BARE BONES: THE CALL (2020)

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THE CALL (2020)

Flick takes place in 1987 and finds new kid in town, Chris (Chester Rushing) falling quickly for pretty schoolmate Tonya (Erin Sanders). When hanging with her friends, tough guy, Zack (Mike C. Manning) and his brother, Brett (Sloane Morgan Siegel), they find themselves assailing the house of Edith Cranston (horror legend Lin Shaye) with rocks and vulgarity. Edith Cranston is a former day care operator suspected of being a witch and Tonya blames her for the disappearance of her little sister, Laura (Brooklyn Anne Miller). The confrontation leads to Edith committing suicide and shockingly, the four youths are included in her will. At her home, husband, Edward (Tobin Bell), explains that to claim their inheritance of $100,000 each, they must simply go upstairs, one at a time, and answer a phone call. The call however turns out to be a nightmare for each, one they must endure, or loose the money and maybe their lives.

Film is directed by Timothy Woodward Jr. from a script by Patrick Stibbs. He directs well enough and the film has a spooky visual style, but it’s in the story where it stumbles. The set-up works fine enough and even the oft-used element of having one face their greatest fears, darkest secrets, inner pains, can still be done effectively, but here it’s not. None of what the four go through is particularly interesting. Having Zack and Brett being brothers, the two face exactly the same fear, their abusive, alcoholic father (Judd Lormand), so we get the same scenario played out twice. It’s repetitive and lazy. Chris’s ordeal is nothing new, or done all that interestingly and let’s just say we can easily guess what Tonya’s dark secret is, long before it’s revealed. On top of that, the 80s setting has literally no bearing to the story. What was the need to set it in the 80s and then have it take place inside the same house almost the entire film? The cast are all fine, especially a chilling turn from veteran Shaye, and the production looks good with some nice atmosphere. It’s just that after an intriguing set-up, the flick drops the ball in following it up with something equally as interesting, scary, or at least, less routine and predictable. A disappointing example of having a good premise and cast, but going nowhere with them.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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BARE BONES: BELZEBUTH (2017)

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BELZEBUTH (2017)

Mexican horror opens with a massacre in a hospital maternity ward where police detective Emmanuel Ritter (Joaquín Cosío) loses his infant son. Five years later, he is given a case of a similar massacre at a school…one right out of today’s headlines. Aside from the painful similarities, Ritter doesn’t see a connection till Vatican paranormal expert Ivan Franco (Tate Ellington) arrives. Franco warns Ritter these killing may be the work of rogue priest Vasilio Canetti (Tobin Bell) and an ancient demonic presence. At first Ritter is skeptical, but soon his eyes are opened to things he’s never imagined, especially when he finds out the reason all these innocent children are being slaughtered.

Film is effectively directed by Emilio Portes from a plot heavy script by he and Luis Carlos Fuentes. There is a lot going on, but the film has some spooky and intense moments, especially the shocking maternity ward scene which sets the tone. The flick has biblical implications, some interesting plot twists and some very familiar demonic possession tropes, but uses them effectively for the most part. It is a bit overlong, but the cast is good and Portes has a visual style that works well with the horror elements. There is some graphic violence which has impact and Portes uses his Mexican locations atmospherically. Even the traditional exorcism is effective enough, despite the familiarity. An entertaining horror, even if a bit cliché heavy. Also stars Liam Villa as Isa, a little boy who is the focus of the demon’s attention and Yunuen Pardo as his mother.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: 12 FEET DEEP (2017)

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12 FEET DEEP (2017)

Supposedly fact-based flick has two sisters, Bree (Nora-Jane Noone from The Descent and Doomsday) and Jonna (Alexandra Park), trapped by unfortunate circumstances over a holiday weekend in an indoor Olympic pool, with the fiberglass cover shut. That’s not the worst of their troubles as the emotionally disturbed maintenance woman (Diane Farr) discovers them and turns their misfortune into a night of extortion and terror.

Director Matt Eskandari’s thriller has it’s scenario born out of some unfortunate conveniences happening all at the right…or wrong…time, but as it is based on an actual incident, it can’t be all that much of a stretch. Eskandari’s script, that he wrote along with Michael Hultquist, does pack in a lot of melodramatic elements, such as the sisters sharing a tumultuous relationship, Bree being a diabetic, Jonna out of rehab and the whole ex-con with a grudge, maintenance woman thing, but they are used in just the right amounts and the director does build some nice tension and suspense from some of the clichés. Both Noone and Park give good performances, which make the melodramatics work better than they should and endear us to the two ladies in distress. Farr’s ex-con maintenance woman also starts out as a cliché bad guy, but turns out to be a bit more layered than the simple villain she first appears. The film doesn’t overstay it’s welcome at only 85 minutes and overall is a tense and entertaining time on the couch, at least as much as two girls stuck in a pool could be. A well made little thriller that takes a simple premise, that could have been silly, and makes it work to entertaining good use. Also stars “Jigsaw” himself Tobin Bell as the grumpy pool manager who carelessly locks the ladies in. Definitely worth watching.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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BARE BONES: BEAST OF THE BERING SEA and DARK HOUSE

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BEAST OF THE BERING SEA (2013)

While Beast Of The Bering Sea doesn’t quite have Sharknado’s audacious lunacy, it does have a horde of CGI critters and Sharknado’s sexy, saucy Cassie Scerbo. The movie tells the tale of vampire-like sea creatures that are aroused from their underwater home by dredging for gold on the floor of the Bering Sea. Scerbo plays feisty and salty sailor, Donna whose father is killed by the seafaring blood-suckers and joins her brother Joe (Jonathan Lipnicki), ship mate Owen (Brandon Beemer) and Oceanographer Megan (Jaqueline Fleming) in an effort to send them back to the watery hell they came from. The CGI is very weak, but there is something fun about bat-like sea creatures that drink blood and can be destroyed with sunlight. As written by Brook Durham and directed by Don E. FauntLeRoy, there is a lot of silly action, nonsensical plotting and Cassie Scerbo is a delight to watch as her tough-as-nails, but still hot sailor takes on creatures that Dracula would proudly use to fill his aquarium. Good movie?… no… fun movie?… yea, kinda.

2 and 1-2 star rating

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DARK HOUSE (2014)

This direct to home media horror is co-written and directed by Jeepers Creepers creator Victor Salva and stars Saw series icon Tobin Bell. This tale of psychically gifted young man, Nick (Luke Kleintank), who inherits a creepy old house that mysteriously survived a massive flood 20 years ago, is borderline incoherent as it seems to have no real plot, but is just making things up as it goes along. It mixes common horror film elements with figures from Jewish mythology and the Bible…and not very accurately either…and just makes a real mess of it all that just leaves you scratching your head. There’s something about Nick having to release his evil entity of a father from the house’s basement, but where the severed hearts, mysterious government land surveyors, a hanging tree and axe wielding zombie cowboys who run like apes all tie in, I don’t think writers Salva and Charles Agron even know. The gore is well rendered and the movie looks good, as all Salva’s films do, but boring and un-involving, as well as, confusing at times. At least got to see A Christmas Story’s villainous Scut Farkus (Zack Ward) as a grown up government land surveyor who may not be what he seems…but government land surveyors rarely are. A lackluster and disappointing mess of a movie from a man who once gave us a cult classic.

2 star rating

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