Foreign

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

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The Windmill

The Windmill or The Windmill Massacre is 2016 Dutch supernatural horror film with a body count. I went into this film due to its apparent slasher qualities, qualities that were vast and valuable. Though honestly beyond group of people being stalked and killed by a supernatural force is all I knew. But for me that was enough. The Windmill didn’t surprise me as much as I was hoping it would and has a couple of issues that did get under my skin.

The Windmill opens with Jennifer Harris (Charlotte Beaumont) being confronted by her boss about the fact she lied about who she is. He tries to keep her detained until the police arrive, but she escapes by smashing a vase into his head and running away. She wanders the streets of Amsterdam until the next morning when she comes across a Happy Holland tour bus, owned and operated by Abe (Bart Klever). Also on the bus is father and son, Douglas (Patrick Baladi) and Curt (Adam Thomas Wright), photographer Ruby (Fiona Hampton), royal marine Jackson (Ben Batt), Dr. Nicholas Cooper (Noah Taylor) and Japanese tourist Takashi (Tanroh Ishida). The bus breaks down after Jennifer freaks thinking she say her father walk into the road, which would be hard she she touched him alive back in Australia. Broke down with no cell service to call for help, Jennifer and Jackson head to a near by windmill that isn’t on the map to ask for help. On the way through the woods to get there Jackson has a hallucination about the prostitute he killed in Amsterdam the night before, before he’s killed by a strange figure with a scythe. Jennifer runs back to the bus, but no one believes her, a steady theme since the doctor outs shes on anti-psychotics. Soon the bus tips over into the pond it was parked by forcing the group as a whole to walk to the windmill. Along the way they loose Takashi who follows his own vision his wrong doings deeper into the woods. One by one the tourists are forced to confront their sins before being killed by the ghost of Miller Hendrik (Kenan Raven), for devil worshiper now gate man for hell…

My issues are two fold, first is it takes forever for anyone to believe Jennifer. Like three deaths and a witness in. Which wouldn’t of been bad if the filmmakers focused on the is she isn’t she motif. But that’s never addressed, we as the audience know from the get go that she isn’t and it feels like it takes forever for the victim pool to catch up.

My next issue is also a spoiler so feel free to jump past this part. But Abe the bus driver being in league with Miller Hendrik bothers me immensely. As Abe kills the repentant, who are not killed by Hendrik to be sent to hell along with any innocents that might have been on the bus of sinners. Which feels like it defeats the whole judging people for their sins and releasing the truly repentant. Why judge people at all if you have a cohort that kills the people that make it free? Also how did Abe start serving Hendrik and the devil? The Windmill never covers that, it just gives a throw away line about how he has been working for him for many years. With all the time spent arguing if Jennifer is insane could have been used to better flesh out Abe.

The rest of the victim pool is actually okay. Nothing special, but I can be a fan of standard fare. Which here I am. The best performances come from Tanroh Ishida, Adam Thomas Wright, and Patrick Baladi. I really love Tanroh the most as it feels like he did the most with his character even though he had little time. Patrick Baladi and Adam Thomas Wright have great father son chemistry and are very believable in these roles.

Final thoughts, it was okay. But had the fixings to be really great. The Windmill need to focus more on its characters and the Miller more than anything. Most are left woefully underdeveloped and their sins never really become the focal point they should. The kills are fun, inventive and gorey. Though the CGI does look a little silly at times. 6/10

The Girl with All the Gifts

mv5bmjq0nza4ndcxm15bml5banbnxkftztgwmtk1njuzote-_v1_uy1200_cr9206301200_al_The Girl with All the Gifts came very recommended by a coworker with similar tastes in films. He thought this would a film I would like since he feels it’s an interesting take on the tradition zombie film. Which is something I do agree with, though I don’t hold in the same kind of regard as he does. The Girl with All the Gifts feels like its trying to get me to like by being as much like other zombie stories that are popular. The Fungus, and the Carol character being the most egregious.

In the somewhat near future, Melani (Sennia Nanua) a young girl is kept prisoner. She’s taken from her cell to a classroom in a wheelchair in which she’s restrained for as long as she’s out of her cell. Other children are also brought to class this way. The classes are taught by Helen Justineau (Gemma Arterton), who teaches with kindness and compassion. At night Melani is quizzed by Dr. Caroline Caldwell (Glenn Close), who asks various logic problems. One night she’s asked to pick a number between 0 and twenty and Melani choose thirteen. The following day the boy from room thirteen is missing. The next time she’s asked for a number she chooses number four, her cell. Sgt. Eddie Parks (Paddy Considine) takes Melani across the base to Dr. Caldwells facility. During which scene we learn that the wold is infested with zombies, which are literally at their gates. As it turns out a fungal infection as turned most of the world into “Hungries”. Only some children are left with the ability to think and learn and its from these children that Dr. Caldwell is trying to find a vaccine. Unfortunately, this requires the brain and spine, Melani’s brain and spine to me be precise. But before Dr. Caldwell can start, Helen shows up and tries to save Melani. But, Dr. Caldwell maces Helen and calls for security to take her away. Dr. Caldwell gets disrupted again when the base is overtaken by the Hungries quickly after. Melani manages to escape, and since she’s already infected the Hungries don’t attack her. Melani attacks and kills two soldiers in order to save Helen. The pair escape the overrun base with Sgt. Parks, Kieran Gallagher (Fisayo Akinade), Dillon (Anthony Welsh) and Dr. Caldwell. With their base in ruins the group make their way to London, keeping Melani safe since she’s their best chance for a cure…

Honestly, there’s only a few things with this film that bother me from one degree to another. Mainly my issue is with Dr. Caldwell, who comes off as a bad rip-off Carol from The Walking Dead. Both in appearance and in the characters delivery. It’s just so blatant that is becomes obtrusive.  Next is the fungus, as I feel the same idea was visited in the video game The Last of Us and was told much better. Finally the shallowness of the characters bothered me. None of the characters have much going on beyond the job that defines them. Dr. Caldwell is a doctor, Helen a teacher and Sgt. Parks is a soldier. Which leads to some cardboard style characters.

What I did like. First off, was the slow lead in. As Meleni being infected isn’t directly shown quickly. First you get to see how shes treated and left to wonder about this little girl. Humanizing her in a way that makes the moral dilemma of the film feel more grounded in reality.

Second, I love the setting and locals. I’m a big fan of the Nature taking it back look to post apocalyptic horror films. Not that I don’t love me some dessert wasteland, it’s just not my favorite. The dilapidated look lets you know on a gut level about how much time has actually passed. Reinforcing the sense of hopelessness shared by the characters.

I love the way that this film asks questions. Is Melani a monster? What do her actions say about her? Who’s the most at fault? This leave a lot of moral grey areas to talk about with your friends. Which is nice since many horror films don’t evoke that level of higher thought.

Final thoughts, this is a film best viewed in a group as a group is need to discuss just what The Girl with All the Gifts was trying to get at. It has a lot of substance for a film with such shallow characters and so few. The Girl with All the Gifts is most certainly worth the watch, a zombie film that keeps the gore while not letting itself be dumbed down. 8/10

Deathgasm

deathgasmWhile I was hoping for more from DEATHGASM, it certainly didn’t disappoint. I found it to be the be that solid blend of horror and comedy that I truly love. Unfortunately it wasn’t good enough that I can claim that I completely loved it. As the stereotypes that the film prescribes to wear thin quickly. While I can’t claim to be a Metal Head, I do love the genre and I wish that the music would have played a more focal role in the film, which is weird given that Metal music literally raises hell in Deathgasm.

Deathgasm opens with the lead character Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) being sent to live with his Uncle Albert (Colin Moy), Aunt Mary (Jodie Rimmer) and cousin David (Nick Hoskins-Smith), who are deeply religious after his mother tries to perform oral on a mall Santa… in front of the croweded mall and is sent to a mental institution. Things are rough for Brodie in the his new town, but manages to make some friends while he’s not being bullied. The first friends he makes are Dion (Sam Berkley) and Giles (Daniel Cresswell), who’s defining attributes seem to be that they are social outcasts that play D&D. Brodie also falls for the schools resident hot girl, Medina (Kimberley Crossman), who happens to be dating David. Though things start looking up when he meets fellow Metal Head Zakk (Jame Blake) and the two form a fast friendship. One day the pair break into the house of an aging Metal star Rikki Daggers (Stephen Ure) who’s been living as a recluse for years in an attempt to steal a rare album. They’re able to find the album, though in the sleeping clutches of Rikki Daggers. After getting caught, Daggers lets the pair go with the album and order by Daggers to protect when a cultist arrives to take the album. Brodie and Zakk manage to escape with the album before Daggers is killed by the cultist. When the pair arrives back to the garage where they play in their band DEATHGASM with Dion and Giles, they discover that the album is missing and instead find a Rick Astley record, along with the music sheets for the Black Hymn. Which they decided to learn for their band. Though playing the music has some unfortunate consequences for the town as raising demons often does…

So before I start laying into DEATHGASM, I want to make it clear that overall I like this movie. Not as much as could have or maybe even should have, but at the end of the day DEATHGASM gets a serious thumbs up. It has fun acting, great gore effects once it starts going and the humor is a good blend of fart jokes and black comedy. DEATHGASM hits a real solid blend of the things I like in Horror/Comedies, but does fall into the trap of being more comedy than horror.

Now for my gripes, first and foremost is the characters Dion and Giles. As an avid thrower of oddly shaped dice, killer of orcs and looter of forgotten treasures, it always grinds my gears when I see these kinds of characters. Dion and Giles serve no purpose other than to make the Brodie look good in comparison and are portrayed and both stupid and weak. Dion uses a pair of Hulk hands to fight of the demon possessed towns folk and Giles shoots dice out of a paintball gun. I found these characters more insulting than anything else and are more unrealistic than the demons they fight.

My next gripe is that there are a number of small plot holes and continuity errors that really bug me as these should have all been easily noticed. This includes character’s clothing changing from shot to shot, chainsaws being on and off throughout fight scenes at what seems like random and Dion not mentioning he can read Latin. But my biggest is that Brodie at the end of the film lacks any scars even after being gored by a demon. The more films I watch, the more these sorts of things bother me, as they read like laziness on someone’s part.

But that’s kind of it for my gripes. But as I said I wish the music had been a stronger focus as none of it ever stood out to me. Enhancing the film in such a way where the music becomes part of the story. A few names get dropped, but the Metal never stands a forefront as it should.

Final thoughts, I really like it. But DEATHGASM has a handful of flaws, I have a hard time getting past. Though after learning that Iron Maidens “Live After Death” is supposed to sync up to this film while muted, in the same vein as Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” alone has me coming back for seconds. 7.5/10

Apartment 143

apartment-143-movie-poster-ghostsI’m going to have a hard time talking about this film without spoiling it. Which I will endeavor not to do so. Though it won’t leave much to talk about, as the Apartment 143 was basically a giant groan fest for me. Though I did like a handful of aspects of this film, but mostly it feels like a film that’s cobbled together with elements that the filmmakers saw work in other films and said “lets just do that, that and lets throw this in for good measure”. Honestly. maybe something was just lost on me as this is a Spanish horror film. Though my gut tells me it’s just a bad movie.

Apartment 143 opens with the arrival of a team of paranormal researchers lead by Dr. Helzer (Michael O’Keefe), his assistant Ellen Keegan (Fiona Glascott) and their lead technician Paul Ortega (Rick Gonzalez) arriving at the residence of the White family. The White’s, headed by Alan (Kai Lennox) a recent widower who as moved to small, dingy apartment with teenage daughter Caitlin (Gia Mantegna) and young son Benny (Damian Roman). The White’s have recently relocated to the apartment after the death of Alan’s wife and the strange occurrences that started taking place in their home. After the disturbances started getting violent, Alan moved his family. But after about a week they started back up and not knowing what to do turned to Dr. Helzer. Dr. Helzer and his crew rig the apartment with cameras, motion sensors and other devices to try to find the cause of the families supernatural disturbance. But as the experiments go on, it becomes clear that they’re not dealing with a haunting at all…

First off, Apartment 143 is short. Incredibly so in fact, with a meager 80 minute run time. Which would be fine if the script was tight and well written but it’s not. So the little time we get in the film, is often wasted. Being used on jump scares and weak explanations.

Now, on the subject of the script. It’s not that good. It’s not awful, as I’ve seen some films with far worse scripts. It’s sad that more care wasn’t taken as there was promise here. But for every good moment of dialogue that makes you feel for character’s you get fifteen of he-hawing and weak exposition and remember the run time is only 80 minutes.

But Apartment 143 isn’t all downside. I really liked the pseudo found footage feel. Apartment 143 defiantly took it notes here and uses the techniques of the sub-genre to their best. The grainy footage, black and white shots and awkward angles all do great jobs heightening the atmosphere.

I also like that the film’s premise and the setting in the old near empty apartment complex. As once again, these elements really add to the film’s over all appeal. But the lack of neighbors, friends or outside characters does feel a bit off.

Final thoughts, it’s ok at best. Which is sad because it does really try to be a decent to good film and at times it does manage to do so. But those times are sparse and spread too far out. The characters lack dimension and like ability, which is always an issue for me. That coupled with the final shot of the film, that I assume was supposed to leave me questioning the validity of what came before. Just left me feeling more underwhelmed and uninterested. 4/10

La Horde

la_horde_xlgLa Horde is a film that I’ve been looking at for a while, but negative reviews have kept me at bay. Something I’m a little ashamed about because despite a handful of obvious flaws, La Horde is a Zombie flick that does an admiral job keep its head above water. La Horde would have done better at this if they had chucked off the more annoying characters, rather than make them front and center. But I’ll complain about that later. The idea behind the film is great and the zombies really add to the film, over being just fodder.

The film opens with officers Ouessem (Jean-Pierre Martins), Tony (Antoine Oppenheim), Aurore (Claude Perron), and Jimenez (Aurelien Recoing) going rogue assaulting an abandoned apartment complex to kill local drug dealer Adewale (Eriq Ebouaney) for the murder of a fellow officer. When they arrive to his door their surprise assault is ruined by an overzealous squatter as their information that he was alone was wrong as Adewale has his little brother Bola (Doudou Masta) and Seb (Sebastien Peres) with some cronies in tow.  This is where the film gets good because this when the zombies show up, as at this exact moment is when the dead rise to consume the living. The cops and gangsters are now forced to band together to fight their way down the besieged complex by the dead closing in on all sides. Both sides quickly lose people, until only Ouessem, Aurore, Seb, Bola and Adewale remain. Luckily they run across Rene (Yves Pignot), another resident of the hotel, an old semi-senile war veteran. Who also happens to be a zombie killing machine, that also happens to know the layout of building inside and out. With hard feelings and tensions running high can the group put their differences aside to escape the complex?

I love zombie films because they’re basically modern westerns. Small groups cut off from outside help are forced to fight off overwhelming odds and since the films are all the same principle. It’s the characters and their motivations that make the film work… or don’t. As is the case here, as most of the characters are simply awful. But luckily Rene is in this film for a long portion and Yves Pignot really makes all the scenes he’s in work.

I liked the derelict apartment complex… which is more a tower than a complex now that I think about it. It provides a great backdrop and the poor tenants that remained after the building was condemned add a great deal of character to the otherwise drab backdrop.

The zombies are, well zombies. Yannick Dahan and Benjamin Rocher (the films directors) didn’t try to reinvent the wheel here. My only issue is are the characters in this film the only people left? Because I can’t but help think that there are a lot of zombies in an abandoned part of town. I mean this is hours into the zombie apocalypse here.

Final thoughts, a fun zombie flick, but meh as a functional horror film. Rene is the best part of this film, and the fluctuating level of bad assery displayed by the zombie varies greatly. Which gets really annoying. But that might just be me. Anyway, as far as engaging story or characters La Horde is a bit thin. But if you want semi-mindless zombie action, as there are strong attempts here and there that just fall flat, than give this a watch. 5/10

Witching & Bitching

downloadPicked by pure chance Witching & Bitching took full advantage of the blank slate I went in as. I was very impressed with this film, although it does have some tiny flaws. But only tiny ones. Mostly I have nothing but praise for this film, as like I said I’m impressed and I’m not the only one. With Witching & Bitching or Las brujas de Zugarramurdi winning eight awards at the 28th Goya Awards. Most being awards for the films technical achievements. All of which Witching & Bitching most certainly earned. Mostly what I loved about this film as the Dark Comedy aspects, while the repeated reminders that the films about gender politics being what I loved least.

Las brujas de Zugarramurdi aka Witching & Bitching opens with three witches Graciana (Carmen Maura),  Maritxu (Terele Pavez) and Eva (Carolina Bang) reading the future. Which comes off as bit crazy with Christ, a green man, a sponge a taxi and the chosen one all being referenced. We then get introduced to Jose (Hugo Silva), who while dressed as Christ robs a pawn shop/gold store with his ten-year old son Sergio (Gabriel Angel Delgado). They are joined during the robbery by their accomplice Tony (Mario Casas), who’s painted and dressed up as a green army man. Though after he enters the store the robbery quickly turns south, forcing the three men to flee with their stolen loot. But Tony’s girlfriend leaves them behind, taking off alone in the getaway car. So they jump into a taxi driven by Manuel (Jaime Ordonez) and force him to drive them to France. On the way the stuff the man who was in the taxi before them in the trunk. While fleeing to France, Jose’s ex-wife Silvia (Macarena Gomez) is contacted by police investigators Pacheco (Secun de la Rosa) and his partner Calvo (Pepon Nieto), who tell her about her son’s involvement in the robbery and even show her security footage. She handles the information about as well as one would expect. Silvia runs from the police station, jumps in her car and heads after them tracking her son’s phone. Back with Jose and the others, having grown tired and hungry, they stop at a restaurant run by Maritxu, where they learn that they are near the boarder. Which is just past the nearby town of Zugarramurdi, a town inhabited by witches, according to Manuel. After being thoroughly creeped out they jump back in the taxi and head for the border. On the way, in their haste they hit Maritxu who has somehow gotten ahead of them. They remove a necklace of keys from her neck before she disappears.  Thoroughly freaked out they jump back into the car and head out reaching the town. Where they encounter Graciana, who is looking for her mother Maritxu and guilt the men into driving her home. When they arrive, they meet Eva and given a tour of the home, with Jose quickly losing track of his son Sergio. After managing to break away from Eva he eventually finds him with the aid of Graciana, stuffed in an oven being cooked by Maritxu. Jose frees his son and the group flees the house and in the processes, setting down the bag of stolen rings. Once they reach the boarder Jose realizes he’s left the ring behind forcing the men to return to the house of witches…

This film covers a lot of ground and makes good use of the time it does. The characters are fairly well fleshed out, using time spent in the taxi to develop characters. The least fleshed out are actually the witches which is kind of sad, but even they get plenty with rituals, dinners and bits of their family history sprinkled throughout.

I would be lying if I said anything but Carolina Bang was my favorite part. While her character has some strange character development, and the job she does is fantastic and I couldn’t be happier with the job she did.

Like I said earlier, the battle of the sex’s angle got old for me very fast. I do like the relationship between Jose, Sergio and Silvia. It feels like a real relationship and does try to down play the situation. Initially. All the women are witches/evil, and all of them are buffoons/idiots. The worst part is that the subject is focal, but is never given proper resolution in my opinion.

Final thoughts, there’s a lot going on in this movie. Heck, there are whole characters I didn’t cover that are amazing. Luismi, Eva’s brother, played by Javier Botet is fantastic and I wish his character didn’t come on so close to the end. The effects are fun, though a bit cheesy at times and kept reminding me of The Witches. Overall this is a very fun film, that gets a little redundant but stays fun and was well worth the time spent. 9/10