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

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

Killer Mermaid

91BKhDN7ssL._SL1500_I actually like this movie and have no clue why Killer Mermaid, aka Nymph, Aka Mamula is so lowly rated. It’s a B-Movie that’s basically a slasher with a killer mermaid thrown in the mix making it a creature feature. I’ve had my eye on this film for a couple of months, but that low rating kept me away. Something I now regret. While the plot is very straight forward and about as generic as you can get at times. It stays fun and easy to watch. Which are the films I honestly prefer, being a bit of a philistine.

Killer Mermaid opens with the generic naughty teenagers parking by the water. When the man gets entranced walking into the sea. Where he gets drowned by something lurking beneath the waves. The girl is killed by an unknown assailant with a giant three-pronged hook. We are then transitioned to Kelly (Kristina Klebe) and her friend Lucy (Natalie Burn), who are on vacation in Montenegro to visit their old friend from college Alex (Slobodan Stefanovic). Lucy is also hoping to rekindle her’s and Alex’s old relationship. A hope that seems dashed upon arrival when Alex introduces them to his fiance Yasmin (Sofija Rajovic). Not being an idiot Yasmin picks up on the sexual tension and calls them out on it over dinner. But the two insist that they were only friends and the night shifts to more of party atmosphere. After Yasmin throws up and retires for the evening and Kelly leaves for a walk, Alex and Lucy do rekindle their old relationship. The next day is a tour of the area, including an abandoned submarine tunnel, where while swimming the group meets Boban (Dragan Micanovic). A old friend of Yasmin, who she invites to dinner. At dinner they plan the days activities, when it gets suggested they explore the abandoned island that used to be an old prison. While planning they’re interrupted by Sergej (Janko Cekic), to stay away from the island. As it’s drenched in blood and blood attracts blood. Of course they still go and while exploring the island they witness a man (Miodrag Krstovic) pour blood and limbs down a well. After he leaves Boban convinces Kelly to take photos of the inside of well with her phone for evidence. Something she reluctantly does, which doesn’t reveal gore at the bottom, but a woman (Zorana Kostic Obradovic). But the sound of gunfire pulls the group’s attention from the phone before Kelly and show the image. When they return to the boat, they find it destroyed. Leaving them trapped on an island with a mad man…

Loving Slashers made if very easy for me to get into this film. As it’s very close the to Known sub-type and the only thing I could argue against this film being a slasher is the mermaid. Who is actually the best part of Killer Mermaid. Well, actually her and her protector, because for a character that never speaks Zorana Kostic Obradovic really nails her performance. As I get that this monster does love, which makes it far more real and sympathetic. Which it turn makes it a bit more terrifying.

But the main cast’s characters are paper-thin. Which when coupled with bad the acting makes the film a bit of a slog in places. But the wonderful dread location and the lore laid down around the island with its dark history creates an atmosphere that more than makes up for it. Once you get there about thirty minutes into the film.

The gore effects are well down when they get used. Which is understandably sparingly. So when they do break them out, it feels like they did so right. Except for one or two iffy CGI effects, the effects are far better than I was expecting going in.

My only real issue with this film is the character of Kelly, who is useless. Which is even worse as she Final Girl. A position usually given to the brave, intelligent and cunning. Get tossed onto a character that doesn’t do a single thing to protect herself until the last few moments of the film when everyone who has been doing things for her have died. I cannot express the level of frustration I feel for this character.

Final thoughts, like I said I liked it. Flaws aside it’s entertaining if you go in with somewhat low expectations and allow yourself to be surprised. Killer Mermaid is a great way to kill an evening if cheap B-Movies with a slasher ting is your thing. It’s certainly mine. 7.5/10

Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead

dead-snow-2-red-vs-dead-posterI watched Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead out of pure obligation. Having watched the first film and enjoying it, more than I probably should have in retrospect. While not a complete disappointment it gets pretty close. I hate it when horror comedies decided to drop the horror for their sequels, the Evil Dead films being a notable exception. It’s not only that though Dead Snow 2 also fumbles a lot when it comes to the pacing and overall story telling. With characters that are barely characters and often simply not fun… Alright, they’re a little fun. But only a little. Dead Snow 2 has also cashed out most of it sense of elevated self-awareness for simply more gore. But I’ll get more into the flaws here shortly.

Red vs. Dead picks up where the last film drops off. But not until after a poorly done recap of the previous film. Martin (Vegar Hoel) is being attacked by Herzog (Orjan Gamst) and a horde of his Nazi zombie compatriots. Martin manages to narrowly escape and in the process severs Herzogs arm. At the exact same spot where Martin cut his own off in the last film. Yeah you know where this is going. Martin passes out from either exhaustion or blood loss, my money being on the latter and crashes his car. Marin wakes up an unspecified period of time later handcuffed to a bed and the sole suspect in the murder of his friends. But on a positive the hospital attached Herzogs arm to him thinking it was his severed arm. Which soon as he learns about goes all Idle Hands, resulting in the death of several people before he is subdued and sedated.  Later a young boy, Bobby (Carl-Magnus Adner) sneaks into Martins room after hearing rumors of zombies. Bobby frees Martin and tells him about the Zombie Squad, a group of zombie hunters from America. Before the zombie arm throws Bobby out a window, Martin tries to perform CPR. But the zombie arm instead crushes the boy’s chest. Martin’s zombie arm also kills a cop who tries to stop him from escaping. Martin and the Zombie Squad get in contact, the Zombie Squad agrees to help and travel to Norway. But they ask Martin to find out what the zombies are after. This sends Martin to a museum to uncover more about Herzog where he meets Glenn (Stig Frode Henriksen). Who tells him about Herzog and his final mission he was sent on by Hitler himself to wipe out a local town for its disobedience.  Then the zombies attack the museum killing the tour groups waiting outside. Only Martin and Glenn survive by pretending to be mannequins. The two also bear witness to Herzog’s newest power, the ability to raise others as zombie Nazis. After Herzog and his zombies depart, Martin and Glenn survey the carnage and learn the Martin also possess the power to raise zombies. Though these loyal to him or at least the sidekick he makes (Kristoffer Joner). Who gets killed by the Zombie Squad, Daniel (Martin Starr), Monica (Jocelyn DeBoer) and Blake (Ingrid Hass) when they arrive. But it’s ok because Martin brings him right back. With Martins new power, Daniel hatches a plot to raise Soviet Zombie to battle Herzog, while the others stall for time…

This feels like two different films that got slammed against each other very hard. The strongest horror elements are at the beginning of the film and end soon as Bobby is killed. After that, the film has a sharp tone shift towards humor. Hell during his death it’s played up for laughs. Though once the film abandons all pretense of horror is when it actually starts getting good.

Once again we never get a real explanation about Herzog and his zombies. If nothing else the history gets more convoluted actually. Which was more than a little surprising. Not as surprising as how quickly the story dropped the evil arm cliche sub-plot. Up until he’s hiding from Herzog in the museum it’s all murder happy. After that it’s largely under his control and is never again a serious problem.

The acting is incredibly corny and far campier than I like. All the characters come off as idiots, even the ones that are supposed to be the nerds. Honestly this is where the film stepped down the most from its predecessor.

Final thoughts, Meh? The last half of the film is enjoyable and there are some genuinely funny moments. But is mostly unmemorable. If you liked the first film and wanted to see where things went from there? Sure it’s worth seeing, but not really otherwise. Dead Snow 2: Red vs. Dead is an excellent example of the unworthy sequel. At least it is for me. 4/10