl Laurie Strode, women have always played a very important part. 2018 was no different, as there were a number of strong performances from the ladies in a variety of leading roles. Thusly, here are ten equally awesome performances by women in horror that proved that the ladies ruled the genre in 2018!…

(Just click on the highlighted titles to go to our reviews of these films for a more detailed description of the performances listed!)

#1 BRITTANY ALLEN as Jules in What Keeps You Alive

#2 HANNAH EMILY ANDERSON as Jackie in What Keeps You Alive

#3 NICOLE MUÑOZ as Leah in Pyewacket

#4 LAURIE HOLDEN as Mrs. Reyes in Pyewacket

#5 SCOUT TAYLOR-COMPTON as Alice in Feral

#6 TONI COLLETTE as Annie in Hereditary

#7 JAMIE LEE CURTIS as Laurie Strode in Halloween 2018

#8 TILDA SWINTON as Madame Blanc, Helena Markos and Dr. Josef Klemperer in SUSPIRIA 2018

#9 KATE SIEGEL as Theo Crain in The Haunting of Hill House

#10 DANA CHRISTINA as Allison in Extremity

HONORABLE MENTION

MADELINE BREWER as Lola/Alice in Cam

Hit the link HERE for a similar listing from 2014. Another banner year for female performances! While you’re there, find out which of these amazing ladies here also made that list in 2014!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: SUSPIRIA (2018)

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SUSPIRIA (2018)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Film is a remake…of sorts…of Dario Argento’s classic 1977 horror of the same name. It uses the very basic plot framework of a coven of witches in a German dance academy, along with a few character names, but otherwise is it’s own thing. This re-imagining takes place in 1977 West Berlin during the Lufthansa Flight 181 hostage crisis. A former Mennonite from Ohio, Susie Bannion (Dakatoa Johnson) comes to study dance at the Markos Dance Academy. There is, as with Argento’s version, something very sinister going on at the academy and headmistress Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton) may have plans for the pretty new student.

Remake is directed by Luca Guadagnino from a script by David Kajganich based on the original screenplay by Argento and Daria Nicolodi and does involve Argento’s “Three Mothers”. It’s an intriguing film to be sure and is far more art house than grind house. It is also, however, a bit of a meandering film at 150 minutes long. It takes an hour longer to tell the story and that wouldn’t be a bad thing, if that story was expanded, gave the characters more depth, or added emotional resonance…and there is the film’s major problem. Despite adding a lot of details to Argento’s simple tale, such as Susie’s Mennonite past, the hostage crisis occurring at the same time, or the sub-plot of a German Doctor (also Swinton, billed as Lutz Ebersdorf) who lost his wife during the war, none of it really adds anything to the story or enhances the characters. It simply just makes the movie longer, but not especially richer. There is some feminist and social commentary, but it’s not enough to really resonate or make this any more relevant than it’s predecessor. What the remake does have in it’s favor, is that there are a lot of disturbing and unsettling moments and the movie can get quite grotesque, especially in the last act when all hell breaks loose, quite literally. We are treated to some creepy dream sequences and some squirm inducing moments, such as when dancer Olga (Elena Fokina) learns the hard way that leaving the academy is not so easy. The sequences in the witches’ lair behind the academy walls are also quite effective and the film can be very atmospheric when it wants to be…though in contrast, some of the earlier moments are a bit bland to be honest. It takes a while to get going and that’s when the atmosphere starts to kick in. With all the subtext and subplots, Guadagnino does avoid outright pretension and that helps keep the film from imploding from taking itself too seriously, which some may feel it does. The cinematography is quite the opposite of Argento’s vibrantly colored set pieces, with the colors here being muted and the set and costume design far more grounded till things start to delve into the supernatural in the last act.

The cast is another plus. Johnson is good as Susie. She is a bit more mysterious than Argento’s heroine and the actress again shows she is fine with daring roles. Thankfully here she is given more to work with than those awful Shades of Grey movies. Tilda Swinton is mesmerizing both as Madame Blanc and in a very impressive performance as Dr. Josef Klemperer. Unfortunately, Klemperer’s character and subplot could have been removed completely and not done harm to the story, though it would have robbed us of seeing Swinton in a very unconventional part. In support we have a solid performance by Chloe Grace Moretz as a student that alerts Dr. Klemperer to the shady goings on at the academy and a likable Mia Goth as Sara, a student who befriends Susie. The rest of the cast are fine and do efficient work as minor supporting and background characters.

This remake does enough of it’s own thing to not fall under the unnecessary banner. There are some gruesome and grotesque moments and some disturbing and unsetting scenes that effectively chill. The cast do very good work, especially Swinton and the flick can be atmospheric at times. What keeps this from really being something special is that there are a lot of details added to what was a simple story and they don’t really enhance that story or add any depth or resonance. The film can be bland at times, when not focusing on the supernatural elements and some of the detailed subplots simply make the film longer and not necessarily better. Intriguing and worth watching once, but not something one feels the need to revisit again like Argento’s film. Keep an eye out for original star Jessica Harper in a cameo and stay through the credits for one last bit of spookiness.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 broken bones…you’ll know the scene when you see it. OUCH!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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REVIEW: DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

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DOCTOR STRANGE (2016)

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

Doctor Strange is the latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the latest character of theirs to be adapted for film. The story tells of brilliant neurosurgeon Dr. Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) whose career comes to a shocking halt when a car accident destroys the nerves in his hands. He tries every medical solution possible, until he learns of a man (Benjamin Bratt) who overcame his paralysis using the mystic arts in a place called Kamar-Taj. Traveling there, Strange is reluctantly taken in by a sorcerer named Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who studies under The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton). In a short time, Strange shows great mastering of the mystic arts and not a moment too soon as a former follower of The Ancient One, Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) has stolen a spell which can open up a portal to let a great evil into the world.

Doctor Strange isn’t a bad movie, but it is a rather mediocre entry in the Marvel film series as directed by Sinister’s Scott Derrickson. Derrickson directs from a script and story by he, Jon Spaihts and C. Robert Cargill and is never able to give it that sense of fun or excitement that has made this Marvel series such a consistent success. The film is rather moderately paced and seems far longer than the 115 minute runtime. It’s not a boring film, but it just it never really gets exciting and the action seems very by-the-numbers and repetitive. The FX sequences have a very heavy Inception-esque feel and overuses certain imagery to the point of redundancy. Only so many times you can watch buildings morph and multiply before it stops impressing. Derrickson also doesn’t seem to have the deftness to mix in the trademark humor that these films have and a lot of the attempts at such humor come across as awkward or simply fall flat. There are some interesting visuals and while repetitive, the FX are orchestrated quite excellently, but the film never really feels like part of the universe it’s supposed to and we never really endear to Strange much like we did Tony Stark, Thor or Steve Rodgers. He’s just not that interesting. Ironically, while Dr. Strange may be one of the weaker heroes in the canon, Mads Mikkelsen’s Kaecilius is one of the stronger villains and we actually wish he had more screen time as this is a Stephen Strange origin story and much of the film focuses on him, leaving Kaecilius to sporadic appearances.

As we are on the subject of the cast, sadly this is one of few times it could be said that the versatile Benedict Cumberbatch doesn’t quite seem right for a role. His Stephen Strange is kind of a dull hero and his transformation from arrogant surgeon to gallant sorcerer, is not nearly as impressive as, say, Thor’s transformation from arrogant prince to champion of the universe in that film. His attempts at humor mostly fall flat both in the writing and in Cumberbatch’s delivery. He just didn’t seem as comfortable with the one liners as he was with all the mystical mumbo-jumbo. Chiwetel Ejiofor was noble and a bit more endearing as Mordo. He was charming and likable and charm was something Strange was lacking. Swinton certainly fits the role of The Ancient One, who, if knowledge serves, was male in the comics. She is mystical and exudes power and wisdom and works well as the Master Po (Google it, kids) of the Marvel Universe. Mads Mikkelsen is a bit stronger villain than we’ve seen in this film series and had a sense of menace and power that the actor conveyed well. Too bad his screen time is limited as we could have used a bit more time to really get to know Kaecilius. Rounding out is Rachel McAdams, who is spunky and fiery as Strange’s ex-grilfriend and a doctor in her own right. Again, limited screen time hinders a likable character who isn’t given all that much to do.

After delivering so many entertaining and fun flicks…with some spot-on casting to boot…Marvel was due to stumble a bit and this unimpressive flick isn’t nearly bad enough to do the series any real harm. Derrickson has a strong visual style and made this a bit grittier than some of the previous flicks, but wasn’t able to give it a sense of fun, or excitement. His attempts at humor never really hit the mark and the action seemed very routine despite being surrounded by a lot of overactive visual effects. Cumberbatch didn’t seem to fit quite right, either, as hero Strange, who was never charming or endearing enough to really warm up to. We did get a strong villain, but lack of screen time didn’t help there either. A mediocre entry in an otherwise fairly solid series of movies. Not quite as disappointing as the schizophrenic Iron Man 3. Obviously, stay during the credits for two additional sequences.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 Doctors.

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BARE BONES: TRAINWRECK and ALOHA

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TRAINWRECK (2015)

Trainwreck is a bit of a return to form for director Judd Apatow, who hasn’t made a really funny movie since Knocked Up. Film tells the story of Amy (Amy Schumer, who also wrote) a party girl who uses her wild ways to avoid getting truly close to anyone. That is until a writing assignment (Why do all these movies feature lead’s who work for magazines?) introduces her to dorky sports doctor Aaron Conners (Bill Hader). Now faced with possible true love, will Amy’s self destructive behavior ruin the best thing that’s ever happened to her?

Obviously, a big factor in why this routinely plotted romantic comedy works is it’s feisty, funny leading lady and the cast she is surrounded with. Schumer’s script is also legitimately funny and not only has some laugh out loud moments, but has some actual wit behind the more vulgar humor…a condom story Amy tells at a baby shower is particularly hysterical. She and Bill Hader have an off-beat chemistry and helps keep us engaged even as the move is about 15 minutes too long and gets a bit too sentimental for it’s own good. Also stars Brie Larson, Colin Quinn, Tilda Swinton and some surprisingly funny appearances by WWE Superstar John Cena, as a muscle-head Amy’s dating and a scene stealing LeBron James as himself.

3 star rating

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ALOHA (2015)

Written and directed by Cameron Crowe, who has given us more than one classic, this flick has quite an engaging cast and might have been a good movie, if it ever decided what it was about. Is it about military contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper) helping billionaire entrepreneur Carson Welch (Bill Murray) get his communications satellite in orbit?…Is it about Gilcrest trying to uncover what’s in the satellite’s secret payload?…Is it about Gilcrest trying to win back former flame Tracy (Rachel McAdams) who’s in a troubled marriage?…Is it about Gilcrest falling in love with the military aide (Emma Stone) acting as his Hawaiian liaison?…or is it about Gilcrest discovering the daughter (Danielle Rose Russell) he never knew he had?…we don’t know and neither does the movie! Add in some rambling dialogue sequences that go on and go nowhere and you have a waste of 105 minutes and a very solid cast…not to mention beautiful Hawaiian locations. Also stars, Alec Baldwin and Danny McBride as military officers. An oddly schizophrenic screenplay and very haphazard direction from a filmmaker who can direct stuff like this in his sleep…and maybe this time he did!

2 star rating

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 -MonsterZero NJ
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BARE BONES: A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES and THE ZERO THEOREM

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A WALK AMONG THE TOMBSTONES (2014)

If there is ever an example of Liam Neeson’s ability to elevate a routine thriller and make a cliché character interesting, it’s here. Flick has Neeson as an ex-alcoholic, ex-cop with a past…wasn’t kidding about the clichés…who is now a private detective and is hired by a drug trafficker (The Guest’s Dan Stevens) to find the men who kidnaped and brutally murdered his wife. As a thriller, the film is well directed by Scott Frank from his own script based on Lawrence Block’s book. There is nothing new here, though, as we get an investigation that leaves to something much deeper and darker and we even get the smart-aleck neighborhood kid turned sidekick. Neeson is solid and intense and makes the whole affair seem much more important than it really is, despite that once it’s over you realize that nothing much was actually achieved. A movie that is far more entertaining than it should be, even though we’ve seen Neeson threaten people on the phone countless times by now. Thanks, Liam!

3 star rating

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THE ZERO THEOREM (2014)

Some of Terry Gilliam’s early films are borderline brilliant, such as his cult classic Brazil and the award winning The Fisher King. Ex-Python Gilliam has seemed to have lost his way, though, after the dead-on Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas and the collapse of his Don Quixote film…and this colorful but, convoluted Sci-Fi flick proves it. Despite a really good performance from Christoph Waltz as the eccentric Qohen Leth, the film meanders for over 100 minutes but, never really goes anywhere. There is the usual original and sumptuous production design, as is typical of Gilliam’s films, but Pat Rushin’s story of a futuristic corporate run society…a theme already overdone…where the loner Leth is asked to prove a theorem that everything is leading up to nothing, doesn’t really lead to much in itself. No more proof of The Zero Theorem than the actually film, which achieves little after almost two hours of Gilliam’s off-beat comedy and the antics of the story’s eclectic, cartoonish supporting characters. As a fan of Gilliam, I didn’t hate it. There were things to like, such as the visuals, Waltz’s performance and a delightfully sexy role from French actress Mélanie Thierry as a cyber-sex girl who falls for Qohen. As a complete film, however, it achieves little. Gilliam is still one of the most original filmmakers around but, it’s been awhile since he accomplished something noteworthy. Also stars Matt Damon as “Management” and Tilda Swinton as a cyber-shrink.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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10 PERFORMANCES THAT PROVE WOMEN RULED HORROR IN 2014!

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THE TOP 10  PERFORMANCES OF 2014

Woman have always played a role in horror. Whether it be fiendish femme fatales, the damsels of yesteryear or the final girls of the modern era, they have always played a part. As this is Women In Horror Month, I’ve decide to look back at the past year and some very strong roles/performances from the ladies. 2014 was an exemplary year for female horror roles, as there were a lot of very strong performances from actresses in the lead parts of some of the year’s best flicks…and some movies where the performances was the only thing worth watching for. Which to me is solid proof that the ladies ruled horror in 2014!…

(Just click on the banners to go to our reviews of these films!)

#1 Essie Davis in The Babadook

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#2 Karen Gillan in Oculus

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#3 Jill Larson in The Taking Of Deborah Logan

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#4 Alex Essoe in Starry Eyes

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#5 Rose Leslie in Honeymoon

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#6 Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive

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#7 Addison Timlin in The Town That Dreaded Sundown

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#8 Sarah Snook in Jessabelle

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#9 Danielle Harris in See No Evil 2

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#10 Perdita Weeks in As Above, So Below

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HONORABLE MENTION

Manuela Velasco in [REC] 4: Apocalypse

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source: MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2014)

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ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Only Lovers Left Alive may not technically be a horror film, but it’s main characters are vampires, so, it does fall into the category, though it is more of a character study then a thriller. Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, who is one of the more interesting filmmakers on the indie circuit, the film does deliver a unique and refreshing spin on the tired and overused vampire genre and that alone makes it worth watching for.

The film tells the story of husband and wife Adam (Tom Hiddleston, Loki from the Thor films), a reclusive musician, and scholarly Eve (Tilda Swinton) who are both vampires who have lived for centuries. Adam lives currently in desolate Detroit while Eve lives in exotic Tangier. Both have long given up stalking humans for prey and find other more ‘civilized’ methods of getting their nourishment and have decided instead to pursue a more Bohemian lifestyle, soaking up all the cultural accomplishments of the world that the ‘zombies’…what they refer to normal humans as…take for granted. But when Adam begins to show signs of a moody depression, Eve comes to Detroit to comfort him. But their reunited bliss is short lived as Eve’s sister Ava (Mia Wasikowska) joins them unexpectedly from L.A. and disrupts their happy bubble of seclusion with her uncontrolled behavior.

I really enjoyed this film and it’s portrayal of two beings who spend their eternal life immersing themselves in the accomplishments of mankind such as literature, science and music yet avoid being the neutered fops of the Twilight series. Jarmusch creates two fascinating characters who bathe themselves in the accomplishments of a race that generally overlooks them. But these two still retain their lethality and that’s what keeps this so interesting. They are dangerous creatures that choose not to rule at the top of the food chain, but remain aloof using their extended time here to experience and savor what ‘life’ has to offer, though they are themselves the undead. Obviously their little bubble gets burst by Ava, but it is how they adjust that keeps them so interesting and the film involving. The wisdom of the ages as they simply adapt the best they know how. And the director gives it all a subtle and witty sense of humor, as well. I really liked Jarmush’s use of his locations, from the desolate streets of after-dark Detroit to the seedy alleyways of Tangier where there is a drug dealer on every street. There is some sumptuous cinematography by Yorick Le Saux who captures the bleakness of Detroit’s abandoned cityscape and, ironically, the same ‘danger at every corner’ feeling of Tangier’s labyrinthian alleyways. The two vastly different locations are given a similar look to illustrate these creatures of the night’s choice to live in the shadows even in an exotic country like Morroco. Add to that a haunting score by Jozef van Wissem and you get a film dripping with atmosphere to go along with the engrossing and endearing characters.

And what really makes this film so involving, and Jarmusch’s script sizzle, are two truly wonderful characterizations/performances from his lead cast. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are mesmerizing as the couple married for over a century and who have been in the presence of the likes of Mary Shelley and Nikola Tesla and recollect fondly of these giants as if reminiscing about an old friend or favorite school teacher. Hiddleston gives us a reclusive musician and rock star who is known for his work, but remains an enigma to the world, a musical outlaw that is part Keith Richards and part Howard Hughes. He gives his character the air of a moody genius who never really appreciates his own accomplishments and has a fetish for old guitars. Swinton is the more upbeat and livelier Eve, who unlike her brooding, sometimes distant husband, revels in the culture of what surrounds her. She still enjoys life, despite having lived so much of it and wants Adam to share in her continued enthusiasm. The love between these two seems genuine as brought to life by the actors and they have great chemistry together. Supporting cast are also very good as Wasikowska gives us the untamed, wild-child Ava, who is stuck by way of her immortality in the eternal rebelliousness of youth and there is no malice when she turns their peaceful existence upside-down with her unchecked behavior. Rounding out is a good turn by Anton Yelchin as Ian, a musician and human friend of Adam’s who gets him his guitars and whatever he needs, as the wealthy Adam pays well and John Hurt as Eve’s mentor Marlowe.

This is not a film for everyone, especially those expecting the traditional bared fangs, spilling blood and wooden stakes. This is a really interesting character study of two fascinating, passionate individuals who happen to be vampires. There seems to be an underlying commentary about how the human race doesn’t appreciate it’s cultural, creative and scientific accomplishments and spoils everything it has, including it’s own life’s blood with sickness and disease…something our vampires must be careful to avoid. Overall, I found this an interesting, engrossing, original and sometimes ironically funny vampire film from a filmmaker that has staked out his career on being original… pun intended!

3 and 1/2 fangs.

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