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hal-resHALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION

3 Stars  2002/15/86m

“Evil finds it’s way home.”

A.k.a. Halloween 8

Director: Rick Rosenthal / Writers: Larry Brand & Sean Hood / Cast: Busta Rhymes, Bianca Kajlich, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ryan Merriman, Katee Sackhoff, Sean Patrick Thomas, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Daisy McCrackin, Luke Kirby, Tyra Banks, Brad Loree.

Body Count: 10

Dire-logue: “Great legs Donna, what time do they open?”


If somebody came to you and asked you to write a sequel to a movie where the main character’s head was chopped off at the end, what would you do? This must’ve been a dilemma faced by the screenwriters of this much-maligned follow-up to 1998’s ultra-successful Halloween H20, which raked in enough to make further movies a certainty. So how does Michael get his head back? Easy, he never lost it.

We begin impressively enough with the reintroduction of Jamie Lee’s Laurie Strode, now locked up in an institution with a dissociative disorder after she found out that the man whose head she axed off was in fact a paramedic dressed up in her brother Michael’s boiler suit and mask, his larynx crushed to ensure no speaking. Hmmm, we all say and move on. Michael comes to get Laurie at the asylum and duly does so when her confused state of mind prevents her killing him when she has the chance.

hr1This story arc done n’ dusted, we meet our final girl, Sara, a student at Haddonfield U (!?) who has been roped in by her good-time pals Jen and Rudy to entering a content to explore the Myers house during a Halloween night webcast for Dangertainment, a questionable production company run by Busta Rhymes and Tyra Banks. Well, the characters they play at least…

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Rappers in horror films, eh? Several have turned up in the shores of the slasher genre; Snoop Dogg in Bones, LL Cool J in H20. Surprisingly, LL Cool J bypassed any issues of ego and did well in an undemanding role and has gone on to carve out quite an impressive on-screen CV, including techno-slasher flick Mindhunters and techno-shark cheesefest Deep Blue Sea. On the shoulders of Rhymes, however, is the nominal lead and to say he struggles with the task is somewhat of an understatement. Banks, on the other hand, has only what amounts to a cameo in a few scenes.

From Halloween to America's Next Top Model

From Halloween to America’s Next Top Model

Six teens enter the Myers house and begin tooling around, looking at dusty objects, all of which seem a little too obvious and easy to find in a house that, according to the let’s-continue-to-ignore-the-sequels policy, has been empty since the sixties. Never mind the family who inhabited it during Halloween 6. Anyway, they pair off and begin to get killed by Michael, who has been residing in a cave-like dwelling beneath the basement. Unlike the previous film, there’s an abundance of brutal bloodletting here with some grisly final outs for the budding cyber stars.

hr4When only Sara is left, she is aided by a group of teen partiers who are watching the show and communicate with her via web text thingies on a device I’ve never seen before or since. Eventually, she and Busta face off with MM, things wrap (thankfully no rap!) and there’s yer usual ‘he ain’t dead’ ending. For both actually as Busta Rhymes seems to be as invincible as Mike. Oh yeah, there’s that line, the one everyone in the cinema groaned at: “trick or treat…motherfucka!”

hr6Despite how ridiculous Resurrection is – and it’s really, really ridic. – and Rhymes sub-dreadful acting abilities, not to mention the martial arts sequence, there’s still some fun to be found here, all you have to do is look for it. Detach it from the rest of the story, pretend it’s a different film altogether, just a slasher flick in an old house with some webcams and Resurrection becomes quite an entertaining B-flick with some good kills, nice chases and the added touch of the remote guides who try to help Sara escape. There’s some decent casting at the teen level too, unfortunately overshadowed by Rhymes’ top-billing: Sean Patrick Thomas, Katee Sackhoff (pre-BSG) and Thomas Ian Nicholas look like they’re having a laugh, even if they might remove this title from their select filmography in the future.

hr5On the flip side, it’s obvious why it’s the likely most-hated of the Michael films, pre-Zombie remakes, there’s little to no respect for what went before, either in H20 or the mid-sequels. By 2002, the reality-TV based horror was already dated, which is unfortunate as the film was due for a Halloween 2001 release but returned for re-shoots when Miramax considered it too unscary.

Some have suggested that it would have been a good move to have Sara turn out to be Jamie Lloyd, not dead after all. I agree with this, it would have served as a good launching pad for the next film or two. Alas, they chose otherwise and when mainstay producer Moustapha Akkad was killed in 2005, all plans for Halloween 9 were washed away and the remake came to be. Bad times.

hr7Blurbs-of-interest: Rick Rosenthal directed the 1981 Halloween II and made a cameo in Lost After Dark; Ryan Merriman later took the lead in Final Destination 3; Daisy McCrackin was in A Crack in the Floor. If you don’t know what other slasher flicks Jamie Lee Curtis has been in then why are you here?

September Face-off: HALLOWEEN 6 vs… Itself!?

October be comin’, October means Halloween, Halloween means Halloween, Halloween means Michael Myers and Michael Myers means sequels galore… As it happens, the sixth instalment, Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers was one of the first films in the franchise I saw on cable back in the 90s and I’ve always liked it more than I probably should.

Then there’s The Producer’s Cut, a vividly different take on the story, which was meddled with until the version that was released came about. Some folks say it’s better, some folks say it ain’t, some folks don’t know what the hell you’re on about… Let us compare thy Halloween sixes and see…

HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS

halloween6 1995/18/85m

“Haddonfield is ready to celebrate Halloween… So is Michael Myers!”

A.k.a. Halloween 6; Halloween 666: The Origin of Michael Myers

Director: Joe Chappelle / Writer: Daniel Farrands / Cast: Donald Pleasence, Paul Rudd, Marianne Hagan, Mitchell Ryan, Kim Darby, Bradford English, Keith Bogart, Mariah O’Brien, Leo Geter, J.C. Brandy, Devin Gardner, George P. Wilbur.

Body Count: 14-ish

Dire-logue: “Relax your crack, sweetheart!”

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At the end of 1989’s Halloween 5, little Jamie Lloyd – Laurie Strode’s daughter – was taken to Haddonfield Police HQ after escaping from Michael Myers for the 37th time. Michael was residing in a cell until a mystery ‘man in black’ came along and shot up the place, killing a load of cops and releasing Michael. The film ended with Jamie – upon discovering said cop corpses – quivering in fear at the prospect of her never ending sprint in the opposite direction of her psychotic uncle.

Now, Halloween 5 was a sucky one, second only of the originals in its ornate suckiness to the non-slasher Halloween III. Let’s just not comment on the Rob Zombie ‘re-imaginings’ here. The introduction of the Man in Black would’ve been weird and very annoying for long term fans as they had to wait six years for the next sequel. In this time, the franchise had been sold to Miramax and they decided to chuck out a quickie follow-up.

Jamie Lloyd (now played by J.C. Brandy after Danielle Harris walked away, reportedly insulted by the fee Dimension were willing to pay her), gives birth amidst scary druidy folks in the dismal surroundings of a sanitorium. A nurse helps her escape with the baby and Michael gives chase, killing her but not before Jamie took the opportunity to hide her newborn.

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In Haddonfield, relatives of the Strode clan are living in the old Myers house, where six-year-old Danny keeps having nightmares about the Man in Black. His struggling single mom Kara is trying to juggle school and her tosser-of-a-dad. To add to her problems, she thinks the guy across the street is perving on her. Not so, said guy is in fact a grown up Tommy Doyle (the kid Jamie Lee was babysitting in t’original) and he’s convinced Michael is heading back to town… Tommy finds Jamie’s baby at the bus station and happens to run into Doc Loomis at a hospital. The good ol’ Doc has been yanked out of retirement by his old cronie Dr Wynn (Ryan). Tommy spouts loads of bollocks about this Thorn Symbol thingy to Kara but even after multiple viewings I couldn’t tell you what it’s about.

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Michael returns and begins stalking and killing off the secondary characters while Loomis teams up with Tommy after Kara and her son are kidnapped by the Man in Black’s Druidy followers and events shift to the asylum where we’re privy to an awesome strobelight operating theatre massacre (which is great with the lights out) before the showdown between Loomis and Michael.

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HALLOWEEN 6: THE PRODUCER’S CUT

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1995/96m

Body Count: 8

Dire-logue: “I tried to tell you in the hospital, I think Michael is under the influence of an evil rune…” – Tommy blames a pebble for two decades of death.

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So what of The Producer’s Cut? Well, the first 80 minutes (up to the point where Kara leaps from the second floor window of Tommy’s house) is largely the same, give or take a few scene extensions – we learn Loomis had facial skin graphs – and the fact that Jamie does not die in the barn, but remains in a coma for about half the film until the Man in Black busts a cap in her ass head.

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So instead of Tommy and Kara running around the corridors of the asylum with Michael tailing them, we get some sub-Rosemary’s Baby Satantic rituals with people in hooded cloaks and Kara tied to a plinth awaiting sacrifice at the hands of little Danny until she blurts to Michael that he is the father of Jamie’s bub. More running ensues but here with Tommy dressed in one of the stupid cloaks that makes him look like a member of some 80’s sequin-glam-sparkle electro band, but he does some stuff with rune stones and makes Mikey impotent for the moment (“it worked, the power of the runes stopped him.”) It ends with Michael dancing off into the night dressed as the MIB.

Although there’s something a bit familiar about the Druid get-up…

untitled-1Ah ha!…Agnetha strikes again!!

VICTOR: THE THEATRICAL CUT

So more Thorn, less murder. The body count was dramatically enhanced by the reshoots, apparently at Chappelle’s insistence as he thought Donald Pleasence was ‘boring’. Bet he feels a bit shitty about it now, being that DP died shortly after filming wrapped. Subsequently, the cast were angry with the re-edit but, to give Chappelle his due, the theatrical cut is better. Halloween is a slasher series and The Producer’s Cut turns it into some sort of wannabe Omen offshoot, the final version at least has the sense to keep close to its body count routes.

There’s still much to like in both versions’ slow build, which return to a central Halloweenie theme, lots of pumpkins, trick or treaters, lightning and homages to the original: Kara’s frantic chase from the Myers house to hammer on the door for help across the street and her parents are named John and Debra – awwww. A pre-fame Rudd does well in a role he clearly despised and Hagan makes for a likeable heroine in Kara. It’s a shame that Halloween H20 decided to ‘clear the slate’ on the hard graft parts 4-6 put into the story as it could’ve been interesting to see where they took us next.

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Blurbs-of-interest: J.C. Brandy was later in Devil in the Flesh; Leo Geter was in Silent Night, Deadly Night; George P. Wilbur played Myers in Halloween 4; as well as the preceding Michael Halloween films, Donald Pleasence was also in Alone in the Dark and Phenomena. Marianne Hagan won the lead in BreadCrumbs in 2011.

AMITYVILLE II: THE POSSESSION

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3 Stars  1982/18/100m

“If these walls could talk… they would SHRIEK!”

Director: Damiano Damiani / Writers: Tommy Lee Wallace, Hans Holzer, Dardano Sacchetti / Cast: James Olson, Burt Young, Rutanya Alda, Jack Magner, Andrew Prine, Diane Franklin, Moses Gunn, Erika Katz, Brent Katz.

Body Count: 5


‘Tis not a slasher film, you say. ‘Tis right, it ain’t. It’s for the Final Girl filmclub and, frankly, I could do with the traffic, so here it is. Suck it!

I think I’ve seen all but two of the Amityville films and, shockingly, this is the best one and the most slashy-like, so the wisest choice for a review here, methinks.

Most folks should know the story of Amityville, Long Island. A family moved into 112 Ocean Avenue after the previous occupants were shot dead by a family member and promptly bailed out less than a month later after a series of ghostly shenanigans, which have been attributed as hoaxes in the following decades, after several books, nine films (including the horrendous remake), and loads of morbid curiosities which ended with the house proper being renovated and changing it’s address detail.

But the film. It’s a schlocky exploitation affair, a prequel to the James Brolin/Margot Kidder original of ’79, loosely based on the DeFeo family who occupied the place until they were murdered by their eldest. Mom, Dad and four kids move into the waterfront property and straightaway become the targets of an invisible force of eeeeevil who lived there first and likes its own company. Breezes blow, nobody knocks on the door at midnight, brushes paint a giant pig on the wall and numerous rooms are trashed.

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Prize-prick Dad, Anthony Montelli, blames everything on Sonny, the oldest son and likes badmouthing everybody and generally being an arse. At one point, a mirror falls off the wall after Dad hung it up. Somehow, it’s Sonny’s fault despite the fact nobody was anywhere near it! Mom Dolores (the fab Alda), tries to keep it together, while daughter Tricia somehow enters into an incestual relationship with Sonny after he’s porked by the malevolent spirit one night.

"What's...happening to us?"

“What’s…happening to us?”

As time plods on, Father Adamsky drops by to bless the house and realises how eeeeevil it is and racks up a few boxes worth of guilt coupons when he ignores Tricia’s pleas for help and Sonny takes a shotgun to the whole clan. This occurs around about an hour into the film and thinking of the two or three times I’ve watched this film, I can never seem to remember what happens next. It gets boring, I’ll tell you that much. The haunted house stuff is all well and good, nicely dealt with and making great use of a floaty steadicam that locks many scenes into single shots. The major flaw is the first two thirds is that it all just looks…silly. Kinda like a parody with every cliche in the book tossed in to a spooky salad.

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OK, so when it works it is somewhat creepy – Sonny’s alone time in the house, the basement scenes – but the family largely over act their parts to the point where I burst out laughing at some of the dire-logue: Adamsky attempts to seek help from his superior who gives him wonderful advice to this effect:

“I thought I saw a ghost once. It could have been a ghost. I don’t think it was a ghost though. I think it was something else… Not a ghost.”

F&%£$^!!!! Stop saying ghost!

Then there’s the spirit itself. Sonny slowly morphs into a freaky-ass looking thing with the demon in full residence, which talks to him through his retro foam-capped headphones, “why didn’t you pull the trigg-urrrrr?” it asks in a weird accent. We see it at the end where the film most likely earns its 18 certificate and it looks a bit dumb, but still gross.

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In the end, I was too bored to worry about the impact of the ending and what it all meant, wishing a director with a name was cool as Damiano Damiani had had the sense to edit it down to 70 minutes, finishing at the murders. It proves that the Amityville franchise is a bit rubbish, but at the very least the first two films and the one with that lamp are good for a laugh.

Blurbs-of-interest: Alda turned up in a few horror films around this time, she was Mrs Mendrakis in the original When A Stranger Calls, as well as appearing in Girls Nite Out and You Better Watch Out! Andrew Prine was in The Town That Dreaded Sundown.

VALENTINE

valentine-box-cover-2VALENTINE

3 Stars  2001/15/92m

“Love hurts.”

Director: Jamie Blanks / Writers: Tom Savage (novel), Donna Powers, Wayne Powers, Gretchen J. Berg & Aaron Harberts / Cast: David Boreanaz, Marley Shelton, Denise Richards, Jessica Capshaw, Jessica Cauffiel, Katherine Heigl, Fulvio Cecere, Daniel Cosgrove, Hedy Burress.

Body Count: 9

Dire-logue: “Jeremy Melton couldn’t manage a water fountain without screwing up, I don’t think he’s capable of an intricate revenge plot.”


Urban Legend is my favourite entry in the 90’s slasher movie revival: it had everything I wanted from high pitched screams to a reveal right out of a Scooby Doo episode. Naturally, when I heard its director Jamie Blanks was doing another slasher flick I was, y’know, totally stoked! Valentine is – rather loosely – based on Tom Savage’s novel and harks back to that age old slasher staple of adolescent school trauma turns geek into weapon-toting psycho…

val2aThe geek in this case is Jeremy Melton, a scrawny, bespectacled, buck-toothed teen who’s only sin is to ask five girls to dance at their Junior High Valentine’s prom thingy. Three cruelly decline, one says “maybe later”, and the fifth, outcast fat girl Dorothy, accepts and is later found sucking face with Jeremy by a group of boys who assume he attacked her, which she agrees with, and then pour punch over him, strip him down to his pants and kick the crap out of poor Jeremy in the middle of the dancefloor!

val-2picsJumping ahead thirteen years, Heigl’s med student Shelley supplies ‘the Barrymore role’ of long-sequence-of-death first victim and her friends gather for her funeral. Kate (Shelton) is to-ing and fro-ing back to her jar-tapping boyfriend Adam (Boreanaz); man-magnet siren Paige (Richards) cruises through life with a trail of men after her; fun girl Lily (Cauffiel) is dating a sleazy artist and Dorothy has lost all the weight but is being sucked in by conman Campbell…

After receiving some grisly gifts and cards – including maggot infested chocolates – the girls wonder about who might be behind things and eventually put two and two together (the cards are signed JM after all!) and leave things in the hands of incapable detective Cecere, who is more interested in bedding Paige. Of course, Cherub-Jeremy crops up for more intermittent murders, taking out Lily early on and Kate’s bizarre neighbour, who meets the nasty end of a steaming hot iron. Could Jeremy have possibly grown up into Angel David Boreanaz!?

val4aThings come to a head at Dorothy’s Valentine’s party (in a massive house with lots of deserted areas, natch) when the remaining girls and a line-up of suspects are gathered. More murders occur, Denise Richards pleases a generation of teenage boys by strutting about in a bikini, a powercut empties all and sundry out, leaving Kate to step into the heroine’s shoes and face off with Cupid. It’s here where Valentine loses its way to some degree, thus opening itself up to all the critical slaggery that was piled upon it. What is in fact quite a clever twist is botched by the cutting of a scene that doesn’t appear on the DVD either and so leaves a question mark over the actual identity of the killer. We discover Jeremy is in fact there, but is he… who’s… how… what!?

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Ergo, look at the IMDb message boards for all the twelve-year-olds rowing over who the killer is. Those of us who’ve seen more than five slasher films should be able to figure it out with ease but Blanks misses the shot here. Nevertheless, the film works in spite of itself and is a whole lot of fun. I’m only bothered by the killer’s bizarre motives: four of the girls merely decline his offer of a dance whereas he has the shit kicked out of him by several boys who, strangely, he doesn’t factor in to his revenge plot at all… Additionally, there are male characters who, in any other film, would be killed off with extreme prejudice who make it through in one piece – the ‘wax’ scene practically leaves the doors wide open with cookies and milk to beg the killer’s appearance! Shelton is also a weak link, playing it far too angelic as the final girl to muster up much support, she’s merely the one who doesn’t die rather than struggles against the odds. Richards and Cauffiel are the most fun to watch and Cecere makes a likeable idiot.

"I love you Buff- uh, Kate."

“I love you Buff- uh, Kate.”

Blurbs-of-interest: Cauffiel played Sandra in Urban Legends: Final Cut; Heigl had the lead in Bride of Chucky; Burress was in Cabin by the Lake.

FRIDAY THE 13TH (2009)

friday-the-13th-poster-3FRIDAY THE 13TH

4 Stars  2009/18/101m

“Welcome to Crystal Lake.”

Director: Marcus Nispel / Writers: Damian Shannon, Mark Swift & Mark Wheaton / Cast: Jared Padalecki, Danielle Panabaker, Amanda Righetti, Travis Van Winkle, Aaron Yoo, Derek Mears, Julianna Guill, Arlen Escarpeta, Willa Ford, Ryan Hansen, Richard Burgi, Nick Mennell, Jonathan Sadowski, Ben Feldman, America Olivo, Kyle Davis.

Body Count: 14

Direlogue: “I have more chance of fucking a penguin than that girl.”


I. Loved. It.

How do you remake a non-classic classic? If something has only gained ‘credibility’ through a kind of kitsch nostalgia, much like my rants about Fame, can upping the budget and trying to play down some of the genre pitfalls actually change the core essence? After all, you can’t polish a turd – but you can roll it in glitter!

As stated numerous times, to me Friday the 13th is anything but a turd. I genuinely consider it to be at the very least competently made. People may laugh, but most people haven’t seen 473 other slasher films to compare it to.

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Here, Bay and his Platinum Dunes house of horror remakes (previously destroying The Amityville Horror and The Hitcher) could be seen as a curse as much as a blessing when it comes to Jason Voorhees. Their take on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre impressed me, but then I’ve never liked the original so it wasn’t difficult. But here was a film I loved. Argh. I was shaking throughout the ads and trailers. But at least they didn’t let Todd Farmer near this one.

OK, so remember Jason Goes to Hell? Remember it wasn’t very much loved? Hey, I like the film but we all know there are only a few good scenes: the beginning and the kids who go camping. Friday ’09 is very much like those two scenarios, it’s mega-nostalgic in its photography, characters, setups and the like. This be good, this be!

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As it goes, the events of the original film don’t re-occur here, it’s not a remake as such. We begin at Camp Crystal Lake in 1980 and the fate of Mrs Voorhees (a perfectly cast but oddly named Nana Visitor) and skip to ‘the present’ where five campers hike into Jason’s wilderness, a couple of whom discover his home while he slaughters their friends, killing all but nice girl Whitney (Righetti) because she resembles Mama Voorhees. Six weeks later, Whitney’s brother Clay (Padalecki) comes to town looking for her, coinciding with seven college kids out to party at the condo of rich snob Trent’s dad.

While the college kids serve as interim victims for Jason, Clay and second nice girl Jenna (Panabaker) discover the remains of Camp Crystal Lake and also that there’s a psycho living there, a psycho who has recently donned a hockey mask he found whilst slashing up a local. The expected massacre ensues and all roads lead to the bro-sis reunion and foiled escapes from Jase.

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jasonThere are a few areas that could have been improved upon, most evidently is the total lack of need for this to be anything but another sequel. This should be called Friday the 13th Part 12, paving the way to the thirteenth 13th. The scribes pull a Halloween H20 on us, re-writing the in-between after the first movie and essentially taking the best bits from 2, 3 and 4 in the hope of kick-starting a revival.

But as far as complaints go, that’s the main issue. Everything else is business as usual (ka-ching!) The paperthin teens are cut to pieces in a variety of surprisingly not-so-inventive ways, there’s more nudity than anything since A New Beginning and the requisite rainstorm eventually enters the equation in the final reel. No shots of the moon though!

As the main characters, Padalecki, Panabaker and Righetti are all effectively able and it’s nice to see Richard Burgi (albeit fleetingly) as ‘The Cop’. Aaron Yoo makes the best impression out of the doomed teens, whilst the other five range from the annoying moaner, via the token black guy to the two hot chicks who disrobe but look, sound and walk exactly the same!

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So, we got drug smokin’ kids, a campfire story, rain, assorted weapons, likeable leads and a Jason who runs for the first since since 1984! There’s a fitting body count of 13 (one more if you count Mrs V in the prelude) and hope of a sequel. Thus, I cannot conceal my joy that this project was undertaken and, ahem, executed so well.

Blurbs-of-interest: Jared Padalecki got waxed in, uh, House of Wax and was also in Cry_Wolf; Nick Mennell appeared in My Little Eye and also Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake (as Bob). America Olivo was Britt in Circle and Elijah Wood’s mommy in the 2012 remake of Maniac.

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