Cannibalism

Warm Bodies

How have I not talked about this movie yet? I love this movie. Love it. I’m a fan of romantic horror films, a fact that is well documented. Warm Bodies is among my top five favorites. Hell, it’s in my top 25 movies off all time. Though objectively it’s not the best. But I’m not here to be objective. I’m here to give my honest opinion. Warm Bodies is far and away more Romance and Comedy than Horror. Horror is the back drop, occasionally its brought up and that really works for here. I love the pairing of Nicholas Hoult and Teresa Palmer. But I’ll get to praising them in a moment.

Warm Bodies opens with R (Nicholas Hoult), a zombie who spends his days suffering around an airport. He spends his days trying to remember what it used to be like before he became a zombie.  His only kind of friend is M (Rob Corddry), who he stands near and they almost start conversations. The only time they speak is when to signify hunger and the need to hunt. Which they do, heading into the city. Leader of potentially last human settlement Grigio (John Malkovich), sends out a group of young survivors to scavenge in the city for supplies that are needed by the settlement, like medicine. Among them are Grigio’s daughter Julie (), her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco), and her best friend Nora (Analeigh Tipton). R’s and Julies groups encounter on another and a fight ensues. During which R falls in love with Julie at first sight. He then kills Perry and eats his brains. Which allows him to live Perry’s memories. Including the ones of him and Julie falling in love. R manages to save Julie from the zombies as the her group is killed except for Nora. R takes Julie back to the airport where he keeps her in the plane he lives in. Filled with stuff that he likes. The two get to know one another and start to fall in love over the days that R keeps Julie there. But she has no desire to stay and after being found by the zombies, including the more dangerous Bonies. But with the aid of M, Julie and R manage to escape. After helping Julie and R escape the zombies start to come back alive. Something that upsets the Bonies who chase them out. Julie and R take refuge in an old house and spend the night. During which he reveals that hes the one who killed Perry. R then falls asleep, some that the dead don’t do and wakes up to Julie gone. R starts to head back when he runs in M, who’s leading a band of like-hearted zombies to find R. He tells him of the Bonies and how they are hunting for him, and Julie. R, M, and the other zombies head to find Julie to warn her of the Bonies coming attack.

The romantic elements work really well for me and I love the chemistry between the leads. Being based on a novel that is blatantly retelling Romeo and Juliet, the chemistry is important. Both deliver solid performances and come of as light in what is a very down atmosphere. The rest does a great job, with Rob Corddry being hilarious, and heart warming at times.

The zombie effects are pretty good, but the Bonies don’t look as good. While by no means do they look bad. I just would have preferred if they had been approached via practical effects instead of CGI. Which is my only gripe about this film.

The sound track also needs to be brought up. Because it’s outstanding. The film makes great use of some very recognizable songs such as Shelter from the Storm by Bob Dylan, Patience by Guns and Roses and Missing You by John Waite to name a few.

Final thoughts, I do love this movie. Its cute, fun and light with a healthy dose of zombie violence. It takes the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet and twists it into some new. Which is harder to pull of then it might sound. 9/10

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April Apocalypse

I don’t know what it is about zombie romance films that I love so much. The idea of love being able to survive even in a world bleak as one as a zombie apocalypse seems like a good contender. But my gut tells me that isn’t the right answer, so I’m left enjoying a strange niche of the horror genre. Strangely I’m not the only one that loves these movies, because there’s more than a few of them. April Apocalypse would be on the better end of the spectrum. But by no means my favorite, that would probably belong to Warm Bodies. While not the best at what it does April Apocalypse is certainly worth watching. As its full of fun acting and memorable moments.

April Apocalypse follows Artie (Reece Thompson), a love struck awkward teenager, who’s been in love with his next door neighbor April (Rebekah Brandes) since they were three. He confesses his love one night and April makes it clear she feels the same. The bad thing is her family is moving… tomorrow. They promise to stay in touch and after initially trying, the two drift apart. Artie falls into a depression and runs an evening radio show as an outlet for his depression, often pinning away for April. His depression worsens to the point where his family intervene and send him to psychologist, Dr. Lyle (George Lopez). Who prescribes him with a new form of Prozac to treat his depression. One that has none of old side effects, but has the new side effects of ambition, euphoria and an increase immune system. After starting he starts taking the new medication he, with help of his grandpa Pops (William Morgan Sheppard) to go to April. So he packs his car and leaves, to do just that. On the way he wrecks his car due to dodging a zombie in the road. When he comes to, the world is in the grip of a zombie apocalypse. He quickly returns home to check on his family. While in his home he set upon by a number of zombies, which Artie is able to kill. But not without getting bite. He quickly disinfects the wound with rubbing alcohol. Artie only manages to find Pops, who is dead. Leaving him wondering about the his parents and brother. But April is first priority, so Artie arms up and heads across the country to find her. Encounter other survivors along the way.

I found the acting to be great. I loved Reece Thompson. Though it did take me a good amount of time to warm up to him. But the best goes to Brent Tarnol as Stevenson and Todd Stashwick as the Priest. Though these just shine the brightest, because I cant think of single performance that I didn’t like.

Not that I liked all the characters. April and Regan played by Stephanie Hunt both bothered me. As both characters are never really expired. Regan happens into Artie and the two never seem to do much. She’s just the hot girl. Even when Artie meets up with Stevenson. That’s her characters whole deal. Which is sad as Stephanie Hunt did a good job with the role she was given. But I see Regan as a real missed opportunity as a character. The same goes for April, we get far more character with her. But she’s still and object in the film. Something for Artie to strive after and obtain. Not a fleshed out person with her own goals and ideas. Rebekah Brandes does a great job, making a character that is fairly shallowly written like-able.

The zombies are fairly stand fair. Nothing to noteworthy as April Apocalypse sticks to the standard fast zombie mythos. Get bitten or scratched you turn. After you turn you go cannibalistic and violent towards the uninfected. While the transformation window being fairly slim. It’s nice to see a zombie film that keeps the monster familiar while still delivering a new story.

Final thoughts, April Apocalypse certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel here. But it doesn’t need to. The standard zombie tropes and moments are here. But they’re done tongue in cheek. This is where the films comedy shines, as it will both acknowledge the trope and play off it at the same time. April Apocalypse is pretty good zombie film, with more than a dash of romance that I would recommend. 8/10

Drifter

I picked this film on a whim and was very surprised with just how much I enjoyed it. I found the visuals and music to be outstanding. Throw in the great acting and this film became a real treat. I wasn’t all that excited for the cannibals as I’ve grown used to the cliche. Which here they still are, but are also done in such a way that it becomes forgivable.

Drifter opens with Miles Pierce (Aria Emory) holding a gun to man. Who pulls a gun in turn on Miles. Miles brother Dominic (Drew Hardwood) bursts into the room the two fire. Resulting in Miles getting shot in the hand and the other man dead. The brothers then take off across the wasteland, on some vague vengeance ride. The pair get in a disagreement and Dominic storms out into the waste leaving Miles in the car. While away in the dessert having a moment to him self, Miles is beset by three highway men that proceed to beat Miles to steal the car. Dominic returns the car and kills the men saving his brother. Due the beating Miles received they stop in the small movie Demyl. They come across a man walking down the road and while asking him for directions to help he slashes one of their tires. Dominic attacks the man, who is saved by Vojah (Monique Rosario). She has the brothers follow her and gives them aid. Vojah warns them about the towns occupants, a warning the Dominic ignores going after the man again. This results in the towns cannibalistic inhabitants led by Doyle (James McCabe) killing Dominic and capturing Miles. Whom they set tormenting, torments that crescendos at a dinner where is Dominic is the main course…

What I liked most about Drifter was the visuals. As this is a very stunning film. I often found myself floored with how beautiful it was, while maintaining a heavy atmosphere. The visuals are only surpassed by the sound track, because as often I was blow away with the look and feel of the film. The music is compelling and ties in each scene together.

But being pretty and sounding great isn’t what its all about. Because what a film without actors and the actors here do an outstanding job. James McCabe makes an outstanding villain. One that started off feeling generic but quickly developed into a fun and devilish character. One that I simply love to hate.

Final thoughts, I enjoyed Drifter. Hell I’ll go as far as to say I loved it. Stunning through and through that suffered one from loose threads. What was the vengeance ride about? Did Miles ever get it? Does that matter? The answer is no, but what a ride. 9/10

Train to Busan

It was super refreshing as a fan of zombies movies to see this film. It’s a great example of a great zombie film, as it makes the characters feel relatable. It was well written, well acted and well shot. So if you haven’t seen this film because that it’s subtitled. Then you are doing yourself a disservice. I’ve loved the horror films that I’ve seen come out of South Korea for all the same reasons. Reasons I’ll go more into depth about shortly.

Train to Busan opens with Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) a workaholic, who’s recently separated for his wife and has custody of their young daughter Soo-an (Soo-an Kim). Seok-woo wants to be a good father, but due to his job is unable to find the time to relate with his daughter. For her birthday Soo-an wants to go to Busan to see her mother. Seok-woo agrees to take her by train the next day. After boarding the train a zombie outbreak sweeps the nation. With an infected woman getting on board, turning and attacking. Further spreading the infection of the high speed train. Eventually the passengers who have manged to flee to the front of train notice that the infected are stupied and wont try to attack if they don’t see you.  The other survivors include, husband and wife Sang-hwa (Dong-seok Ma) and Seong-kyeong (Yu-mi Jung), sisters In-gil (Soo-jung Ye) and Jong-gil (Myung-sin Park), Yon-suk (Kim Eui-sung) a rich CEO, teenagers Yong-guk (Choi Woo-shik) and Jin-hee (Ahn So-hee). The train tries to stop at the next station only to see that it is overrun. It continues on until it reaches a city that its told is safe. Seok-woo learns the city is quarinteened and makes plans through his contacts at work to be evacuated there with his daughter. But that station too is overrun and the survivors barely make it back, while many of the other do not. But in the race to reach the train Seok-woo, Sang-hwa, Yong-guk are separated from the others and must fight the their way to them through infected filled train cars as the train races for the last open city… Busan.

So the things I loved. First was the dread location, putting this film on a train was great. The claustrophobic atmosphere was great and it made for some very intense action scenes. I also liked the sense of finality that the train brought, as it has a destination, at the very least the tracks have to end somewhere. Keeping the thought of hope and rescue alive. Only to squash it.

The acting was also pretty fantastic. I’m not as knowledgeable in South Korean films to identify the actors or reference their past work against this one. But they all do a great job, making for a very strong ensemble. My person favorite was Dong-seok as MaSang-hwa.

I also loved the effects, as the infected are just great. The gore while minimal is visceral keeping the threat and terror more real and closer to home. There’s plenty of blood and people being attacked, but the gore is never the show case and often times feels a little played down for the sake of tone.

Final thoughts, I loved this movie. Easily one of if not thee best zombie film I’ve seen in a while. Maybe since The Battery. It’s just that good. Train to Busan is worth all of the praise that it receives and I feel is a must watch for the zombie fans out there. As its great zombie film with more than a few touching moments. 10/10

Dance of the Dead

I went into Dance of the Dead expecting a better film. Detention of the Dead was good enough to get me looking for similar films. Which brought me to Dance of the Dead and I don’t like near as much. Mostly because I feel I was cheated on the Dance part of this film, since the majority of the film doesn’t take place at the dance. I feel bad for not liking this film, it has everything going for it. It’s a cheesy zombie flick, set at a prom, and its low budget with a focus on practical effects. I should be loving this film, but I’m not.

Dance of the Dead opens in a graveyard next to nuclear power plant. The grave keeper covers up the fact the dead are rising by removing the parts that break the surface. At the towns high school everyone is preparing for the upcoming prom. Steven (Chandler Darby) a member of the Sci-Fi club, tries to ask out cheerleader Gwen (Carissa Capobianco) after learning her date is sick. But chickens out when she shows interest in Nash Rambler (Blair Redford), the lead singer in a punk band. Meanwhile, Lindsey (Greyson Chadwick) breaks up with her long time boyfriend Jimmy Dunn (Jared Kusnitz) over his inability to take anything seriously and decides to go to the dance with Rod (Mark Lynch) instead. The night of the prom the Sci-Fi club led by Jules (Mark Lynch) goes and investigates the graveyard. At the same graveyard Rod and Lindsey park before the dance and start getting hot and heavy. When the dead rise in force, attacking the teens, killing Rod. Though Lindsey and the others manage to escape in Rod’s car. Jimmy on his way to the dance is forced to deliver a pizza for his job. When he arrives the family that ordered the pizza are now zombies and attack him. Jimmy manages to escape. He comes across an overturn truck, the only survivor is Kyle Grubbin a bully and Jimmy’s enemy. Kyle gets his gun and starts shooting zombies and nearly shoots Gwen when she’s jogging by. The three flee the zombie horde. Lindsey calls Jimmy after she and the Sci-Fi club take refuge in a house. Jimmy, Kyle and Gwen make their way to them via the sewers, which the discover is heavily polluted from the nuclear power plant. The group now formed decided to make a mad dash to try and save everyone at the prom before they become zombies.

I should love this movie, but it’s just not there for me. The acting is good enough that its not enjoyably awful, so a lot of them come off as dry or stilled.  None of the actors seem to be on the same page. Most of the performances you get the standard b zombie flick, but some of the characters are so over the top you cant tell if this film knows how to be funny. I had a real problem with the character of Coach Keel played by Mark Oliver, who is way to over the top compared to the rest of the cast.

This films tone is just as wildly inconstant, that I can only compare to the later Ernest films. One moment you go from zombie horror film to the humor with no real delineation. Just zombies, bad joke, oh more zombies, bad joke, zombies again over and over.

Though the film isn’t without it merits. It really shows what you can do with a small budget. Even if I don’t like the over out come and I have to respect it for that. The effects are gory and well done with the zombies looking the range of laughable to pretty alright. The transformations were handled better than I expected.  The music is often spot on for the moment and complements the scenes well.

Final thoughts, I you really like zombie films check it out. If on the other hand you’re only passingly a fan or not a fan of them at all, I’d say skip  it. There’s better teen zombie horror films out there. I really wish I could recommend this film but I just can’t. 4/10

Detention of the Dead

Detention of the Dead is pretty okay. It feels like The Breakfast Club meets a zombie apocalypse, but in a good way. The Characters range through the standard High School Film archetypes, the nerd, jock, cheerleader, stoner and goth. But does so incredibly self aware way, that comes off equal parts silly and sincere. I love the in film nods and references to prior horror films, The Rocky Horror Picture Show references most of all.

The film opens with Eddie (Jacob Zacher) the nerd, Willow (Alexa Nikolas) the goth, Janet (Christa B. Allen) the popular cheerleader, her boyfriend Brad (Jayson Blair) the jock, his friend Jimmy (Max Adler), and Ash (Justin Chon) the stoner are attending Mrs. Rumblethrop’s (Michele Messmer) detention class. Ash tries to sell drugs to fellow detainee Mark (Joseph Porter) who is ill, he attributes this to a bite he got from some homeless guy on the way to school. Ash calls to Mrs. Rumblethrop for aid, when Mark transforms into one of the undead and attacks Mrs. Rumblethrop when she comes to help. The other students fight Mark off and when they try to go for help they learn the school is overrun with zombies. They flee to the library for safety as it’s easily dependable with the badly wounded Mrs. Rumblethrop.  In the library  Mrs. Rumblethrop dies, reanimates and attacks the students. During the fight Brad gets finger bitten but keeps the injury secret. They fan out to check for any other undead that might be in the library. During the search Jimmy is bitten by a zombie student. The group is morally conflicted about what to do, so Jimmy makes the decision to self sacrifice rather than endangering his friends. The remaining students settle in to the safety of the library as Brad’s infection worsens…

There’s a ton of great little moments in this film. I would say it’s one of the films main strengths. The constant call backs to The Breakfast Club makes this film feel nostalgic, while not actually being so. The characters archetypes. While they never are able to break free, they do try.

Final thoughts, it’s just a well thought out film. Sure it has its short comings, mostly when it tries to hard to be funny or delve a bit to deep into genre tropes. But overall its a good zombie film that’s trying to hit at a little something extra. As a big fan of the 80’s and John Hughes by extension, Detention of the Dead was a film worth seeing. My only real complaint was how predictable the final moments of the film was, as well as its underlying themes. 8/1o

Ravenous

Ravenous-1999-movie-5Ravenous has a lot of black comedy elements that I missed when I saw it in theaters back in 1999. It’s strange what seventeen years can do to your perspective. Regardless Ravenous is a great film no matter how you cut and didn’t deserve the large amount of negative reviews it got upon its release. The black comedy and satirical elements are laid on a bit thick in place, but it’s those elements that’s really made Ravenous hold up over time. That and it’s loosely based on elements of both the Donner Party and Alferd Packer. Also, while Ravenous is supposedly a film about cannibalism, I would argue it’s more of creature feature with the Wendigo being the monster in question due to the strong supernatural element. Because as far as I know eating the flesh of another human doesn’t give you special abilities, like being able to heal from any wound.

After winning a medal and getting a promotion during a battle during the Mexican-American War, John Boyd (Guy Pearce) is sent away to a remote outpost in the Sierra Nevada’s.  This is due to his winning of the medal in question as from actions born of cowardice, but not wanting to set a bad example. So rather than punish him, the military leaders simply shuffled him away. At the outpost he meets the skeleton crew that mans the outpost during the harsh winters, Col. Hart (Jeffery Jones), Pvt. Toffler (Jeremy Davies), Pvt. Cleaves (David Arquette), Pvt. Reich (Neal McDonough), Knox (Stephen Spinella), a Native American Scout George (Joseph Runningfox) and his sister Martha (Sheila Tousey). Short after arriving at the outpost the company discovers a man in the cold. After waking the man, Colqhoun (Robert Carlyle) tells them his story. That he along with five others, including their leader Col. Ives had gotten lost crossing the Rockies three months prior. After running out of provisions they had resorted to Cannibalism, though after doing so their hungers changed becoming insatiable. After being reduced to being one of the last three alive, he had fled out of fear and had found the outpost by pure providence. After hearing his story, Col Hart gathers most of his men, as Martha and Pvt. Cleaves are away on a supply mission and Knox being to drunk to be of any use, heads out to rescue those they can. Before they leave, they’re warned by George of the Wendigo, a demon born when a man eats the flesh of another man and absorbs his strength, but gains an insatiable hunger for human flesh. When they arrive the at the camp site located in a cave, Boyd and Reich enter the cave to see if anyone is left alive. Inside they discover the remains of five people, and rush back to the others to warn them of the trap. Outside Colqhoun falls upon the resuce party, killing them one by one. When Boyd and Reich leave the cave, everyone is already killed and chase Colqhoun into the woods. Though once again falling into his trap as Reich is killed and falls off a cliff. A cliff that Boyd leaps from to escape Colqhoun after shooting him doesn’t stop him. The fall breaks on of his legs and Boyd becomes trapped in hole with Reich’s body. Eventually Boyd is reduced to eating Reich and after gain his strength resets his broken leg and makes his way back to the outpost traumatized. After telling his story and no one believing him and a new leader is sent to the outpost a Col. Ives, Colqhoun in disguise….

What always stuck with me was the scene of Pvt. Reich toughens up in a snowy river. At least that’s what I always assumed he was doing, that and the scene where he gets eaten. Both stuck out too much just as much after all these years. Though this time around I noticed how small a role all the supporting casts plays, with very little screen time. Most only around long enough to a vague idea of who they are before they get killed off half way through the film.

What also stuck out this time around was Guy Pearce and Robert Carlyle. As both men come off as layered and very interesting. Mainly on how the two play off one another throughout the film. Represent two different outlooks on being a cannibal. With Pearce being forlorn and regretful in his performance and Carlyle comes of crazed, but also methodical and controlled.

The musical score also really stands out now that I’m old enough to really notice it. I find it amazing for how long I just took the musical scores in films for granted and I’m really sad that I didn’t remember this film for its outstanding music.

Final thoughts, Ravenous is a great film that’s well shot and beautifully scored. Though it does have a handful of flaws. Although all are so minor I don’t feel the need to point them out. The performances are fun and memorable. Though while the film is dark and it handles its subject matter with too much of a humorous edge to be truly unnerving. 9/10