HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: PIRANHA 3DD (2012)

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PIRANHA 3DD  (2012)

Sequel to Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D (which is in itself a remake) is not as fun as it’s predecessor, nor is it quite as bad as it’s made out to be. The story, this time, has the prehistoric piranha traveling from the decimated Lake Victoria through an underground river to a sleazy water theme park to continue their feeding.

The problem with this sequel is, director John Gulager seems to take the material a little too seriously despite a script that replaces Piranha 3D‘s wit for blatantly stupid. And stupid would be fine if director Gulager took the ball and ran with it like Alexandre Aja did. The budget for this installment is smaller and thus the film’s scale and carnage lesser, but still, look how fun the low budget 1978 original was without the budget and bloodshed of the 2010 remake. Joe Dante knew to play it serious to a point, but all the while letting the cast and audience in on the fun. When you open a film with Gary Busey and a dead cow that farts piranha eggs, there’s no point in pretending you’re directing Jaws. The gore effects are fine although the CGI is even weaker then it’s predecessor, but despite it’s faults, there is still some entertainment to be had such as MZNJ Halloween Hottie Katrina Bowden, reciting one of the best lines in the film involving a baby piranha and a certain part of her anatomy.

Gulager’s cast is fine, though only David Hasselhoff seems to really be in on the joke. The rest of the cast, including pretty lead Danielle Panabaker, try really hard to give they proceedings some weight, but probably should have just embraced the goofy material and had a good time. The cameos from some of the survivors from the last entry are fun and there are some funny bits, most involving The Hoff.

It could have been a lot better, but Piranha 3DD did pass the time and I actually feel that with a better script that was more clever than crude, John Gulager might actually have delivered a decent B-movie. An OK time waster when watched in the right frame of mind, but far short of the deliriously fun remake that precedes it.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 carnivorous critters

 

 

 

 

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TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991)

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THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991)

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

The People Under The Stairs is just another example of director Wes Craven’s versatility as he treats us to a darkly humored tale of urban horror. Story finds young “Fool” (Brandon Adams) on his 13th birthday finding out his mother is ill and his family is about to be evicted from the ghetto tenement they live in. Street tough Leroy (Ving Rhames) talks the boy into helping him get payback and a paycheck by robbing the house of the reclusive rich landlords. Once entering the former funeral parlor that is home to the bizarre Robeson’s (Everett McGill and Wendy Robie), Fool finds himself in a house of horrors that includes, kidnapping, murder, cannibalism and…the people under the stairs!

While Craven certainly gives his flick some disturbing moments, he tells his story with a very twisted sense of dark humor as we follow our heroic teen as he tries to escape the virtual fortress of horror. The legendary director has a good time filling his house full of devious and deadly traps, the psychotic Robesons and the tormented souls they keep in the basement. The movie moves quickly, thought could have benefited, pace-wise, from being a few minutes shorter and there is enough action and laughs to keeps us entertained. Sure, the film’s messages about ghetto life and the vastly uneven distribution of wealth between the haves and have-nots is a bit too obvious, but we can overlook that since we are having ghoulish fun with the story those messages are attached to. Despite the humorous tone, Craven doesn’t skimp on the blood and gore and the FX portraying the carnage and the house’s hidden inhabitants are well done and shown in just the right amounts to keep them effective. The house itself is a creepy fun-house of secret doors, hidden passages, traps, bones and cobweb filled rooms…and if that’s not enough, we have Everett McGill running around in his bizarre S & M gear that he wears when on the hunt. It’s loaded with atmosphere and is a fun flick with a ghoulish sense of humor that still holds up well almost a quarter century later.

Craven also has a good cast to portray his oddball characters. Young Brandon Adams is quite an engaging and noble hero as young “Fool”. An inner city teen who, despite his nickname, is wise beyond his years and is tough when he needs to be, but has a surprising sense of honor for a kid his age and the hard life he lives. Adams does a good job making him three dimensional and very likable. Everett McGill reaches near Bruce Campbell levels with his borderline slapstick portrayal of the weird and put-upon Robeson. He may be a twisted killer, but conveys the essence of a man who truly never gets a break…especially when dealing with Fool. Wendy Robie is equally creepy as his disturbed sister and one can truly believe of the two, she is the one to really be scared of. A.J. Langer is sweet, naive and sympathetic as the Robeson’s captive “daughter” Alice. She has lived in captivity all her life, but knows she is being mistreated and bonds with Fool as she sees a possible means to finally seeing the outside world. Rounding out the main cast is Ving Rhames, who is effective as the tough, street crook Leroy, pretty Kelly Jo Minter, who is sweet and street-wise as Fool’s tarot card reading sister Ruby and Sean Whalen is likable as Roach, one of the escaped captives loose in the house’s walls. A good cast for a very offbeat film.

Maybe not the best of Craven’s work, but it is an original and fun flick. It entertains us with a bizarre and twisted sense of humor without sacrificing the tense action, chills or gore. It may get a little preachy, especially in the last act and could have had a bit tighter with it’s running time, but overall, is ghoulish fun and another example of how versatile Craven was as a filmmaker.

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Wes Craven 1938-2015

-MonsterZero NJ

3 kitchen knives.

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BARE BONES: AREA 51, BURYING THE EX and MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROUGUE NATION

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AREA 51 (2015)

After the smash success of Paranormal Activity, Oren Peli returned to the director’s chair for his sophomore effort in 2009…and the movie has since languished in post-production hell for the last six years…now we know why. Found footage flick has a silly plot with three young friends (Darrin Bragg, Reid Warner and Ben Rovner) concocting an absurd scheme to break into the infamous Area 51 military base. They have the help of a former employee’s daughter (Jelena Nik) and succeed where many have failed.

Obviously, they are not happy with what they find…and neither are we. Flick takes a ridiculous 70 minutes for anything interesting to happen and at about 95 minutes long (including it’s slow crawl credits) that’s simply too long to wait. What we do get is amusing, but exactly what you’d expect to get in a flick about Area 51 and it’s fleetingly glimpsed and over far too quickly. There is barely anything resembling scares or suspense and what we do finally encounter is very predictable and been done before, especially in the X-Files…and done better. Area 51’s actual secrets may still be a mystery, but why this flick sat for six years and was quietly dumped onto VOD and home media, isn’t.

 -MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

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BURYING THE EX (2014)

Director Joe Dante (The Howling, Gremlins) has made quite a few classic films, which is why it’s disappointing that his latest effort is so sadly mediocre. Story has horror movie fan and slacker Max (Anton Yelchin) dating the hot but extremely bitchy, Evelyn (Ashley Greene), while he could be with the sweet, horror movie-themed-ice-cream-shop owner, Olivia (Alexandra Daddario). The wrong words said in front of the wrong magic item in the shop Max works at, ensures he will be with Evelyn forever…even when she is hit by a bus and killed. Now, as he desperately wants to date Olivia, Max’s girlfriend is back and there’s going to be trouble.

Flick’s problems lie in it’s uninspired and sadly unfunny script by Alan Trezza. Dante tries to give it some life and it is colorful and filled with the horror movie references and imagery Dante excels at, but the script is unimaginative, predictable and let’s Dante down at every turn. The premise has been done before, but still could have made fun use of it’s scenario, instead it is routine and without the wit to really make this a good time. At least Dante get’s good work out of the cast as Yelchin, Greene and Daddario…who is especially endearing as the ultimate horror geek girlfriend fantasy, Olivia…do their best to get something out of their thinly written parts. With a better script this could have been a real treat as it had a great director!

 -MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

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Mission Impossible Rogue Nation

MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION (2015)

I originally was not a fan of this series, but to be honest, each installment has been an improvement over the last with this and the previous installment, Ghost Protocol, being a lot of fun. Dare I say this series has finally hit it’s stride with it’s fourth and fifth entries. This chapter finds the IMF being dissolved by the government right in the middle of Ethan Hunt’s (Tom Cruise) mission to track down “The Syndicate”, an organization that is the IMF’s equal, yet dedicated to disruption and terrorism. Now considered a rogue agent and being hunted around the world, Hunt must team with Benji (Simon Pegg), Brandt (Jeremy Renner), Luther (Ving Rhames) and mysterious agent Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson) to bring the syndicate down.

As written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, Rogue Nation is fast-paced and entertaining with some great camaraderie between Cruise and his team, especially Pegg. There are some fun action sequences and some thrilling escapes with the usual espionage and covert operations mixed in. The only thing holding it back a little, is that the action is nothing out of the ordinary, despite being well-staged and the main villain (Sean Harris) is rather weak. Otherwise this is a fun spy/action flick and Swedish actress Ferguson gets to steal a few scenes from Cruise…which isn’t an easy thing to do. Also stars Alec Baldwin as a CIA thorn in the IMF’s side. Fun!

 -MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

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HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: PIRANHA 3D (2010)

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PIRANHA 3D  (2010)

Director Alexandre Aja takes Roger Corman’s classic original and totally “cranks it up to 11” in this deliriously gory and delightfully horny remake. Aja takes Corman’s blood and boobs formula to the extreme and creates a highly entertaining action/ horror that, if it’s your cup of tea, delivers the goods in overdrive. It might be one of the goriest movies I’ve seen in quite some time with an army of spring break co-eds making up a meal for an army of prehistoric Piranha and the bodies and body parts are everywhere.

When an earthquake opens the floor of an Arizona lake and releases the Jurassic fish from their underground lair, it puts a bite on the Spring Break celebration in progress. Now it’s up to Sheriff Forester (Elizabeth Shue) to bite back, but first, she has to rescue her son, Jake (Steven R. McQueen) and his love interest, Kelly (Jessica Szohr) who have taken to the lake to document the wild partying with trashy video producer, Derrick (Jerry O’Connell).

Sure, director Aja has all the exploitation elements present, but what really makes it work is that Aja and the script don’t forget about the story, don’t forget about the lead characters and put together a couple of nail biting suspense scenes amidst the carnage and it’s all done with a devious giddiness. As with the filmmakers who worked for Corman, they never forget to give us a movie underneath all the exploitation. Only real flaw to me was some cheesy CGI. If you like this kind of flick, this is one of the most entertaining exploitation style movies in quite some time. A type of film that sadly doesn’t get made much anymore, at least not with this kind of respect and care. And one final note, forty- something year old Elizabeth Shue is still hot and held her own among all the co-eds. The lady can still rock a pair of blue jeans.

Also stars Adam Scott as a diver helping Sheriff Forester, Ving Rhames as a deputy, Christopher Lloyd as an eccentric scientist and the heavenly body of Kelly Brook as one of Derrick’s models

3 and 1/2 carnivorous critters

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