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New Releases for Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Book of Monsters

Genre: Horror/Comedy

Directed by: Stewart Sparke

Run time: 84 minutes

Rating: Unrated

Format: Video-on-Demand

The Lowdown: Sophie has a dilemma.

For most of her childhood, her mother would tuck her to sleep by reading aloud from an ancient tome that contained countless stories of unimaginable horrors, the kind of monsters that feed on fear and live endlessly in the deepest crevices of the human imagination.

Then, one night, one of the beasts actually came to life and killer her mom.

Jump forward, and it’s time for Sophie (Lyndsey Craine) to turn 18, and her best friends are throwing her a blow-out bash that’s about to get crashed by the worst denizens of hell that her mother’s book can summon.

Book of Monsters is one of a handful of new releases from Epic Pictures and Dread Central, and while it’s difficult to knock any distributor that champions underdog genre films and gives them a proper platform to be enjoyed, the quality of the last few films has just been okay and not great.

A lot works here, which is encouraging. The practical creature effects are stellar, and the filmmakers make a wise decision to limit the number of actual monsters to a manageable lot.

There’s a fantastic scene set inside a police cruiser with great lighting and impressive camera angles. And there’s a nicely executed hero’s moment when Sophie discovers a hidden cache of stockpiled weapons. She grabs a chainsaw. “This is my party,” she declares. “Let’s go kill some fucking monsters!”

But there’s a lot that could be better, including the ending, which is decent but not mind-blowing.

Creature feature fans likely won’t complain, but it would be nice to see some of the Epic/Dread collaborations display a little more seriousness and a little less goofy humor moving forward.

The Stuff You Care About: Hot chicks – Yes.

Nudity – No. Gore – Yes.

Drug use – No.

Bad Guys/Killers – Duh, monsters.

Buy/Rent – Rent it.

The Quake (Magnolia Pictures, 108 minutes, Unrated, Blu-Ray): Fans of 2015’s Norwegian disaster flick, The Wave, rejoice. There’s a sequel, aptly titled after another natural disaster, The Quake.

That’s where the good news ends.

Kristoffer Joner returns as scientist Kristian Elkjord, along with the rest of his cursed family who always happen to be in the worst place at the best time for fans of family-peril thrillers, but there’s a bit of a rub: Elkjord has hit rock bottom, despite saving his family from certain death in the massive tsunami that wiped out his tiny fishing village. He can’t get past the fact that he didn’t save everyone, and so Elkjord mopes about for most of this film, making bad decisions that make you shout at your television screen.

Once the actual disaster stuff starts, it improves slightly. The effects are solid, and if nothing else, The Quake, despite its flaws, is still a whole lot better than Skyscraper.

She Wolf (Omnibus Entertainment/Film Movement, 92 minutes, Unrated, DVD): This massively entertaining, and unexpectedly ambitious, import from Argentina is shot in black and white, features three femme fatales (who might all be the same person) and teases viewers with the tantalizing horror that one of them is a serial killing werewolf. She Wolf is pulpy exploitation done right.

Also Available:

The Witches

Strip Nude for Your Killer

Ritual – A Psychomagic Story

Out of Love

The Deadly Mantis

Born in East L.A.

Now on Video-on-Demand:

Starfish (Cinepunx/Yellow Veil Pictures, 99 minutes, Unrated, Video-on-Demand): It makes sense why so many movies today are focusing on the end of times.

People are legitimately freaked out about life as we currently know it, and rightfully so.

But is it too much to ask that at least a few of these apocalyptic fantasies arrive as digestible entertainment instead of head-scratching ruminations on the nature of love, friendship and humanity?

Starfish, the debut feature from writer-director A.T. White, is packed with moments of surreal beauty, but the overall film feels like a difficult riddle that leaves you dissatisfied once it’s finally solved.

If nothing else, Starfish might have been better-suited for something like Jordan Peele’s new iteration of The Twilight Zone, if only because a shorter run-time might have forced White to zero in on the core ideas he clearly wants to share, and removed a lot of the tedious moments where viewers sit and watch the lead protagonist, Aubrey (Virginia Gardner), struggle to make sense of letters and mix tapes that she discovers only after every other human has been wiped clean from the world.

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