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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2018: THE YEAR HORROR REGAINED SUBSTANCE and RESONANCE!

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SPOILER WARNING! In order to properly discuss these films in context with this article, some important details that may be considered SPOILERS had to be included. If you haven’t seen one or any of these films, you may want to watch them first before reading this discussion. You have been warned!- MZNJ

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2018: THE YEAR HORROR REGAINED SUBSTANCE and RESONANCE!

 

Those who think horror movies are just an excuse for blood, boobs and boogie men are sadly mistaken and there is no more proof that horror flicks are capable of substance and emotional resonance than some of this year’s genre offerings. To prove these aren’t just the words of an overprotective horror fan, here are a few recent examples of how horror has returned to telling stories with strong emotional centers…

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to the full reviews for the movies discussed below)

Pyewacket’s story is triggered by the fractured relationship between a mother (Laurie Holden) and daughter (Nicole Muñoz) who are both mourning the death of their husband/father in completely different ways. Teen Leah has turned to an interest in death and the occult and her mother wants to start a new life in a new house, taking Leah away from her friends and school. The resulting turmoil has Leah evoking a dark entity, Pyewacket, to kill her mother and learning the harsh lesson…be careful what you wish for. The dysfunctional relationship between mother and daughter is strongly presented by writer/director Adam MacDonald and wonderfully acted by the lead actresses. The conflict between Leah and her mom is the catalyst for the horror that results and gives this spooky chiller a resonance that enhances it’s supernatural element, by giving it subjects to prey upon that are already emotionally vulnerable.

 

What Keeps You Alive tells the story of Jules (Brittany Allen) and Jackie (Hanna Emily Anderson), a married, lesbian couple going to Jackie’s family cabin deep in the woods to celebrate their first anniversary. There, Jules finds out Jackie is not who she thought she was and that she may have married a psychopath. Jules is forced to fight for her life against the one person in the world she loves the most. Colin Minihan’s thriller works so well because it skillfully presents a loving relationship between two women and then tears the relationship apart in the most painful way as one woman finds the love of her life is a vicious and cruel person. Both actresses give fantastic performances as the cold and cunning Jackie and the heartbroken and terrified Jules. The film may be intense and brutal, but even more so because Jules’ betrayal and the torment she endures as a result, are portrayed so well and give the story impact beyond the violence we witness.

 

Feral is another film this year to present a lesbian couple as the character focus for it’s story. Here Alice (Scout Taylor-Compton) comes out to her friends on a camping trip by bringing her girlfriend Jules (Olivia Luccardi) along. It’s met with mixed emotions from her friends and adds conflict before our infected even appear. Once our creatures are introduced and the bloodshed and carnage begin, we watch a strong-willed young woman fight to save the ones she loves and even finding conflict with her new partner over how to handled those of the group who become infected themselves. Director and co-writer Mark Young elevates this cabin in the woods/zombie horror by having a strong and topical human interest story at it’s center with three dimensional characters well played by the cast, especially Taylor-Compton’s strong-willed but compassionate Alice.

 

Our House is a haunted house story that tugs at our hearts as well as chills us to the bone. Here, college student Ethan (Thomas Mann) is forced to leave school and abandon his dreams as the accidental death of his parents takes him from sibling to parent to his younger brother Matt (Percy Hynes-White) and his little sister Becca (Kate Moyer). Director Anthony Scott Burns gives us time to become endeared to this young, emotionally wounded family before introducing the supernatural elements brought into the house by Ethan’s experiments. Even if the basic haunting story is routine, it becomes very effective as the audience has a strong emotional investment in the characters from early on. We like them and fear for them. This could have been just a routine ghost story had Burns not given it such a very human heart and elevated it in a crowded sub-genre.

 

Hereditary may have split fans with it’s slow pace and extremely eccentric characters, but it was a story of mental illness as much as the supernatural. It had a very strong performance by Toni Collette as Annie, a woman dealing with her own mental health issues, as well as, those of her very offbeat family. Filmmaker Ari Aster could have left out the demonic portion of the story and still had a disturbing portrait of an unbalanced family created by some sadly damaged DNA. By giving us a strong picture of possibly mentally unstable characters, it kept us guessing till the final moments if it was the demonic or the psychotic that was to blame for this family’s woes. Again, basing the story in a strong human element that we can identify with and invest in, makes the supernatural elements plaguing our subjects all the more effective and believable…and thus more frightening.

These are just some examples, but one could site a few more illustrating how horror has refocused from blood, gore and things that go bump in the night to the matters of the mind and heart of some very human characters. It gives the films in question resonance and when we identify and care about characters, it makes their respective predicaments all the more effective. This year’s horrors also had something to say about some very topical human issues, while telling their stories of ghosts, ghouls and malevolent specters…and the genre is all the better for it.

…And obviously, I recommend you catch up with all these flicks if you haven’t already!

-MonsterZero NJ

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: HEREDITARY (2018)

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HEREDITARY (2018)

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

Story finds an eccentric family, whose lineage has a history of mental illness, experiencing strange occurrences and tragic events after the death of it’s matriarch. Her surviving daughter Annie (Toni Collette) slowly begins to believe something supernatural is attached to her family, something evil, while her husband feels it’s all in her head. Is Annie losing her mind, or is she about to find out she inherited more from mom than just some mental issues.

The hype machine has been working overtime for weeks on this flick being an instant classic, but much like 2016’s The Witch, which received the same pre-release praise, this one has some merit, but is far from the traumatizing experience it’s being sold as. Hereditary is atmospherically directed by Ari Aster from his own script, has some very unsettling moments and the eccentric family members are enough to give you the willies themselves. From Collette’s Annie who relives traumatic events in her life by building miniature dioramas of them and daughter Charlie, who likes to cut the heads off dead birds, this is an Addams Family in the making. From a distance, the post funeral events could be the result of traumatic events, mixing with some bad DNA, but we slowly discover there might actually be something malevolent stalking this family. There are some creepy moments and Aster gives us some initial doubts whether this is elemental or simply mental, till a last act where we finally open the flood gates to hell and get what we came for…and that’s the flaw here. The film is very slow paced and while it seems to be intentional, it’s a bit too slow paced for it’s own good. Much like The Witch there are some very spooky sequences and visuals, but there are also long stretches that are just tedious. Some of the supernatural hocus pocus comes off as a bit silly, too, and the really scary stuff doesn’t happen until the last few scenes. It’s a long stretch till the film really delivers and while there is plenty of unsettling things to keep us occupied, there are also quite a few moments where you might find yourself checking your watch. The film does go somewhere that was very effective, had some chilling developments, but sometimes felt like it was rambling at times before getting to it’s Rosemary’s Baby-esque finale. On a strictly production level, the cinematography is very effective from Pawel Pogorzelski, as is Aster’s visual eye and a lot of the atmosphere comes from Colin Stetson’s goosebump inducing score.

Aster did perfectly cast this somewhat mixed-bag. Toni Collette is near brilliant as a woman with her own issues dealing with not only the trauma of two deaths, but the belief that there is some sort of curse or malevolent entity stalking her family. It’s an opinion her somewhat clueless husband doesn’t share, which isolates her. Gabriel Byrne does a wonderful job as husband Steven, a man who is sometimes too calm and emotionally detached to be of any help. He believes it’s all in her head and refuses to see there is something very odd going on. Milly Shapiro is downright creepy as the introverted and odd daughter Charlie. The young actress gives us goosebumps with just a look and a tilt of her head, not to mention carrying out the script’s extremely weird behavior for her. Rounding out the family is Alex Wolff as teen son Peter who already has a tenuous relationship with Annie thanks to her trying to set him on fire while sleepwalking at one point. He is very sympathetic, especially in the second half when things escalate. There is also a small part portrayed by Ann Dowd as Annie’s friend from a loss support group, who is a little off-kilter herself after losing her grandson.

In conclusion, the sum of it’s parts are greater than the whole. There are too many stretches where the film gets a bit tedious and borders on outright dull to be the modern horror classic PR hype wants us to believe. Ari Aster shows he has a nice touch for providing atmosphere and unsettling visuals and while it takes a bit too long to get to them, he can produce outright scares, such in the last act. The final ten minutes alone make up for some of the waiting. His characters were disturbing without the supernatural goings-on, though some of those those goings-on weren’t always as effective as they should have been, to keep the tension consistent. The director loses his grip here and there as his pace is a little too meandering for the movie’s own good. There is a lot of potential shown here for Aster as a filmmaker, just too soon to be calling him a master…or this a masterpiece. Despite being extremely over-hyped, it is worth a look for all the things that do work.

-MonsterZero NJ

 

Rated 3 cans of lighter fluid which should be kept away from sleepwalkers at all times.

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BARE BONES: PLEASE STAND BY (2017)

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PLEASE STAND BY (2017)

Story finds Wendy (Dakota Fanning), a once temper-prone, autistic young woman, trying to convince her older sister, Audrey (Alice Eve) that she is ready to come home and can be responsible around Audrey’s baby daughter. At the same time, the Star Trek obsessed Wendy wants to submit a script in a Star Trek script contest sponsored by Paramount Pictures. To enter her script and prove she is a capable and responsible adult, Wendy begins a road-trip to L.A. to deliver her screenplay to the studio, personally, with her panicked counselor (Toni Collette) and worried sister in hot pursuit.

This is a sweet and charming little gem directed by Ben Lewin from script by Michael Golamco, that treats it’s subject with sensitivity, yet without overdosing on melodrama. Fanning’s nerdy Wendy is a very endearing character and it’s actually fun to watch this determined young woman try to overcome the constraints of her condition, accomplish her goals and prove she can be functional and responsible like everyone else. The script never pities it’s subject, just presents them as everyday people who face different challenges than the rest of us. The Star Trek angle is also fun, too, as Wendy can match the biggest nerd in Trek lore and maybe understands the characters better than most. The cast are all exceptional, especially lead Fanning, who really makes Wendy a three dimensional person we can emotionally invest in. A sweet, charming and sometimes fun little gem that treats it’s subject with the respect and sensitivity it deserves. Also stars Happy Death Day’s Jessica Rothe as a devious young mother Wendy encounters on her journey and an appearance by TV legend Marla Gibbs as a sympathetic senior. Highly Recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

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REVIEW: KRAMPUS (2015)

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KRAMPUS (2015)

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

Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘R Treat became an almost instant classic once the flick was discovered on DVD and now he is finally back in the director’s chair with Krampus, a dark comic fantasy based on European folklore. The legendary Krampus is a demonic creature that serves as an anti-Santa Claus, who comes to punish the naughty at Christmas time…at least according to parts of Western Europe.

This tale finds young Max (Emjay Anthony) becoming increasingly disappointed with his family and their completely dysfunctional treatment of Christmas, which Max still believes in. His spirit is broken when his redneck cousins push him to the edge when mockingly reading his letter to Santa out loud at an already spoiled pre-Christmas dinner. He shreds his letter and casts it angrily out the window denouncing Christmas and any hope of having a happy one. This evokes a massive snowstorm and power outage and at it’s core lurks the creature of legend Krampus, along with his demonic elves and minions, who soon, one-by-one, start taking the members of this holiday-challenged family to a very un-merry fate.

Krampus is not quite the devious and twisted fun that Trick ‘R Treat was, at least not until all hell breaks loose in it’s last act. As co-written with Zach Shields and Todd Casey, Dougherty goes for something with a little more mainstream accessibility and thus with less of an edge than his Halloween classic. The PG-13 movie is a bit more family friendly film, but certainly does have it’s dark, wicked moments and satirical…though cliché…jabs at what Christmas has become in modern times. No better is this illustrated than in it’s opening credits sequence set at a mall. There are some suspenseful moments, but the film don’t quite have the constant atmosphere of ghoulish fun that graced Trick ‘R Treat. The earlier scenes of family chaos are a tad flat and presented the cliché ‘yuppies vs white trash’ scenario seen so many times before. On the plus side, Dougherty’s sumptuous visual style dazzles and chills with his snow-covered vista’s and the dark shadows that dance in fireplace lit rooms. His creatures are all twisted, evil versions of classic Christmas toys and characters, including the title monster himself. That and a splendid animated flashback about halfway through…the best segment in the film…evokes elements of Tim Burton when he was at the top of his game. The FX of this modestly budget film are all top notch and exquisitely designed though, I was not quite as impressed by Krampus himself as I should have been. He looks cool, but doesn’t have much more impact than some of his minions, such as the kid devouring jack-in-the-box or vicious ginger bread men, which evoked nervous giggles from the audience. Adding to some of the film’s atmospheric moments is Trick ‘R Treat composer Douglas Pipes’ effective score, aided by Jules O’Loughlin’s lush and spooky cinematography. Dougherty succeeds here more than he slips and overall this is a fun movie if not totally living up to his previous fan favorite.

The cast was a mixed bag for me. I am not a fan of Adam Scott, who I find very bland and he was so here as dad, Tom. Toni Collette is wasted in a very stereotypical suburban mom role, as Sarah, that gives this gifted actress very little to do except grimace at her redneck relatives and look worried/scared. Young Emjay Anthony fares much better as the sensitive and disillusioned Max, though the story has him take a back seat to the more bland Scott and David Koechner, who plays gung-ho brother-in law Howard. Stefania LaVie Owen showed some moxie as Max’s sister Beth, but the script has her disappear in the first act and Krista Stadler was good as Tom’s European mother “Omi” who provides old-world charm and the Krampus exposition we and the film’s characters need. The rest…including hard working character actress Conchata Ferrell…all play cliché white trash members of Sarah’s sister Linda’s (Allison Tolman) family and they are stereotypes we’ve all seen before.

I liked Krampus and more worked for me than didn’t. I did wish it had a bit more of an edge and that things were a little livelier in it’s more sedate, cliché and sometimes flat, beginning. The second half of the film really delivers what we came for, especially the last act and makes up for it’s weaker parts, though I wish the film kept it’s focus on Max instead of turning it over to the blander adults. The film looks gorgeous and the spooky visuals, creature designs and animated flashback reminded me of Tim Burton at his finest. Not quite the instant classic that Trick ‘R Treat was, but a film that certainly entertains, overall and may grow on one even more, upon repeat holiday viewings. Flawed but still recommended.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 Christmas trees.

fred clause rating

 

 

 

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