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MonsterZeroNJ
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Rogue One is simply the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back!
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MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item 2 days ago

review: STRIPPED TO KILL (1987)

Stripped_to_kill

Roger Corman produced flick finds a mysterious killer brutally murdering strippers. Pretty police detective Cody Sheenan (Kay Lenz) goes undercover in a strip club to try and catch the culprit. Her partner, Heineman (Greg Evigan) tries to keep a close eye on her, but with so many suspects, can he protect her if Cody becomes the next target?

Exploitation flick is directed by Katt Shea (as Katt Shea Ruben) who used to be an actress in some Corman productions. It is another example of Corman giving women a chance behind the camera when few others were doing it. It’s from a script from she and then husband Andy Ruben and started the actress off on a career behind the camera. As with most Corman productions there is a focus on nudity and there is plenty, including from leading lady Kay Lenz. But Shea manages to also portray a more sympathetic side to these ladies and not as just sex objects. The film may be a bit amateurish at times and the script, especially the dialog, could have used a bit of work, but first time director Shea does get some effective moments in and does make us feel for the targeted strippers. The death scenes are brutal and effective and the last act reveal/chase sequence between Cody and the killer is suspenseful and puts our heroine through the ringer. The film itself is very low budget and wisely sets a lot of it’s action in the strip club and overall, is a little thriller that shows a director’s potential and does it’s job as an exploitation flick though one with a bit of a sympathetic side towards it’s subject matter.

The acting varies in a low budget flick like this. Leads Kay Lenz and Greg Evigan are vets of TV and movies and are fine. Lenz in particular has both a toughness and a soft side to her Detective Sheenan. Another TV vet, Norman Fell, is appropriately sleazy as club owner Ray, yet he’s not portrayed as an outright bad guy and does seem to have some affinity for his performers. The rest of the supporting cast do well enough as various strippers and suspects and our killer is very effective once revealed.

While far from a perfect flick, Stripped to Kill gets the job done. It gives the targeted audience the nudity and violence they came for and yet Director Katt Shea does portray her stripper characters with a sympathetic eye. There is also some disturbing scenes and some suspense, especially in the last act and leading lady Kay Lenz not only is a likable heroine cop, but is surprisingly not shy with the nudity required for the role. A very successful flick for Corman and the start of a prolific directing career for Katt Shea, including the cult classic thriller Poison Ivy with Drew Barrymore. 6/10

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: Chillin'

Boogie Buddha
Boogie Buddha at 03:44 PM Jan 19

Cool review! I'm thinking I might check this out. :)

timmyd
timmyd at 07:01 PM Jan 19

I kinda dug it . solid enough watch.

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item 5 days ago

review: THE BARN (2016)

Barn

Crowd funded horror/homage definitely has it’s heart in the right place and knows it’s 80s influences well, even if it isn’t quite as successful at delivering the goods as the films it’s trying to pay tribute to.

Flick starts out in the small town of Wheary Falls in 1959 where a Halloween set Harvest Hootenany festival goes wrong for one little girl who unwisely challenges a local legend about three demons that inhabit a local barn. The film then jumps 30 years to 1989 where Halloween obsessed teen Sam (Mitchell Musolino) and some friends accidentally awaken this legendary trio of demons while stopping in Weary Falls on the way to a Halloween night rock concert. Now Sam, his best bud Josh (Will Stout) and pretty Michelle (Lexi Dripps) find themselves battling the demonic Scarecrow, Boogeyman and Hollow Jack, that they have awakened from The Barn.

80s homage is written, directed and edited by Justin M. Seaman and the filmmaker’s intentions are certainly noble. The flick does indeed have the feel of one of those 80s horrors and even gives it an old VHS look with scratches and grain and muted colors. For nostalgia purposes, the film knows it’s source material well and we sense Seaman has a genuine love for these films and the horror genre in general. The basic story certainly works for the type of film it’s trying to be and the director does have a good visual eye and achieves a lot on a small budget. Where the film loses ground is in the writing and the editing. The dialogue is simply very stale and the exposition sequences seem to go on and on and are flat and un-involving. Seaman could have cut out a good ten minutes of talkiness from his homage and gotten it in at a much tighter 90 minutes, or less, and the film would have moved much better. It is a bit too slow paced for it’s own good. There were sequences of talk that felt like they could have been removed completely without hurting the movie, such as Sam’s talk with his dad and when they meet George Hayward (David Hampton), who was with the little girl in the opening sequence. Drunken George’s dialogue seems to go on forever and basically adds even more exposition to a local legend that was fine as it was. His story only convolutes things and the possible way of sending the demons back he relates, is just weak. Sometimes a bit of ambiguity is good, instead of explaining things in too much detail. As a matter of fact, the whole 1989 Halloween Hootenanny sequence goes on way too long, a prime example of how better writing and editing could have made this tighter. The horror sequences, featuring the three demons, themselves are fine. They are not scary or suspenseful, but they do work and Seaman’s demons are effective enough on the homage level they are intended. The FX are quite good for a low budget flick, especially the gore and they do emulate 80s FX work very well. As nostalgia, the film works very well in many ways, especially with Rocky Gray’s cool 80s style electronic soundtrack to add even more of the 80s feel. But as a movie, it’s a bit tedious and flat at times and lacks any real suspense and scares to make it really special. It needed some life to it’s scenes and performances.

While on the subject of the performances, to be too picky over the acting in a low budget film like this, isn’t really fair. Let’s be honest, the acting in a lot of the films that this flick is paying homage to, wasn’t exactly award level either. The cast in one sense are fine, though some of the dialogue reciting is a bit flat, but that could also be from the need for stronger guidance from a first time filmmaker. Mitchell Musolino is OK as Sam, as is Will Stout as Josh, though as heroes they are a bit dull. It also doesn’t help that lead Sam’s character is kind of a moody sourpuss and hard to endear to. At least Stout’s Josh is a bit more animated and likable. The one cast member who stands out a bit is cute, girl-next-door Lexi Dripps who is actually endearing as the perky object of Sam’s awkward affection, Michelle. She is one of the few cast members who sounds like she is talking naturally, not reading from a script. Sadly, the character of Michelle disappears for most of the third act action and when she re-emerges, it’s as a bound and gagged damsel in distress only there to be rescued by Sam and Josh. The film might have been better served to have Miss Dripps play final girl, or at least be more involved in the action, as she is the one with the strongest screen presence and most charm. Her character was one of the livelier ones, too, unlike the droll Sam, and is sadly underused. There are also small parts played by legendary Scream Queen, Linnea Quigley and Ari Lehman, who was the first actor to ever play Jason Voorhees (as a boy) in the first Friday The 13th.

I wanted to like this flick a lot more than I did. It’s heart was in the right place, it knew it’s influences very well and nailed the nostalgia elements pretty much dead on. It had a perfectly fine horror flick story and director Justin M. Seaman has a nice eye for spooky visuals, with the flick looking good for something very low budget. Definitely an “A” for effort. Where the film stumbles, is in it’s writing and editing. The Barn could have been ten minutes shorter, without hurting the story, it’s a little too talky between the action and the dialog itself was very stale and flat. The film wasn’t actually scary and the simple and effective plot gets a little convoluted in it’s second act. Simpler and more streamlined was working earlier on. A very noble effort and we hope filmmaker Justin M. Seaman continues to hone his craft and maybe the next flick will be closer to the home run he was swinging for here. I still recommend horror fans give it a look for the nostalgia of it and simply for the effort put in by some independent filmmakers with a passion…and despite it’s flaws, that passion does show! 6/10

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: Chillin'

timmyd
timmyd at 06:51 PM Jan 16

looking forward to checking it out . nice write-up.

timmyd
timmyd at 06:51 PM Jan 16

looking forward to checking it out . nice write-up.

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item 7 days ago

review: THE BOYS NEXT DOOR (1985)

Boys_next_door

80s Crime thriller finds social outcasts Bo (Charlie Sheen) and Roy (Maxwell Caulfield) facing high school graduation and the start of dead end factory jobs the following Monday. They decide to hit L.A. for a last weekend of cutting loose, but as dark emotions and deep frustrations bubble to the surface, the party weekend quickly degenerates into a spree of violence, mayhem and murder.

Effective and disturbing little flick is directed by Penelope Spheeris (Suburbia, Wayne’s World) from a script from future X-Files writers/producers Glen Morgan and James Wong. It takes a dark look at that moment between high school and moving forward to your future, with the portrayal of two youths who don’t feel they have one. Obviously, from the film’s opening credits serial killer montage, we know this is not going to end well and it doesn’t, as a weekend of cutting loose becomes a vicious murder spree. It’s the brooding Roy who has the darkest emotions here as he does most of the killing, with the more simpleminded Bo along for the ride and assisting in some of the violence. Morgan and Wong’s script has implications Roy is also struggling with his sexuality and/or repressing homosexuality as he, at one moment, dupes a gay man (Paul C. Dancer) into taking them back to his apartment and then brutalizes and murders him. Roy also becomes apparently jealous when Bo gets laid with the lonely and pretty Angie (Patti D’Arbanville) and viciously murders the older woman, who is just looking for some company. These moments are violent and very effective as we watch two men venting their frustrations, and in Roy’s case, some dark harbored emotions, on innocent people. The police are slowly closing in on the duo, but even Detective Woods (Christopher McDonald) laments that it will take more heinous activity to get the clues they need to catch them. It also takes quite a few bodies for Bo to come around, want to walk away and go home, but Roy is out of control and we know it is only a matter of time before small town thrill-killers collide with big city police…and Spheeris makes it an intense and unsettling ride. There is some clunky dialog here and there, mostly between the police characters, but otherwise this is an underrated tale of two young men giving in to their darker impulses and taking their frustrations out on unsuspecting and undeserving people. Despite being thirty years old these themes resonate today more than ever, with the horrible reality of school shootings and teen killers.

Sheen and Caulfield are excellent in their parts. Long before he became ‘troubled’ Sheen plays a simple young man who seems to be happy to just go with the flow and in this case, go along with the more dominant and troubled Roy. Bo engages in the violence, but seems to be just following Roy’s lead as he lacks the inner rage and turmoil of his best friend. He’s sadly a follower and just as he is willing to walk into that factory on Monday morning, he is willing to follow the increasingly volatile Roy on his spree of violence. Bo does join in on some of the brutality, but it is Roy who initiates it and delivers the fatal blow in each case. It takes until the brutal murder of the sweet Angie for Bo to realize he’s had enough, but it’s too little and too late. Caulfield gives a very strong performance as the more dominant and deeply troubled Roy. Roy seems to have numerous frustrations bubbling within, as he is not only unhappy with his working class, trailer park life with his drunk and burnt-out father, but Morgan and Wong’s script seem to implicate he is also possibly surpressinging homosexuality, as he targets the gay Chris for murder, kills the male of a couple with the woman being almost an afterthought and appears to be quite jealous when Bo is getting Angie’s amorous attention. It’s never discussed openly, but there are enough clues to suggest working class Roy is suppressing homosexual tendencies and this suppression is turning into rage. And rage is what fuels Roy, whereas Bo is just along for the ride and for the thrill of their criminal exploits. Roy is out for revenge against a world he possibly feels has mistreated him or dealt him a bad hand. Caulfield does a great job conveying these frustrations and Roy’s inner rage. Other major cast members are Patti D’Arbanville as the ill-fated Angie, who seems like a sweet-natured and lonely women just looking for some company and the actress earns our empathy with limited screen time and Christopher McDonald as young detective Woods, who, unfortunately, has one of the weaker written parts and some of the more stilted dialogue. He is likable, but is a victim of some of the script’s flaws.

Revisiting this ‘lost’ flick after more than two decades, only makes it more disappointing that the film was never really recognized for the effective and unsettling crime thriller it is. It presents a simple, and all too real, story of two small town youths who let their darker emotions, frustrations and urges turn them down a violent path with only one end. The two lead actors are very good in their roles with conveying, especially in Caulfield’s Roy, emotions and inner turmoil they are not equipt to deal with…so they take it out on others. It’s shocking, brutal and even over thirty years later, very effective and relevant. Highly recommended. 7/10

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: Chillin'

timmyd
timmyd at 10:22 AM Jan 14

I haven't seen this in forever .

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item 10 days ago

review: DEATH RACE 2050 (2017)

Death_race_2050

Leave it to Roger Corman to remake his own classic. After a lackluster redo in 2008 with Jason Statham, simply titled Death Race, Corman returns to the source material for a more faithful remake of his classic Death Race 2000. The result is a silly flick that finds an overpopulated United Corporations of America initiating the annual Death Race to trim the population and entertain the overcrowded masses. The #1 driver of this cross country demolition derby of carnage is Frankenstein (Manu Bennett), who not only has to deal with new rival Jed Perfectus (Burt Grinstead), who wants his crown, but a rebel movement that wants his head. Can the cyborg star driver survive the race, the rebels and his own hot co-pilot with her own agenda, Annie (Marci Miller)?

Corman produced flick is directed by G.J. Echternkamp who co-wrote the script with Matt Yamashita. The result is a silly, and sometimes amateurish effort that doesn’t come close to the original classic, though feels more like a Death Race 2000 remake than the 2008 version. It does have an infectious delirious energy and leads Bennett and Miller are appealing, but the direction and script are too lackluster and goofy to really make this flick a treat. The original 1975 version blended the violence and satire perfectly and this version needed a more deft hand behind the camera and some more genuine wit in the script. There is plenty of gore and there is a nice chemistry between Frankenstein and Annie, but the film ultimately falls far short of what it is trying to emulate. Also stars Malcolm McDowell as The Chairman and Yancy Butler as the rebel leader. 5.5/10

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: Chillin'

grelber37
grelber37 at 07:57 AM Jan 11

Thanks for the review. Definitely, I need to catch Death Race 2050. Many years ago, Death Race 2000 influenced my twisted mind early in life. The 2050 movie sounds like it at least has the spirit of the first one.

Psycho-Pirate-99
Psycho-Pirate-99 at 12:24 PM Jan 11

I had no idea this existed, huge fan of the original

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item 12 days ago

review: THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS (2016)

Girl_with_the_gifts

Book based horror is an interesting and intriguing addition to the overcrowded zombie sub-genre. In this tale, a fungus has turned most of the world’s population into crazed carnivores seeking human and/or other living flesh for food. A small group of soldiers and scientists are trying to seek a cure through a group of infected children whose aggressive behavior is surpressed and only becomes volatile when they are hungry and in the proximity of prey, or the scent of the living. One such little girl, Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is the most intelligent and controlled of the subjects…and thus of the most interest to lead scientist, Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close). When the “Hungries” overrun the base, a small group of survivors, including sympathetic teacher Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton) and Caldwell, take Melanie on the run to find a safe haven, as the young girl may be mankind’s last hope. Along the way they find armies of Hungries and groups of feral children like the ones back at the base. Melanie now has a choice, to help save humanity or find a home amongst her own “kind”.

British flick is a mix of Day Of The Dead and Lord Of The Flies and thus keeps us interested with it’s focus on the “second generation” children of a zombie outbreak. The film is very effectively directed by Colm McCarthy from a script by Mike Carey, based on his book of the same name. Girl creates a very sympathetic and likable character in Melanie and this has us quite endeared to her despite the fact that there is a monster lurking beneath the skin. McCarthy also gives some intensity and chills to some of the more familiar sequences, even though fans of the genre have seen hordes of hungry zombies in action before. The fact that we have some likable characters in the mix like Miss Justineau, helps involve us with scenes like the Hungries overrunning the base and when the characters are in danger. The film has some clever ideas, such as the interesting slant of Melanie basically being able to walk amongst the Hungries unscathed, as she technically is one of them and thus goes from basically a prisoner to valued member of the team. Once the film switches gears from George A. Romero to William Golding, it becomes quite interesting as Melanie starts to wonder whether this is infection or evolution and realizes that the team needs her more than she needs them. There are also some very familiar clichés such as the self-serving scientist and the soldier with a grudge (Paddy Considine) along with many familiar zombie tropes. There are, obviously, some gruesome moments and some brutality, though McCarthy makes them effective by not overdoing it with the well-rendered blood-spattering. When it comes, it’s startling. There is also a really good score by Cristobal Tapia de Veer that adds atmosphere and the film is shot well by Simon Dennis, especially effective when the film changes settings to a London abandoned and overgrown with vegetation.

Another element that makes this work so well, is the cast. Young Sennia Nanua gives a simply amazing performance as Melanie. We see a girl who is intelligent, thoughtful and compassionate to the point of total compliance with being a test subject. We watch her slowly begin to realize just how important she is and then assume a position of dominance as she comes to the realization that she may be at the top of the food chain, as both predator and leader. In all aspects of her character, Nanua is captivating and in the last act she exudes a strength that grabs you. Her relationship with Arterton’s Miss Justineau is also crucial, as she is the anchor to which Melanie’s humanity is tethered. The two actors have a genuine chemistry that makes the friendship work and the affection seem genuine. Gemma Arterton once again proves she is more than a pretty face with a strong turn as the caring teacher who sees her students as more than monsters…even to a fault. Veteran Glenn Close is also strong as scientist Dr. Caldwell. Sure the character is cliché, but the veteran actress gives her some depth, even when she becomes the cold, ruthless, scientist we expect from the role. Rounding out is Paddy Considine who is also good as the soldier with a hatred for the Hungies and who treats the children like the monsters he feels they are. The character has a bit of depth, especially when we find the root of his anger. Cliché but effective thanks to a solid actor in the part.

Overall, I really liked this flick despite feeling the zombie sub-genre needs a much needed break. The film has some familiar elements, but also does it’s own thing with a fascinating lead character in Melanie and an interesting Lord Of The Flies slant in it’s second half. We have a solid script from Carey and some very effective direction from Colm McCarthy. The cast are all very good, with young lead Sennia Nanua really making an impression with a layered and sometimes powerful performance of a unique little girl in an unthinkable situation. Not a completely original zombie flick, but one that has enough of it’s own ideas to make it effective and refreshing enough in an overcrowded sub-genre. 7/10

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: Surprised

timmyd
timmyd at 10:02 AM Jan 09

looking forward to checking this one out

WalkAway
WalkAway at 08:08 PM Jan 11

^same

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item 16 days ago

review: THEY'RE WATCHING (2016)

They_re_watching

Silly and dull found footage horror has a TV home improvement reality show filming in the remote Western European village of Moldova. There, American artist becky (Brigid Brannagh) has bought a run-down old home to which she has made great renovations in making her own. Once in Moldova, the crew find not only superstitious and odd locals, but that the townsfolk suspect Becky of being a witch!…and plan to do something about it!

Written and directed by Jay Lender and Micah Wright this is an awfully dull comedy/horror that is never funny enough to be the former or scary enough to be the latter. It’s a tedious watch that comes to a really silly and predictable conclusion that is badly pulled-off to boot. There is no tension at anytime, the strange, superstitious locals scenario has been done to death, especially in stories set in that part of the world, and we can see the end coming miles away. The film also is not only not convincing as found footage, but has no real reason to be found footage other than keeping the budget down for it’s makers. A real silly snoozer without the intensity or wit to make it’s story work. Also stars David Alpay, Kris Lemche and Mia Faith as the show production crew. 4/10

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: Bored

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item 19 days ago

review: HANGMAN (2015)

Hangman

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. 5/10


Mood: Bored

timmyd
timmyd at 07:11 PM Jan 02

thanks for the heads up . skip.

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item 23 days ago

review: SHELLEY (2016)

Shelley

Danish horror has childless couple Kasper (Peter Christoffersen) and Louis (Ellen Dorrit Petersen) asking their Romanian housekeeper Elena (Cosmina Stratan) to be a surrogate mother for their child. Elena agrees, but then strange things start to happen, the child develops unnaturally fast and once baby Shelley is born, it’s obvious this is no normal child.

Directed by Ali Abbasi from a script by he and Maren Louise Käehne, this is an OK but fairly uneventful bad seen movie. There is some atmosphere and a few spooky scenes but it is rather too sedate to be really scary. It’s a familiar story and we never get any real explanation for why Shelley is more Hell spawn than Heaven sent. A little too vague and familiar for it’s own good. 5/10

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: Bored

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item 27 days ago

review: SANTA CLAUS (1959)

Santa_claus_1959

Delightfully bad holiday flick was made in Mexico and dubbed into English making it even worse than it already is. The story has Santa (José Elías Moreno) preparing for Christmas from his workshop in space…yup, that’s right…where he is assisted, not by elves, but by children from every country…apparently Santa is totally fine with child labor. As Santa readies for the one day he comes to Earth, Satan…you also read that right…sends his demon henchman Pitch (José Luis Aguirre) to Earth to corrupt all the children into doing evil and ruining Christmas. Now it’s up to Santa to stop the Devil’s little helper from turning all the good kids bad!

Flick is directed by René Cardona from a scatterbrained script by he and Adolfo Torres Portillo and is simply a weird little movie that is quite amusing in it’s epic badness. Aside from having a child labor force, creepy Santa can also watch children 24/7 with his magic eye, has a key that can open any door, powers of invisibility and can even see into kid’s dreams…stalker much!?…and what’s with the shirtless blacksmith (Ángel Di Stefani) and that lip thing! Not sure I want to know! All the traditional Christmas elements are thrown out the window as Santa has his castle in space, mechanical reindeer and even has Merlin The Magician (Armando Arriola) working for him. From it’s hilariously cheap sets, horrible SPFX and disturbing children’s dream sequences, this is a hysterically awful…and sometimes uncomfortable…attempt at a Christmas movie from our filmmaking friends South Of The Border…and we’d love to know what they were smoking when they came up with this yuletide nonsense. The first half of this cheap flick is spent with Santa observing Pitch’s hi-jinx with his James Bond meets Pee Wee Herman spy equipment, as creepy St. Nick can only come to Earth on Christmas…a restraining order perhaps? We do see Santa scaring three boys out of being naughty, so this is a possibility. The second half is Santa vs Pitch as he tries to bring Christmas to all the boys and girls and Pitch plots with three bad kids to stop him. There is a fairly slow pace, some religious overtones and just overall seems like something out of a drug induced nightmare, far more than a holiday tale of everyone’s favorite jolly fellow…and is entertaining for all the wrong reasons.

Sometimes creepy flick has sentimental nostalgia, as I actually saw this as a teen at a Saturday matinee in the late 70s at the long gone Fairview cinema…hey, there was free popcorn and I took my hot MILF neighbor’s son to score points with his babe of a mom…and it is far funnier now that I am old enough to appreciate camp and unintentional laughs. Back then it was just awful and even my ten year-old charge knew it. Definitely worth a look for a holiday ‘so bad it’s good’ film festival with some brews definitely required as part of the show. Would make a great WTF Christmas double feature with Santa Clause Conquers The Martians! 3/10 as a movie…7/10 as camp entertainment!

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: High

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item 30 days ago

review: UNCLE NICK (2015)

Uncle_nick

Nick (Brian Posehn) is a down-on-his-luck slob who has been in a slump since loosing the love of his life, Emily (Annie Savage in flashbacks) to an aneurism. He reluctantly runs the family landscaping business while his younger brother Cody (Beau Ballinger) seems to get all the breaks. Case in point, Cody has recently married wealthy older woman Sophie (Paget Brewster) and lives in her luxurious home while doing little work for a living. They have invited Nick and sister Michelle (Missi Pyle) over for Christmas dinner and the only reason Nick is going, is to try to score with Cody’s hot and flirty twenty year-old step-daughter Valerie (Melia Renee). But with his jealousy and bitterness over his brother’s fortune bubbling to the surface, this could be a Christmas none of them will ever forget.

Ohio set Christmas comedy is rude, crude and has it’s share of dark humor, but is actually funny at times, too as directed by Chris Kasick from Mike Demski’s script. The story of the slobs vs the snobs, the train wreck character having his day and the Christmas dinner turned disaster, have all been done before, but the formula works fairly well here thanks to some legitimate laughs and a few moments of surprising sentimentality as when Nick relays during dinner the discovery of Emily’s body upon waking up. There are some very cliché moments, too, such as Nick finally getting his moment with the vixenish Valerie, but doing the noble thing, only to find out Cody is having an affair with her, under his new wife’s nose. Again, we’ve seen it all before, but writer Demski does come up with some funny bits and Cody is such a douche that we side with the oafish Nick even when he is wallowing in self-pity. The film also uses an interesting framework of being told in nine sections each in comparison to an inning in the June 4th, 1974 “Ten Cent Beer Night” Indians/Rangers baseball game that ended in a riot. This bit of cleverness does add an interesting slant as Nick relates the tale of that infamous ballgame, inning by inning, which echoes how his Christmas dinner outing is playing out. Maybe the only original thing the movie does, but it did add an interesting touch and was amusing in itself if nothing else.

The cast works well in portraying their misfit characters. There are some good performances here and Posehn’s deadpan delivery make a lot of the lines work better than they should. His Nick may be feeling sorry for himself, but Posehn does make him likable even with his boorish behavior and slightly creepy pursuit of his younger step-niece. As for that, there is a basic bond between the two that does work. Melia Renee is perfectly cast as the sexy, tease Valerie and the actress gives her a little depth beyond the kittenish behavior. There does seem to be an actual affection for Nick, who shares her dislike for her new family situation and she has moments where we understand her rebellious behavior. Sleeping with Cody is just a way to hurt her mother for divorcing her dad. The actress has sex appeal and a bit of a presence and it would be nice to see her in something else, such as final girl duty in a good slasher. Paget Brewster also gives what could have been a stereotypical rich shrew role…though to degree it still is…a bit more three dimensionality, especially after the film’s big family showdown. She’s a woman who may realize she was selfish in her decisions. Beau Ballinger is fine as douche Cody, his role is shortchanged of any sort of depth in the writing, but the character works as it’s supposed to. The rest of the cast are fine from Pyle’s, oddball sister to Scott Adsit as her clueless companion and Jacob Houston as Sophie’s teen son Marcus.

The film doesn’t have much in terms of originality, but does have some laughs and there are some moments of depth character-wise through all the smoking, drinking and cursing the main protagonists do. The actors are fine and lead Posehn has a solid deadpan delivery to get some extra milage out of the lines. It may be a forgettable comedy when all is said and done, but an amusing enough holiday diversion to add to your list of Christmas-in-ruins flicks, if that’s your thing. 6.5/10

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: Chillin'

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item about 1 month ago

review: WITHER (2016)

Wither

Apparently Sweden remade Evil Dead a whole year before Fede Alvarez with this 2012 horror…and that’s not always a bad thing. Swedish language flick has seven friends heading into the woods for a vacation at a house that has been abandoned for years…good idea! When they get there, shy Marie (Jessica Blomkvist) encounters something in the basement and soon turns violent. Her eyes gone white, she savages one of the others brutally and has to be restrained. Soon the vacation turns into a living hell as one by one the vacationers start turning into something otherworldly after being attacked by their possessed companions. Will anyone survive?

Directed by Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund, who co-wrote with David Liljeblad, this is an obvious replay of Evil Dead, through actually not that bad when given a chance. The plot is pretty much the same and there are scenes lifted directly from that classic, like hero Albin (Patrik Almkvist) having difficulty offing his possessed girlfriend and a burial of a character thought dead, in the woods. There is also the cowardly, blue shirted hero who gradually turns fighter, the shy girl who is taken first, the tool shed and the very creepy cellar. But Wither does also do things on it’s own. It’s evil is in the form of a creature from Swedish folklore. This we are told by a hunter character (Johannes Brost), whose family encountered the creature in the house days earlier. This fairy creature steals souls from anyone that invades it’s territory and possesses their bodies. Though oddly the infection/possession spreads by bite and scratch like a traditional zombie, once Marie starts attacking the others. Unlike zombies, though, these “possessed” speak, use weapons and have a rudimentary intelligence. The attack scenes are quite vicious and the gore is really well done and quite abundant and graphic. The directing duo also get the camera angles and lighting right to add atmosphere, so at least they were paying attention to their influences…though unlike Raimi’s original, the pacing is rather moderate for an 80 minute film. The acting is also fairly decent, though some are better than others, with Brost and leading lady Lisa Henni seeming to be the only ones with professional acting backgrounds in the cast.

So, in ways this is a blatant retread of the classic Evil Dead. The basic cabin in the woods plot is the same, as is the basic character line-up with a hunter and his family serving as previous victims and exposition, where Sam Raimi’s epic had it’s ominous tape left by a scientist and his wife. There are some differences, such as a more folklore based origin for it’s evil and the film actually accomplishes some very vicious attack scenes and it’s own brand of excessive gore. Filmmakers Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund do present their familiar story well and while we can’t decide if it’s a deliberate homage or outright “borrowing” from Raimi’s flick, it is still a fairly effective and delightfully gory horror…borderline carbon copy though it may be. Also stars Patrick Saxe, Anna Henriksson, Amanda Renberg and Max Wallmo as the rest of the ill-fated vacationers. 6.5/10

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: Chillin'

timmyd
timmyd at 01:44 PM Dec 15

I thought this was a really cool flick . originality issues aside .

MonsterZeroNJ
MonsterZeroNJ at 09:05 PM Dec 15

I enjoyed it, too. A blatant copy, but gory fun.

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item about 1 month ago

review: THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (2016)

Eyes_of_my_mother

This is a really unnerving flick from writer/director Nicolas Pesce. It tells the story of young Francisca (Olivia Boand) who lives isolated on a farm with her father and mother (Paul Nazak and Diana Agostini), her mother being a former surgeon who shares her skills with her daughter, using the animals. When a man (Will Brill) enters their home under the pretense of using their bathroom, he murders her mother practically before Francisca’s eyes. Instead of calling the police, her father imprisons the man in the barn and Francisca uses her surgical knowledge on the demented individual. As Francisca grows to adulthood (Kika Magalhaes), she also grows lonely and seeks company, but the events of her childhood have given her methods of providing companionship for herself that are disturbing to say the least.

Filmed in sumptuous black and white this is an artsy, but atmospheric and really disturbing horror flick from Nicolas Pesce in his feature debut. He conjures some really unsettling imagery and sequences, as we watch the emotionally disturbed girl become a very unhinged and dangerous woman, who likes to keep ‘friends’ in the barn and hacks up anyone who doesn’t want to stay. The film isn’t overly gory and certainly is not torture porn, because it smartly lets us use our own imaginations to picture what the disturbed Francisca is doing. It’s a lot more disturbing when we conjure her actions in our heads. Pesce does still give us some very unsettling things to see, such as the now adult woman cradling her dead father’s body in the bathtub and her eerie behavior around a young woman (Clara Wong) she brings home from a bar. There are numerous cringe worthy scenes here and while we get some decent bloodshed, most of the violence is left up to us to imagine and Pesce gives us plenty of reasons to set our imaginations running. The black and white cinematography by Zach Kuperstein only makes the film even creepier and there is an atmosphere adding score by Ariel Loh.

As for his star, both young Olivia Boand and Kika Magalhaes both do great jobs in bringing the unhinged Francisca to life. Both actresses create a women who thinks what she is doing is right and natural and has no idea that she is actually a very emotionally disturbed person. Kidnapping, torment, murder is just part of her social interact with others. She just wants someone to care about and will go to any length to get it. Will Brill plays Charlie, the man who kills her mother and successfully does the job of being both serial killer and sympathetic victim. Good work. Paul Nazak and Diana Agostini are suitably odd as her parents and Clara Wong is very sympathetic as Kimiko, the ill-fated women Francisca brings home for ‘company’.

Nicolas Pesce’s debut is one of the best and most disturbing horrors of the year. It is loaded with creepy atmosphere and some very disturbing sequences and imagery. It presents a simple story of a young woman who grows up isolated on a farm with a very unsettling slant to social and emotional behavior. The actors all present their characters well and the director feeds us just enough to let our imaginations conjure the worst. A very effective and extremely unsettling film. 8/10

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: Surprised

timmyd
timmyd at 07:20 PM Dec 14

really looking forward to this.

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item about 1 month ago

review: ASH vs EVIL DEAD season 2 (2016)

Ash-vs-evil_dead_se2

Ash vs Evil Dead was a blast for Evil Dead fans, a ten episode series created by Sam and Ivan Raimi along with Tom Spezialy and produced by Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert and star Bruce Campbell, that finally brought back Campbell’s Ash Williams for more battles with the Deadites. The half-hour show premiered, last year, on Halloween night on Starz and was a big hit renewed for two more seasons.

Season two arrived on October 2nd, 2016 and opens with Ash living it up in Jacksonville, Florida as per his agreement with Ruby (Lucy Lawless). Ruby however finds herself overwhelmed by her “children” and as she has lost all control of them, she needs Ash’s help and thus sicks the Deadites after him to get his attention. She lures him back to his hometown of Elk Grove, Michigan where we find he is an outcast nicknamed “Ashy Slashy” by the locals, who believe he murdered his friends and sister back in that cabin in 1982. We also find that Ash has an estranged father (Lee Majors) who still lives there and a former flame (Michelle Hurd) who he still has feelings for. We also have a new villain, a demon named Baal (Joel Tobeck) who has apocalyptic plans for The Necronomicon. Now it’s a race against time and various Deadites to secure the book and foil Baal’s schemes…if the townsfolk don’t kill Ash first!

While the novelty has worn off a bit that we actually have an Evil Dead series, the fun hasn’t and season two makes up for being the second go-around by upping the ante on gore, taking us to some new places, adding some new faces and delivering some nice character development, especially from Dana DeLorenzo’s Kelly. We also get the return of some classic characters, like Ellen Sandweiss as Ash’s sister Cheryl and some truly shocking and unexpected moments. There is a somewhat darker tone at times though there are still plenty of classic Ash moments, like in The Morgue. As with last season, there are a few weaker episodes such as Last Call, where Ash throws a party to find the kids that stole his car and Confinement that has the gang trapped in a police station with Baal. To counter that, there are some really great episodes such as the DUI where he battles his demon possessed Delta, Delusion, which takes place in an asylum and the climatic Home Again and Second Coming that return us to the cabin once again, this time back in 1982. In between we gets an epic reunion with dead sister Cheryl in Trapped Inside, that horrifying and hysterical trip to The Morgue, an evil Ashy Slashy hand puppet and some truly unexpected character deaths that really resonate. There is an abundance of gore and while some gross-out moments are a little too obviously in existence just to be gross, Pablo and Kelly do graduate from sidekicks to equals by being given some very strong moments in which to shine. The show obviously sets up season three, but does so without sacrificing a satisfying conclusion to this season’s storyline. With new show runner Mark Verheiden, hopefully season three will keep things fresh without loosing the show’s beloved and now established elements.

The cast are enjoyable as they were last season, as far as the regulars. Campbell plays the role with the same gusto and doesn’t seem at all tired of it. We get to see a bit more of Ash here as we travel to his home town, visit his house and his room, experience the effects of his strained relationship with his dad and for the first time, the guilt over the death of his sister and the rejection of a town that blames him. Campbell pulls it all off with swagger and some surprising sensitivity. Dana Delorenzo really shines as Kelly. She comes into her own as a hero and fighter, as well as, deals with the loss of her parents and the rage it has caused. The actress has some strong dramatic moments, yet also has some very funny ones, too, including a wonderful turn as a crazy Kelly in the asylum episode Delusion. She really gives a tour de force here and we hope the writing continues to give this actress such opportunities. Ray Santiago also gives a strong overall performance as Pablo. Ash’s buddy has a more serious role this season as he is still suffering the effects of being linked to the book and it only gets worse for the loyal sidekick. Santiago is charming and evokes sympathy in the darker moments and yet keeps Pablo lovable and endearing. He is involved in some powerful moments and he shines in them like his costars. Hope season three lets Pablo have a bit more fun, again and continues to give him strong scenes. Lucy Lawless gives us a different Ruby here as she is now an ally and not the bad guy. It gives Ruby a new spin and Lawless carries it out well. She makes her likable, though the character is written with a bit less intrigue than last season, and her bonding with Kelly was an interesting element.

As for new characters, we have an eclectic bunch. Lee Majors is great as Ash’s cantankerous and horny old man. The veteran actor really has a good time with a man who proves apples don’t fall far from the tree when it comes to being the father of Ash. Ted Raimi also has a blast as not only Ash’s best bud from school, Chet, but he also returns as a classic character from the original movie series. He was a lot of fun, though sadly the Chet character is left out of the action, for the most part, in the season’s second half. Michelle Hurd is pretty and likable as old Ash flame Linda. Her character isn’t given all that much to do, though being married to Ash’s arch enemy (Stephen Lovatt) who is now sheriff, adds a troublesome wrinkle. Lovatt is fine as the wimpy Sheriff Thomas Emery, though the character didn’t seem to contribute much other than being a clichéd thorn in Ash’s side. Possibly the weakest written character this season. Finally, we have Ellen Sandweiss who does a great job returning as Ash’s sister Cheryl, who was the first victim of the Deadites in the original film. It was wonderful to see her back and the character is used interestingly and Sandweiss seems to have a blast with it.

In conclusion, season two was a bit darker but still a lot of fun. There were some great episodes, though a few weak ones too, and we got some nice character growth and background for our main characters who where given some strong moments to really shine in it. It was different in many ways from season one, yet never lost that Evil Dead vibe. There still seems to be room for improvement and growth for the show and thankfully season three is on it’s way to hopefully do just that. 7/10

EPISODE LIST

Home – directed by Rick Jacobson and written by Craig DiGregorio
The Morgue – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Cameron Welsh
Last Call – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Noelle Valdivia
DUI – directed by Michael J. Bassett and written Ivan Raimi
Confinement – directed by Michael J. Bassett and written by William Bromell
Trapped Inside – directed by Mark Beesley and written by James E. Eagan
Delusion – directed by Mark Beesley and written by Hank Chilton
Ashy Slashy – directed by Tony Tilse and written by Suzanne Keilly and Aaron Lam
Home Again – directed by Rick Jacobson and written by Jennifer Ames and Steve Turner
Second Coming – directed by Rick Jacobson and written by Luke Kalteux

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: Happy

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item about 1 month ago

review: STAKE LAND II (2016)

Stake_land_2

Sequel to the Jim Mickle’s 2010 vampire epic, Stake Land, takes place ten years later with Martin (a returning Connor Paolo) living in New Eden with Peggy (again Bonnie Dennison) and raising a young daughter. One night, The Brotherhood lays siege to this sanctuary lead by The Mother (Kristina Hughes), a vampire who commands an army of Berzerkers. The village is massacred with Peggy and their daughter brutally killed. Now the surviving Martin returns to the desolate wasteland of the United States to find Mister (Nick Damici reprising his role) to exact revenge…and that’s exactly what Mother is counting on.

Jim Mickle sits this sequel out for the most part, appearing only as a producer. His star and co-writer on the original, Nick Damici, returns to script and the directorial reigns are turned over to Dan Berk and Robert Olsen…sadly with mixed results. Damici’s story works fairly well in reuniting Mister and Martin with some interesting developments having transpired between films. With the human population devastated, the vampires have grown desperate for food and will now risk coming out in the sunlight to pursue a meal, even if it means burning up. Some of the humans have turned to barbarity and resort to cannibalism and staging gladiatorial battles between strangers…which is where Martin finds Mister. The character of Mother is also interesting, though a bit underused as Damici’s story focuses on Martin and Mister and the groups of humanity they encounter. We do find out a little about Mister’s background, a past he shares with Mother. On the downside, Berk and Olsen are a bit pedestrian in their direction and thus it lacks the first film’s intensity and atmosphere. The action and drama are all a bit by-the-numbers and this doesn’t help as the film needs a fresh touch, being the second time around for what was a different take on the traditional vampire tale in the original. It comes across as more of a TV movie which, having premiered on SYFY, it kinda is…and it shows.

At least the cast all do well, especially the returnees. Paolo gives us a far more mature and able Martin, now more of a grizzled warrior than the naive boy we met in the first installment. Damici is solid once again as Mister. He gives the vampire hunter a bit more inner pain accumulated over the last decade and the fact the character is sidelined with injury for part of the flick is disappointing, as it’s great to see him back. Damici reminds one of Charles Bronson, at times, with the grizzled tough guy roles he often plays. Hughes is creepy as Mother. She has a presence and it’s unfortunate she’s a bit underdeveloped. Rounding out is Laura Abramsen, who is fine as Mister’s mute, feral woman companion and A.C. Peterson and veteran actor Steven Williams are entertaining as two leaders of an armed outpost who join Mister in standing against Mother. Sadly Bonnie Dennison’s part is far too short to really count as more than a cameo.

Overall this is an OK sequel to, in my opinion, one of the best horror films of 2010. The returning characters were fun to see again and were well played by the returning stars. Actor/writer Nick Damici had a worthy enough story and some interesting developments, but the film lacked Jim Mickle’s touch behind the camera. The direction was by-the-numbers and while entertaining, the film lacked the intensity and atmosphere of it’s predecessor and appeared to be working with a smaller scale and budget. Worth a watch if you are a fan of the original film, but if you haven’t seen Stake Land, seek that out first. 6/10

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: Chillin'

grelber37
grelber37 at 09:28 AM Dec 08

Overall, The Stakelander is an okay sequel for the reasons that you state. As you note, the actors give strong performances, even in underdeveloped roles,

MonsterZeroNJ posted a BLOG item about 1 month ago

review: THE WHITE HAIRED WITCH OF LUNAR KINGDOM (2014)

White_haired_witch

Chinese fantasy romance has a bit of a complicated story as it presents it’s tale of Lian Nishang (Bingbing Fan) who is a witch, known to the people in her surrounding kingdom as Jade Rakshasa, a Robin Hood like outlaw who protects the poor. She lives in a mountaintop fortress called Fort Luna and has shunned love until she meets handsome Zhou Yihang (Huang Xiaoming). Yihang is a Wudang priest who has recently become his sect’s leader and is treating the royal prince for an illness. When the prince is poisoned by an ambitious advisor, Yihang is blamed. When Nishang is defending some of her people, she is also framed for the murder of the local governor, who is Yihang’s grandfather…see, told you it would get complicated. Thrown together by fate, the priest and witch fall in love. But their romance is doomed to be a tragic one as murder, betrayal, treachery, witchcraft and an invading army stand in the way of true love.

The Chinese cinema has been churning movies out like this for decades, yet they still have yet to recapture the charm of the great Hong Kong revival of the 80s and early 90s. This flick is based on Liang Yusheng’s Baifa Monü Zhuan, a novel which also served as the basis for the 1993 Hong Kong cinema classic The Bride With White Hair. This adaptation is directed by Jacob Cheung and credited to five writers, not that it’s a surprise considering how overloaded the story is. But Cheung still makes this a fairly entertaining flick with plenty of martial arts action and actually giving the romance between Yihang and Nishang some dramatic weight. The story may be overcomplicated, which is not rare with these types of films, but it still works to a good degree and Cheung and his army of writers do blend the melodrama, action and fantasy elements well enough that it doesn’t sink under the weight of all the plot details. Like most of these types of films, the action is staged well and the costumes and sets are quite extravagant. There are also some bloody moments as well and Ardy Lam does photograph the proceedings and settings quite sumptuously. Modern Hong Kong films have a tendency to overdo it with the CGI, but here it is used effectively and without relying too much on it as to make it overpowering. Hong Kong legend Tsui Hark serves as a consultant, which may be how the film does manage to juggle all it’s elements so well, as that was Hark’s forte as a filmmaker. Despite an overloaded story, White Haired Witch is still a fun movie, that may not be as charming as something like the classic, and far simpler, A Chinese Ghost Story, but certainly does still entertain.

The cast are all good and our leads, in particular help make this work. Bingbing Fan, who is known to American audiences for her appearance as Blink in X-Men: Days Of Future Past, is beautiful and enchanting as Lian Nishang. She is graceful in her action scenes and can project both a strength and a sensitivity whether she is defending her people or romancing Huang Xiaoming’s Wudan priest. As Zhuo Yihang, Huang Xiaoming is handsome, brave, noble and romantic. He makes a suitable suitor for Nishang and a suitable hero for our story. During a brief plot point of having to appear like he is betraying Nishing, the actor portrays well the pain in his eyes as he does so. The two actors have good chemistry together and it makes the romantic scenes warm and endearing and their relationship seems believable even with all the fantasy elements.

Overall, the film overcomes a very overcomplicated plot to still entertain. It has some beautiful fantasy imagery, some fun action sequences and a good cast to make the characters likable…or not, if in reference to our villains. Film would have benefited from a more streamlined storyline that could allow the centerpiece romance to have a bit more focus. It also could have left out some of the politics and a few extra and unnecessary characters, such as a solider and his little girl who don’t seem to serve a purpose. If you like the Hong Kong cinema or simply Asian martial arts period pieces, this is still worth your time and is never boring, though could have been something more special if not so cluttered. 6.5/10

-MonsterZero NJ


Mood: Chillin'

grelber37
grelber37 at 03:48 AM Dec 08

Thank you. I had not known of The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom.

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