zombie apocalypse

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

Advertisements

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

Zombie Hunter

Zombie-Hunter-Movie2k

Classified as an Action/Thriller and sometimes as an Action/Comedy/Sci-fi I bought it from the horror section of my local video store so I’m going count it. Even if Zombie Hunter didn’t have Danny Trejo starring in it I would of probably have picked it up anyway on the grounds that zombie movies are my bread and butter. Written and directed by Kevin King and is in fact his sole film credit according to IMDB. Zombie Hunter fell short of its needed budget for its special effects. So they turned to Kickstarter and raised 46254$ enough to complete the feature.

The film follows Hunter (Martin Copping) one year after the zombie apocalypse in the Utah desert. After gassing up at a gas station infested with zombies he gets shot while driving by an unknown assailant wrecking his car. He awakes in the care of a group of survivors led by Father Jesus (Danny Trejo) to learn he was shot by one of their members Lyle (Jake Suazo). Two of the members Debbie (Jade Regier) and Alison (Clare Niederpruem) both take a liking to him… for some reason. After gathering his strength he meets the rest of the group including Lyle whom he doesn’t and demands he takes him to his car the following morning. When he arrives to find the car undrivable after killing a hand full of zombies to retrieve a photo of his deceased family then returns to the group. Hunter sleeps with Alison while Lyle and Debbie start to go that same route until Lyle is killed and eaten. The compound is over run by zombies along with the mutated monsters they evolve into and the group is forced to flee. During the attack Father Jesus perishes while fighting the mutated zombie. Hunter now finds himself as the new team leader and is forced to take care of the rest the crew as they try to find a safe haven. Which is harder then it sounds as they are all terrible survivors and fall victim to a insane clown with a chainsaw. The films climax takes place a airplane hanger and in classic horror fashion nearly all perish.

Zombie Hunter is pure low brow humor complete with a stripper pole dance and repeated cliche lines like “I’m getting to old for this shit”.Hell they even throw in a chainsaw chase scene for good measure. In one word Zombie Hunter is entertaining, if not super campy. In fact the camp is the main selling point for this film. It even has smattering of blatant self promotion as in one scene the back wall has posters for Orcs! and Usombie hung prominently. Both films were made by Arrowstorm Entertainment. The film has decent gore throughout the whole film which I while over the top fit the feel of the movie as a whole. Which is odd as much of the film pauses to flash up pink freeze frames that function as a title card adding to the films semi-comic book feel.

The terrible CGI monster is more than a bit much and weakened the film as whole. The monster wasn’t even necessary and could have been easily replaced with any number of the films other threats for our protagonists.

The acting is so bad its bearable. The only actor that delivers an above water performance is Trejo.  He’s in the film for a short period so enjoy the momentary reprieve when hes on screen while you can. The rest of the cast acting is simply awful but hits that level that it becomes acceptable and even grossly entertaining.

So whats my final say on Zombie Hunter? Well at the end of the day it falls short of what ever meager goals it had. But like many low budget films you can tell the actors are having fun. This in turn makes the film oddly enjoyable and entertaining. The film  does succeed at producing a few moment of dread before the film manages to squash them. So as a horror film Zombie Hunter is a failure but as a vehicle for entertainment It manages to succeed due to a lot of charm and tongue in cheek humor. So I have to give Zombie Hunter a pass and would recommended to hard core zombie fans 7/10.

The Battery

greg_bunbury_the_battery_posterThe Battery is a low budget film written, directed and staring Jeremy Gardner. When I say low budget I mean it, filmed on the meager budget of 6000$. But don’t let that deter you for this amazing movie. The Battery in 2013 won the Audience Award for Best Feature at Dead by Dawn the Scotland’s International Horror Film Festival.

Now I’m a zombie fan. Even as a kid I fell in love with the genre and my love of it has stuck with me. Night of the Living Dead (the 1990 remake directed by horror god Tom Savini. I didn’t the see the original till I was in my early 20s) and Return of the Living Dead 3 hold a special place in my memory as two of my favorite childhood horror films. So it’s no surprise that I liked this film. What surprised me was how much I liked this film.

The whole movie came together amazingly. The wonderful score and I do mean wonderful is a major part why I enjoyed it so much. This is one of those movies that will grace my house when I’m busy cleaning or otherwise distracted. The music is just that good. Almost all of it is heard exclusively through the perspective of the characters. I’ve seen this done before in other movies but I’ve never seen it used as effectively as it is here.

Coupled with the films use of wide open spaces often of idyllic countryside it becomes easy to forget that your watching a zombie movie. In fact the first two thirds of the movie have more of a journey of self discovery feel to me then that of a zombie flick. That is until last 30 minutes of the film when that tone shifts. Now taking place almost exclusively in the back of a station-wagon surrounded by the undead. This change made me feel claustrophobic like I was trapped in the back of station-wagon with Ben and Mickey.

The film follows two former baseball players Ben (played by Jeremy Gardner) and Mickey (played by Adam Cronheim) some time after zombie apocalypse.  Out of the two of them I enjoyed Bens character the most. He displayed common sense and a willingness to do what was needed to survive. Mickey on the hand kind of grated on me a bit. As the film progressed I found myself warming up to him so he’s not that bad. Not that I would ever want him with me in a zombie apocalypse. Mickeys character had a sense of detachment and childlike behavior at times made him less sympathetic with me. It was Ben who carried most of this film for me. So it’s a good thing that it has such a small cast. Five actors play as survivors then a couple of dozen as zombies Not that any character beside Ben and Mickey get much screen time, the combined screen time of the other actors is around 15 minutes. That’s it so get used to the two protagonists. Ben and Mickeys interaction comes across very natural to me. I had no problems believing that these two were friends and found my self rooting for them. In most zombie films I more often then not find myself rooting for the zombies. So it’s a bit of a treat for me to be cheering on the humans for a change.

Another thing with this film that stuck all the right cords with me is the sense of realism. I think this is largely due to the short shooting period, being filmed in 15 days. But there were a few points where I found some issues. The biggest being a scene in which Ben pets a cow on the other side of a fence. The only reason this scene bothered me is that domesticated cows would have perished with out there human owners by this point. But the scene does have a very optimistic feel that’s often lacking in apocalyptic settings.

So what to give the zombie film that exceeded all my expectations? Mickeys character and a few scenes fall a little flat for me and the gore left a bit to be desired. But gore isn’t what this films about. This film is about Ben and Mickey. I’m going to give The Battery a solid 9/10. Now giving a 9 to Fright Night in my last review I don’t want to give the impression I’m a generous scorer. The Battery is a great film that’s more than worth a watch and more than deserving of it.

The Battery is currently for sale on a number of digital platforms or you could buy it here at he movies official site for low price of 5$.

http://watch.thebatterymovie.com/

(PS. The characters are named after mice. I shit you not Ben is from Willard, Mickeys is blatant. Jerry gets his name from Tom & Jerry and Annie gets hers from the Annie Mouse Books written by Annie M. Slanina.)