[Review] Creature Feature Chaos: Jong-ho Huh’s Monstrum

Director: Jong-ho Huh | Writer: Jeong-uk Byeon, Heo-dam and Jong-ho Huh | Released: September 12, 2018 | Run Time: 1h 45min


Monstrum is a South Korean creature feature that ticks all the boxes. It’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. It has a great backstory, tons of character depth, a great script, and an ending you’ll have to see to believe. The actors go above and beyond anything I could’ve expected. And the creature is prominent in most of the film. If the creature isn’t in the frame, then it’s probably being mentioned. The antagonist uses the monster to his advantage.

The film starts out with Yoon Gyeom (Kim Myung-Min) in King Junjong’s court with Myung, a little girl he rescued from the pit. Sim Woon (Lee Kyoung-Young) tells King Junjong the little girl has the plague. Yoon Gyeom protects the girl from death. King Jungjong orders Yoon to leave with the girl, and Sung Han, Yoon’s right-hand man goes with him. To put this whole ordeal in perspective, Yoon was King Jungjong’s most trusted general. Fast forward several years, and the rumors of Monstrum start circulating again. People are getting slaughtered by an unknown creature, and the plague may or may not be spreading.

King Jungjong calls upon Yoon to find the illusive creature before it’s too late. Yoon takes Sung and Myung with him to help with his mission. The trio must also fight against a group of people trying to overthrow King Jungjong. The historical perspective and the action make this a great film. The acting is top-notch, even the supporting cast deliver memorable lines. From the opening scene to the credits start rolling, the main characters are fully fleshed out. The backstory is truly remarkable. You get to see the rich history of Joseon and how their predicament came to pass.

Monstrum is full of pulse-pounding monster mayhem. It’s currently streaming on Shudder. You should give it a watch. You can’t go wrong with this one.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis

Monstrum is set in 1527, during the reign of King Jungjong, it’s the 22nd year of Jungjong. The plague has taken over Joseon, and fear runs rampant in the streets. When rumors of a vicious beast roaming Mount Inwangsan–called “Monstrum” by terrified masses–begin to spread, fear turns into panic. In order to quell the rising panic, Jungjong brings back his most trusted general Yoon-gyeom from retirement. Joined by his daughter Myeong, his right-hand man Seong-han, and royal court officer Heo, Yoon-gyeom sets out to find the mysterious creature.

[Review] Clowning Around: Scott Jeffery’s ClownDoll

Director: Scott Jeffery | Writer: Scott Jeffery | Released: October 21, 2019 | Run Time: 1h 33min


I love finding cool indie horror films on streaming services. As I browsed the new horror films on Prime Video, I came across ClownDoll. It’s a British indie horror film about a clown doll. It’s also about Lane (Sarah T. Cohen) who is helping her brother, John (Jon-Scott Clark) and his wife Lisa (Kelly Juvilee), have a baby through surrogacy. She is in the third trimester of her pregnancy, so she’s stressed and she’s grown attached to the baby. John and Lisa buy Lane a new flat to live in so she can be closer to them. It’s a bit creepy, but understandable given the surrogacy thing. Lane had been living with her mom for reasons left for a reveal later in the film. 

Lane buys a creepy life-sized clown doll from a small shop in town. Weird things start happening in her flat. Did the clown doll move? Things like that gives me the chills, and it’s exactly why I don’t own dolls. Inanimate objects like dolls becoming animate is nightmare fuel. I think Poltergeist was the film that made me scared of clown dolls. ClownDoll is also a psychological horror film surrounding mysterious murders. She starts getting weird phone calls from a guy she’s never met. People start going missing after having visited Lane at her new flat. The police start coming around, questioning Lane about the disappearances.

Lane has a history of mental illness. Her brother starts to suspect she might be in another downward spiral, the last one causing a riff in the family. She tries to tell people about the random phone calls, but when they listen to the house phone it’s just static. Her brother and the local police believe she is crazy. Lane checks her call log, but nothing comes of it. No calls were made to her flat from a random number. People think she may have gone mad, but she remembers the caller’s name and performs a quick Internet search to find out who it is. The payoff was pretty good. I liked the twists and turns along the way, but it’s the ending that stays with you.

The acting was pretty good, but the dialogue felt forced and choppy. Lane and the clown doll stole the show. There wasn’t enough backstory for any of the characters, so I couldn’t get fully invested in them. I did feel some empathy for Lane, though. I wanted her and the baby to get away from the flat. She really is a great final girl. The bodies do pile up, there’s a few kills in the movie, but they mainly occur off screen, which is kind of a let down. From the opening scene to the end credits, the dread keeps building with each kill. I feel like the main character, Lane, was written into a corner where there’s no chance of escaping the hell around her. ClownDoll is bleak as hell.

If you like your horror psychological and supernatural with clowns, then this movie is right up your alley. Would I watch ClownDoll again? I would. It’s worth a watch.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

[Review] Crypsis Is A Creepy Camp Out

Director: Paul Anthony Rogers | Writer: Paul Anthony Rogers | Released: February 11, 2019 | Run Time: 1h 21min


Crypsis is a creepy creature feature. Crypsis is the ability of an organism to conceal itself especially from a predator by having a color, pattern, and shape that allows it to blend into the surrounding environment.

A group of friends make a bet with one another to see who can survive camping on Harker Island for a night. They’ve heard the urban legends surrounding Harker Island, but they decide to go anyway. The group takes a small boat out to the small local island. The boat driver convinces the group to prove how manly and tough they are by leaving their cell phones with him. It’s not a very smart move, but the group of guys aren’t very smart to begin with. No one thinking logically would travel to an uninhabited island without some form of communication but here we are. The trip doesn’t go as planned. They didn’t realize a strange creature inhabits the island, and it does a great job going unseen.

As soon as the guys step foot on the island they can’t stop arguing. It gets a little old after a while, slowing the momentum of the film down to a crawl. The guys couldn’t stop arguing, even when their lives depended on it. When the group realized that the creature hunted by sound, they still bickered. I empathized with the creature. I wouldn’t want to be bothered by a bunch of loud and obnoxious dude bros either. Crypsis is both a creature feature and an isolation horror film. The dread doesn’t set in until the guys realize the boat is gone and they’re stranded on the island.

There’s no CGI when it comes to the creature (David Racki). The creature’s mask and suit are top-shelf. David does a great job bringing the creature to life with the movements and mannerisms. The creature is super creepy. I wanted to see more gory deaths, but most of the kills are either bloodless or off-screen. Eddie Nason, Anthony Hoang and Michael Armata star in the film. The acting was pretty good. The dialogue was kind of choppy in spots. The soundtrack was good, creating that tension between the guys and the creature. I had a problem with the ending. It just felt too convenient.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Synopsis

A group of friends make a bet to see who can survive camping on an island for a night. Unbeknownst to them, a strange creature lurks throughout the night terrorizing their every move, and sound is their biggest enemy.

[Review] Kill Her Mommy, Kill Her: Friday The 13th Turns 40

Today marks the 40th Anniversary of Friday the 13th. It’s one of the best horror films ever made. It inspired many memorable sequels, including a crossover and a remake. Funnily enough, the series began as a Halloween copycat. Sean S. Cunningham (director/producer) borrowed Halloween’s formula and applied it to a title he thought people wouldn’t be able to ignore. Turns out, he was right. Friday the 13th hit theaters May 9, 1980, and cracked the top twenty highest-grossing films that year.

A young boy drowned at Camp Crystal Lake in 1957. The following year two camp counselors were brutally murdered. The summer camp closes soon after. After several years, a group of counselors work to open Camp Crystal Lake up for the summer. The counselors get killed off one at a time by an unknown attacker. The killer isn’t revealed until the final act, their identity kept secret through POV. It turns out to be an older lady, Pamela Voorhees (Betsy Palmer) seeking revenge for the tragic drowning of her young son Jason.

Friday the 13th changed the slasher genre for the better. The total kill count is nine, not including Mrs. Voorhees. It would become a common theme in the sequels that followed. Tom Savini and his special effects crew made the film. The bloody kill scenes looked all too real. The final scene is the stuff of nightmares. Alice wakes up in a canoe out in the middle of Crystal Lake. Jason’s corpse jumps out of the water and grabs Alice, dragging her into the murky depths. All we’re left with is a couple of ripples on the lake’s surface, then the credits start rolling. Was it real life or was it just a dream? The sequel ran with it, and it paid off big time.

Synopsis

A group of camp counselors are stalked and murdered by an unknown assailant while trying to reopen a summer camp which was the site of a child’s drowning and a grisly double murder years before.

[Review] Pinhead Goes To Space In Hellraiser IV: Bloodline

Director: Kevin Yagher (as Alan Smithee) | Writer: Peter Atkins | Released: March 8, 1996 | Run Time: 1h 25min


I’m a big fan of Clive Barker and his work. Hellraiser is probably his most popular film. It spawned a number of sequels, including Bloodline, a film that wasn’t well-received upon theatrical release. The film was penned by Peter Atkins who also wrote the screenplays for Hellraiser 2 & 3. It was written as the conclusion to the Hellraiser series. It would have been a fitting in, too, had it not been for films that came after. Bloodline is the last really good Hellraiser film in the series. After this film, the quality of the series fell off, and left viewers disappointed and wanting more.

Peter Atkins wrote one of the best screenplays in Bloodline. The story is unique because it’s an origin story and a satisfying ending to the series. As we all know, great horror slashers can never die. Studios won’t let them, and fans keep wanting more. If you don’t think so, just look at the Friday the 13th and Halloween franchises. I look at Bloodline as the conclusion to the original three films.

Bruce Ramsey stars as three different generations of the Merchant family. The Merchant ancestor created the Lament Configuration puzzle box for a “magician” named Duc de L’Isle (Mickey Cottrell) and his apprentice, Jacques (Adam Scott). Duc de L’Isle sacrifices a French lady (Valentina Vargas), summoning a demon to control and do his bidding. Once the demon, Angelique, arrives, she forms a romantic relationship with Jacques and quickly kills Duc de L’Isle. L’Merchant is in the process of designing the Elysium Configuration to destroy the demons. He tries to steal the puzzle box back but he is discovered. Jacques orders Angelique to kill L’Merchant, but not before Jacques informs the toymaker that he and his bloodline are cursed until the end of time because of the puzzle box he created. Little do they know, L’Merchant’s wife survives and travels to America.

Angelique grows impatient, and she sets her sights on America, seeking the Lament Configuration. Around 200 years later, John Merchant has built the building witnessed at the end of Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth. Jacques denies her permission, upon which Angelique kills him for “trying to stand in Hell’s way”. She eventually finds the puzzle box buried in a pillar in the basement. She seduces a guy into solving the puzzle box and summoning Pinhead, where they try and wreak havoc on the Merchant family. Pinhead tries to open a permanent gateway between Hell and Earth. Angelique decides she doesn’t want to return to Hell, so she gets Merchant to activate the Elysium Configuration and destroy Hell, which would free her. Well, the attempt fails and Pinhead kills Merchant before his wife can solve the box. Pinhead is forced back to Hell, taking Angelique with him. You can’t double cross Pinhead. Fast forward a couple hundred years, the last surviving Merchant confronts Pinhead and Angelique.

I thought the spaceship was cool. At first glance, I didn’t know what was going on with the spaceship’s design. It took me a minute to realize its true purpose. Once I recognized the spaceship for what it was, I thought it was a stroke of genius. There wasn’t much in the way of special effects, though. It’s the same old hooks and chains, ripping the flesh of the weak. I thought the makeup artists did a great job with the cenobites, but we didn’t get to see them nearly enough. We get the Chatterer Beast, half man and half dog, the Siamese Twins that eventually turn into Siamese Triplets, Angelique, and Pinhead. The cenobites didn’t make much of an impression, though.

The writing was great. Peter Atkins did a great job with the script. The acting was solid. Pinhead brought back his famous quotes about pain and suffering. I was fully invested in the history of the Merchant family. The story just felt rushed. It could have easily been fully fleshed out in two films. We only get to see the Merchant family in three different time periods. If the Merchant family is truly cursed, wouldn’t there be more incidents with the Lament Configuration puzzle box? Or am I just overthinking it? Please let me know what you think in the comments below.

You can rent/buy Hellraiser: Bloodline here.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Pinhead is back–And he’s out for more blood. The fourth terrifying chapter of the wildly popular Hellraiser series chronicles the struggle of one family who unknowingly created the puzzle box that opened the door of Hell.

[Review] Brr It’s Cold In Here: The Chill Factor

Director: Christopher Webster | Writer: Julian Weaver | Released: July 28th 1993 | Run Time: 1h 26min


The description drew me into this BluRay. I had never heard of this film until I found it at Arrow Video. It was originally released in 1993, but hadn’t really seen the light of day, until now. The Chill Factor was released onto VHS as Demon Possessed, but it fell into obscurity, never really seeing the light of day until now. It’s directed by Christopher Webster, the producer of Hellraiser and Hellraiser II: Hellbound, so I bought it. I wanted to see what I’ve been missing all these years. Who can blame me? I mean, really. It’s a winter slasher, and there’s a snowmobile chase. What’s not to like?

A group of friends go on a snowmobiling trip, but an accident thwarts their plans. They have to find shelter from an incoming storm in an abandoned summer camp. Things slow way down as the group cares for their injured friend. They begin nosing around the camp, having promiscuous sex. There’s this scene where the guy is taking off a girl’s panties and he rubs her legs. Sexy, right? Wrong. It sounded like sandpaper.

They start noticing old, religious artifacts lying around the place. The group manages to find an old Ouija board. They decide to play with it, and consequently awaken a frightening evil. This takes a big chunk out of the film. Members of the group start dying off one by one in mysterious ways. There’s not much blood and guts, but some of the deaths are kind of cool. Too bad you have to wait a while before anything really happens.

The film doesn’t live up to the premise. The actors couldn’t deliver a single convincible line. The dialogue is too choppy and forced. I didn’t care for any of the characters or their fate. Slowly but surely you find out who is possessed by the frightening evil, but it comes as no surprise. The film ends with a bang, though.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.


Description

The Exorcist meets the Winter Olympics in this tale of demonic possession and snowbound slashing from director Christopher Webster, producer of Hellraiser and Hellraiser II: Hellbound.

For a group of young couples, a snowmobiling trip turns into a waking nightmare when one of their number is thrown from their vehicle and knocked unconscious. Seeking refuge in a nearby abandoned summer camp, the group find themselves holed up in a cabin filled with bizarre and ominous religious artefacts. As night falls, the discovery of a Ouija board amidst the dusty relics awakens a terrifying evil.

Barely released outside of its original VHS outing (for which it was retitled Demon Possessed), cult enthusiasts Arrow Video have dug up The Chill Factor from its wintry analogue grave so horror fans can rediscover this heady mixture of snow, slaughter and Satan!

[Review] Underwater Is A Pulse-Pounding Aquatic Creature Feature

Director: William Eubank | Writers: Brian Duffield (story/screenplay) Adam Cozad (screenplay) | Released: January 10th 2020 | Run Time: 1h 35min


On the surface, Underwater looked and sounded familiar, like we’ve watched this movie before. From the synopsis to the trailer, it looked like a newer version of Alien and a plethora of other films that copied the same formula, more specifically the deep sea horror sub-genre. But the studio did a great job with the trailers because they really didn’t even scratch the surface of the film. Where other films have failed in this sub-genre, Underwater succeeds.

Underwater is a respectful throwback that pays homage to the horror films that came before it. It’s your typical setup of man using technology to search the unexplored parts of the universe, only to be punished in unimaginable ways for his pride – this punishment is usually doled out by monstrosities. Underwater goes big with the monstrosity and it pays off, instantly making me a fan. It’s worth every penny.

The takes a minimalist approach to the film’s opening sequence with newspaper articles and headlines detailing how humans have discovered the technology to drill into the Mariana Trench and set up a sprawling rig seven miles below sea level. Things go awry really fast. The first character we meet is Norah (Kristen Stewart), one of the rig’s mechanical engineers. She’s getting ready when an earthquake damages the rig causing her to run for her life. The few surviving crew members have to walk two miles on the ocean floor in futuristic diving suits to reach the escape pods. But, you guessed it, the crew is not alone on their journey. Something is lurking out their in the ocean depths.

I couldn’t ask for a better creature feature. Underwater is a bloodcurdling subaqueous monster film. It’s nightmare fuel. You’re going to want to stay out of the water for a while. On one hand it’s panic enducing isolation horror, and on the other, it’s a sci-fi monster movie. As the movie progresses, you get to know more about the characters through dialogue. Kristen Stewart does a great job anchoring Underwater. She makes for a cool, level-headed hero. The supporting actors do a great job bringing a three-dimensional feel to their characters.I felt like some of the emotional parts kind of missed the mark, though. The action-packed sequences will have you on edge. Underwater is anything but predictable. You won’t see any of it coming. The director does a great job of making you feel like anything can and go wrong at any time.

The atmosphere and dread weighs heavy on the chest. You feel what the characters feel, which is claustrophobic and isolated. It brings you and the characters closer together. The cinematography is beautiful. The sights and sounds are spot on. The set pieces play into the story really well. You learn about the characters through their actions. It’s really a story of humanity…seven miles below the ocean’s surface.

The smaller monstrosities make an appearance at the right times. The writers and director timed the appearances perfectly. The story is well-paced, with steadily increased tension, save for a minute or two. The quiet scenes are just as taut with tension as the action sequences. The pitch-black silence of the open water is spine-chilling. The final showdown with the huge monstrosity is everything you could want in an aquatic horror film. It’s one of the best scenes I’ve seen in a long time. Underwater has quickly become one of my favorite horror films.

You can rent or buy Underwater here.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

A crew of oceanic researchers working for a deep sea drilling company try to get to safety after a mysterious earthquake devastates their deepwater research and drilling facility located at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

[Review] Revenge Is Sweet: John Hasty’s Candy Corn

Director: Josh Hasty | Writer: Josh Hasty | Released: September 19th 2019 | Run Time: 1h 25min


Candy corn is the one candy that is associated with Halloween. People either love it or hate it, there’s no central ground. Same goes for this movie. I was scrolling through Showtime movies, and came across Candy Corn. I ignored the low star rating. The poster had a few familiar faces, so I gave it a watch.

The premise is similar to other horror films. Candy Corn borrows from several classic films, but it fails to make the formula work, though. A local outcast is killed by a group of bullies at the carnival on All Hallow’s Eve. The carnies resurrect the outcast, and he goes on a revenge tour, killing the bullies one by one. It’s a mix mash Pumpkinhead and Horror High.

Besides the four main actors, the acting is abysmal. The supporting cast is out of rhythm and their lines are choppy. The dialogue never seemed to flow between the bullies. It’s a real shame, too. Great story messed up by poor acting. But like I said before, it’s the four main actors that come in and save the scenes.

The special effects were good. I enjoyed the kill scenes, and the blood and guts left in the outcast’s wake. I also liked the look of the outcast’s special effects. The bathroom scene grossed me out when he tricked the old, try-hard guy. Courtney Gains plays a pretty good sheriff, trying to solve the murders. Turns out, one of the bullies is his kid. So you already know the story is well layered. I hope there will be a sequel.

You can buy or rent Candy Corn, or you can stream it on Showtime.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

It’s Halloween weekend and a group of bullies are planning their annual hazing on local outcast, Jacob Atkins. When they take things too far, he’s resurrected to seek revenge against those that wronged him.

[Review] Brains! The Return of the Living Dead

Director: Dan O’Bannon | Writers: Rudy Ricci (story), John A. Russo (story), Russell Streiner (story), an Dan O’Bannon (screenplay) | Released: 16 August 1985 | Run Time: 1hr 31min


Return of the Living Dead is one of those popular 80s horror movies that’s so bad it’s kind of good. The premise is intriguing enough, but the director and cast never quite pulled it off. It was hard for me to suspend my disbelief with the military shipping the living dead in oil barrels to the wrong location. Why didn’t the military put shipping labels on the barrels? Who did the military get to ship the barrels? I question their gross negligence in the film.

The film is set in St. Louis, Missouri, but you wouldn’t know it if the film didn’t tell you. We don’t get to see an identifiable landmark that associates the film with St. Louis until the end. But even then, it’s a cut scene and you only get a glimpse.

The story follows two warehouse workers who release a deadly gas from the oil barrel into the air. It fills the warehouse, making them cough. The zombie escapes and the two workers lock it in the basement. They contemplate calling the police and military, but they decide not because they don’t want to get in trouble and lose their jobs. So, they do what they think is the next best thing and call their boss.

A local group of teens are waiting on their friend to get off work from the warehouse. So, to kill time the group hangs out in the nearby cemetery. The teens play clique characters. As they’re chilling amongst the tombstones, one of the ladies strips down and dances on someone’s grave. She contemplates death, which apparently turns her on.

The guys from the warehouse decide they need to get rid of the zombie by incinerating the corpse at the funeral home. The two employees start turning into zombies themselves, but it’s a slow drawn out process. The two actors still the show with their humor. While the zombie burned, the deadly gas escaped out the chimney, settling over the cemetery, infecting the teens and the dead alike. The people in the funeral home must survive the two zombies inside and the hoard of zombies outside. The zombies are hungry for brains, and they’ll stop at nothing to satisfy their cravings.

The story was decent for the most part, nothing spectacular. The acting was hit and miss. You can tell when the dialogue is smooth and when it’s choppy. It’s all about timing and flow, which The Return of the Living Dead was lacking. The special effects are dated, but they’re still cool to see. I couldn’t tell if the film was set in a post-zombie apocalypse or in the midst of one. Either way, The Return of the Living Dead ends with a bang. The ending didn’t pay off, though. It was too quick and convenient. I think the director was going for shock value. Maybe it worked for fans during the Cold War, but it didn’t work for me. The Return of the Living Dead was made for one thing and one thing only, and that’s to deliver the fun. It delivers all the gory fun.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

When two bumbling employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to rise again as zombies.

[Review] Sweet, Sweet Revenge: Lucio Fulci’s Aenigma


Director: Lucio Fulci | Writer: Lucio Fulci and Giorgio Mariuzzo | Released: September 1, 1988 | Run Time: 1hr 25min


Aenigma quickly became a new favorite in my personal collection. It’s a unique horror film that keeps you interested, making you want to watch it over and over again. I think it has a lot to do with the atmosphere and cinematography. Aenigma isn’t like any other film I’ve ever seen before. Sure, there are a few common tropes sprinkled throughout the film, but Fulci transcends them, making them his own.

Aenigma tries almost too hard to be an American film. It was filmed in Yugoslavia and features local and Italian actors. The film is set in Boston at St. Mary’s, a made-up college. In almost every frame, the viewer is reminded that Aenigma is set in Boston. Almost every character wears a sweater or with “St. Mary’s Boston” printed on the front. Virtually every door and building displays the same information.

Aenigma kicks things off with Kathy (Milijana Zirojevic) getting ready for a big date, while two friends assist her. She’s excited and she wants to look her best. Her date picks her up and they go parking in the woods. It turns out to be a huge prank that goes horribly wrong. While Kathy and her date are making out, four or five cars filled with students turn their lights on and start laughing at her. Kathy jumps out of the car and starts running away from the bullies. The students start chasing after her in their cars. A car ends up hitting Kathy, putting her in a coma.

A few days pass and new girl, Eva (Lara Lamberti), starts school at St. Mary’s. She lets everyone know she’s a bad girl, and that she’s going to hook up with as many boys as possible. Eva meets all of the students who played a prank on Kathy. The students start dying off one by one. It becomes apparent that Kathy and Eva are somehow connected. Every death is accompanied by Kathy’s emotional reaction, even though she’s comatose.

Lucio Fulci’s Aenigma doesn’t contain the gore I expected, but it does deliver some gross and bloody scenes. I thought the film was well-paced, and I loved the car chase scene. The kill scenes were really good. The bed full of roaches made me sick to my stomach. As I was watching the film, I noticed the way the dorm rooms were decorated. There were American flags, Snoopy, James Dean, Yoda, and Top Gun with Tom Cruise posters hanging on the wall. The Tom Cruise poster is actually the focal point of one of the kill scenes, which I thought was cool. I don’t think they got the rights to use the posters.

You can find Lucio Fulci’s Aenigma here.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The spirit of a comatose teenage girl possesses the body of a newcomer to her girls boarding school to enact bloody revenge against the elitist, lingerie-clad coeds responsible for her condition.