BARE BONES: HANGMAN

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HANGMAN (2015)

Found footage horror has a demented serial killer (Eric Michael Cole), who likes to hang his victims, sometimes, targeting the Miller family while they are on vacation. He lives in their home, while they are away and installs cameras everywhere because he plans on staying once they come back and observing them. They do return and despite calling the police to report the break-in, Hangman remains hidden in the attic thanks to shoddy police work…or a weak script? Soon the maniac is watching the family’s every move and even moving among them while they are unaware. What are his sinister plans for this unsuspecting family? Do we care?

Dull flick is written by Simon Boyes and Adam Mason and directed flatly by Mason. It’s basically 85 minutes of a masked looney watching a family from an elaborate set-up in their own attic that somehow gets missed by investigating police. The nut pulls stupid pranks on them like moving furniture around, making parents aware of bad report cards and spitting in their food. Oooohhh…scary!!! He finally gets deadly in the last five minutes, or so and by that time we don’t care anymore. A premise like this could have been quite creepy, but the film has no atmosphere, tension or suspense. A boring found footage flick that also stars Jeremy Sisto and Kate Ashfield as the homeowners and Ryan and Ty Simpkins as their kids.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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REVIEW: JURASSIC WORLD (2015)

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JURASSIC WORLD (2015)

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

Jurassic World is by far the best of the sequels to Spielberg’s 1993 adaptation of Michael Crichton’s book and wisely ignores the previous two films, being a direct sequel to the first movie. The story takes place about 20 years after the Jurassic Park disaster with Isla Nublar now having been reopened as a fully functional theme park with genetically recreated dinosaurs on display for thousands of visitors. There is a new owner, Simon Masrani (Irrfan Khan) and a new manager of operations, Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard). Now that dinosaurs are a common sights at the park, though, Masrani and his investors have sanctioned geneticist Dr. Wu (B.D. Wong) to create genetic crossbreeds to keep attendance up. One of those creations is the Indominus Rex, a hybrid between a T-Rex and another species that is obvious, but, I won’t spoil. She is fierce and fiercely intelligent and makes an escape initiating a killing spree of man and beast alike as she heads toward a full-to-capacity park. Now Claire must team with ex-Navy man and raptor trainer Owen (Chris Pratt) to find the monster and rescue her nephews Gray and Zach (Ty Insidious Simpkins and Nick Robinson) who are visiting and have become trapped in the creature’s kill zone.

Safety Not Guaranteed director Colin Trevorrow takes over the reigns this time, armed with a script from himself and co-writers Derek Connor, Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa. The result is a fun popcorn flick, but, one that could have had a bit more intensity and excitement considering how much action there is. The film is enjoyable and sets up some fun action set-pieces but, it isn’t till the last act when Indominus Rex reaches the park and has a free-for-all with a squad of trained raptors and a very familiar face that it really delivered the thrills that should have started when the vicious lady escapes her pen. Treverrow has certainly delivered a technically sound and fast moving movie but, some of the action scenes feel a bit by-the-numbers for this series and the Indominus Rex is never quite as frightening as she should be. Treverrow needs to remember that this is the fourth time around and we basically have seen it all before. Much like with Jurassic World’s customers, this has all become very familiar. Dinosaurs loose in park, people running and screaming, yadda yadda yadda…been there done that. It’s well-orchestrated but, Treverrow really doesn’t shake things up too much outside the Jurassic Park movie formula to really glue us to our seats. I had a good time but, the wow factor has definitely been deluded. Maybe it’s not all he and his co-writers fault, but, the Indominus Rex and Pratt’s squad of trained raptors aren’t quite enough to make it totally fresh and make us feel like we did when Spielberg first revealed his critters 22 years ago. It’s the lack of wonder that really holds this back from being on more equal footing with the first film. Technically the film looks great with strong production design, great SPFX and a bunch of fun easter eggs for fans of the original. Michael Giacchino takes over on scoring duties but, incorporates elements of John Williams’ original score and John Schwartzman gives the film a nice look as cinematographer.

As for our players, the large cast do very well in helping the story along. Sure most of the characters are clichés but, they work within the context of an old-style monster movie, which this is at heart. Howard is a solid heroine as the rigid, work-obsessed Claire who learns to loosen up and care more about those around her…as she is being chased by an enormous genetically created monster. Pratt is full of charm as the tough but, kind Owen who has a crush on Claire and continually tries to melt the ice queen’s heart. He is a solid action hero, yet has a sense of humor about him and does remind me a bit of Harrison Ford, so, rumors he may be the new Indy don’t sound hard to believe. Khan plays Masrani like Attenborough did Hammond. A entrepreneur with a heart and he is likable. Vincent D’Onofrio is the genetics company InGen’s security head, Hoskins, who has is own agenda concerning the island’s inhabitants. He’s a pro and makes a good human bad guy as does Wong’s pompous and untrustworthy geneticist. Simpkins and Robinson are likable as Gray and Zach, Claire’s troublesome nephews. The two avoid annoying movie kid syndrome and that makes them OK with me. The cast of multiple CGI critters are, obviously, still the reason we see these movies and the raptors especially have some personality as do some of the new faces like the massive Mosasaurus.

This was a fun movie and certainly better than Lost World or Part 3. Trevorrow and his writers don’t stray very far from the JP formula and that keeps this from having the sense of WOW or wonder that it needs to really crank it up to 11. The action is plentiful but, doesn’t really start to impress till the last act when our villainous hybrid is finally tracked down and the really intense action begins. The Indominous Rex could have had more impact and character, but, is far more sufficient a bad guy than the bland Spinosaurus we got last time. Overall, though, it is a fun monster movie with top notch SPFX and still entertained very well despite being the fourth in a series that has yet to really expand it’s boundaries. Recommended as a good popcorn flick and a treat for JP fans who were disappointed by the last two visits.

-MonsterZero NJ

  3 and 1/2 T-Rex

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REVIEW: INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 (2013)

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INSIDIOUS: CHAPTER 2 (2013)

Insidious: Chapter 2 starts up almost right after the original Insidious ended with Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) Lambert reunited with their son Dalton (Ty Simpkins) after his spirit was held prisoner by a demon in an afterlife dimension called ‘The Further’. But as we saw in the final frames, something else was now inhabiting Josh’s body and it had strangled paranormal investigator Elise (Lin Shaye) to death. We pick up as the unsuspecting family, including older son Foster (Andrew Astor) and their infant daughter Kali, have moved in with Josh’s mother Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) while police investigate Elise’s mysterious death in their house. They are barely moved in when supernatural occurrences start to begin again with objects moving, spectral voices, apparitions appearing and dear old dad acting very strange. While Renai tries to deal with the fact that supernatural forces are still with them, Josh tries to convince her all is well and Lorraine decides to team up with Elise’s former assistants paranormal investigators Specs (Leigh Whannell who also wrote the screenplay) and Tucker (Angus Sampson) along with one of the original investigators from Josh’s childhood haunting, Carl (Steve Coulter) to get down to the bottom of these haunted hi-jinx once and for all.

And that is all I will say about the story as, despite some familiar trappings, James Wan (The Conjuring) takes this installment in some clever directions and once again uses the familiar elements very well. We get to know the story behind the evil woman in black seen in the last film and even revisit The Further, though this time it is inventively linked to events in the first film. The pace is a bit slower and more methodical this time around, but since this film is a bit of a mystery as well as haunting, it takes it’s time to let the story unfold and secrets be revealed. We still get some spooky scenes, but it is refreshingly mixed in with Lorraine and company’s equally goose-bump inducing investigation. And what they find is deviously fun. The film is not quite as lively as Insidious part one, but I liked the mystery element and the film earned points with me for making it’s return to ‘The Further’ a bit more clever and less silly then last time. That is the point where the first film lost it’s grip on me and here I liked how it was done and was with this supernatural chiller up to the spooky end.

Wan is a good director and he takes what could have been a ho-hum retread and makes it a fun follow-up. He gets good performances out of all his cast and while I found Patrick Wilson to be bland in both Insidious and The Conjuring, he gets a far more lively performance out of him here. He gets to ham it up a bit and it suits him. The film has some beautiful and creepy visuals, as is Wan’s trademark, and Joseph Bishara’s score adds some nice atmosphere, too.

So in conclusion, while the story elements are more familiar; we’ve seen some of it before and the pace a bit slower, Wan does give us a spooky mystery to add to the paranormal activity and makes much more clever use of his otherworldly ‘Further’. He also gives us some clever answers to the questions left by his first Insidious and that all adds up to a spooky fun time at the movies. Also stars House Of The Devil‘s Joceline Donahue as young Lorraine in some equally clever flashback sequences that tie into the rest of the film in a fun way.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 spooks!

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REVIEW: INSIDIOUS (2011)

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INSIDIOUS (2011)

Having just seen The Conjuring, I thought I’d take a look back at James Wan’s Insidious and find the reviews are very similar…

Insidious is a fun, spooky and sometimes intensely scary flick, but does it live up to the internet hype that preceded it’s release? Not quite. The first hour of Insidious does deliver the goods. It’s basically non-stop scares and chills as early word promised, but it’s in it’s final act when it loses it’s grip somewhat.

Insidious tells the familiar story of a husband and wife (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) moving into a house with their children and strange things start to occur. Soon their one son, Dalton (Ty Simpkins) is in a coma and moving away does nothing to stop the appearance of specters and strange sights and sounds. When they bring in paranormal investigator, Elise (Lin Shaye) she tells them, to their horror, that their son has the ability to leave his body in his sleep and has lost his way back. Now a vicious demonic entity has their son and wants his soulless body to use as a vessel to enter the world of the living. Can they fend off this dark spirit and save their child?

Once Director James Wan brings in the paranormal investigators and they start to explain things, the film takes a bit of a change in direction and things get a bit hokey. What follows is still spooky and there still are some good scares, but nothing close to the first hour. The design of what we see is creepy and Wan’s directing skills don’t falter, but the problem is we see things that are better left to the imagination as our minds can imagine far worse then anything Wan can present us. Some of the before mentioned explanations sound silly and hinder the atmosphere Wan has worked hard to set up and seeing his spooks, specters and demon out in the open and in plain sight, does not help it either. Things were far more effective when left in shadow, in glimpses and with a little mystery. The cast are fine though Wilson is a bit bland and Leigh Whannell and Angus Sampson are a little too goofy as Elise’s fellow paranormal investigators.

All in all, Insidious is far better than some of the endless sequels and remakes that pass as horror flicks today, but it’s not a classic by any stretch. Much like an amusement park ride, it’s fun while your on it, but after it’s over the effect fades quickly.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 spooks!

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