Zombie

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

Re-Kill

I can honestly say I did not enjoy this movie. I like the idea behind it, but the execution was way off. The idea of reality tv in a zombie apocalypse about those that are hunting down and eliminating what’s left of the zombie threat. Though I will admit that this film isn’t completely without merit. While it was unable to capitalize on it, Re-Kill does actually have a really good concept and some of the characters are interesting. But just some of them.

Re-Kill is reality tv show that follows Division 6, a group of soldiers tasked with handling the zombie threat. The group consists of Nyguyen (Yo Santhaveesuk), Omar Hernandez (Jesse Garcia), Winston (Bruce Payne), “Grizzly” Adams (Dimiter Doichinov), Trent Parker (Scott Adkins), Tom (Layke Anderson), and Rose Mathews (Daniella Alonso), who are all led by Sarge (Roger Cross). To film and narrate the show drops in Jimmy (Aaron Jay Rome) and Bobby (Owen Davis). The show follows their exploits, which eventually leads them into a walled-off section of New York known as The Zone an a highly dangerous mission. The group responded negativity to the orders as almost no one comes back from The Zone…

My main issue with Re-Kill is that it has commercials for this zombie apocalypse during “the show”. I get that it should make it feel more immersive. But it doesn’t its jarring and ruins the films pacing and delivery. It also steals away valuable time that should be used on developing the characters. Something this film desperately needed. As a lot of the characters feel like cardboard cut outs. From the religious solider to the scared camera guys, everyone felt incredibly shallow. Which sucks because the interview parts were among the best because you get learn about the characters and this hell world they live in.

The other issues I have aren’t as major. The lack of a strong dread location being one of them. The Zone feels incredibly generic and offers nothing in the memorability. I enjoy zombies films that have solid dread locations, farm houses, shopping malls, Bill Murray’s house, ect. But here the best they got is a grey, dark, industrial complex.

The pacing is also awful. But this is related again to the commercials. As any time that Re-Kill starts to build its tension it cuts to a commercials. Which brings the movie to sudden stop, while providing little to the plot.

Final thoughts, it just wasn’t that good. Re-Kill is a bunch of standard zombie tropes and ideas thrown together with a pretty neat concept. Because like I said I do like the concept. But that alone is about the extent of what I do like. The characters are shallow, the location is boring and the zombies are never really explored beyond zombies. Not a film that I plan on watching again. 3/10

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

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

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

Freaks of Nature

mv5bmtk2mtmymtezn15bml5banbnxkftztgwnte0mdywnze-_v1_uy1200_cr9006301200_al_I’m conflicted here, as I genuinely liked aspects of this film. But it’s so much a debacle? Boondoggle? Clusterf#$k? One of those three to be sure, if not all three. Freaks of Nature seems to just throw everything it can think of at the wall and see what sticks and what doesn’t. Very little sticks. The few highlights of the film for me that I loved were the character moments that showed a certain level of thought went into writing this film. Though I feel that what was intended didn’t come across or translate to the screen correctly.

Freaks of Nature takes place in the town of Dillford. Which is inhabited by humans, vampires and zombies. Dag Parker (Nicholas Braun) is a high school guy, with standard tv high school problems. Like being into the hot girl Lorelei (Vanessa Hudgens) whose your friend but don’t know how to express how he feels. Petra Lane (Mackenzie Davis) and her vampire boyfriend Milan (Ed Westwick) decided to go “all the way”. Unfortunately Petra and Milan misunderstand each other as Petra thinks he means sex when he means feeding on her. Resulting in Petra turning into a vampire after being bitten. Ned Mosely (Josh Fadem) is the uncool smart kid. His teachers work against him to crush he dreams of leaving this small town and his parents show blatant favoritism for his athletic older brother. With his future looking grim Ned lets himself be bitten by a zombie. As a means of escaping. As it happens all three go to the same high school. But as their high school dramas unfold aliens show up. This drives the tensions between the groups boil over as one group accuses for the aliens arrival. This leads up to a town wide melee, neighbor against neighbor. But as the aliens enter the fight until on Dag, Petra and Zombie Ned are left to stop them and save their town.

I liked the subtext of the vampire and zombie story lines. The vampire substituting for STIs and the zombie stepping in for depression and the sense of hopelessness. Both approach these subtly. Well not so much with the vampire one..

The acting isn’t so bad. Vanessa Hugens, Keegan-Michael Key, Ian Roberts and Mackenzie Davis are amazing fun to watch and do a great job. Bob Odenkirk and Joan Cusack delightful together. However Nicholas Braun is the films main characters and I am not a Nicholas Braun fan. With each film of his I watch, the less of him I want to see. That said he’s the one with an acting career, so he has to be doing something right.

My main issue is that this film tries to do way to much. With the zombie, the vampire and aliens on top of a high school drama(s). It all becomes a bit to much, resulting in everything fighting for your attention. Causing just about everything to come out feeling bland.

Final thoughts. I loved the numerous horror tropes that was worked in. That’s basically all this film is, horror and high school drama tropes are slammed together. But since the film isn’t taking its self seriously, I find it hard to be to critical of it. Freaks of Nature as parts that are worth looking into on a deeper level, while at the same time can be enjoyed as just a silly film. But for my personal views on the end product, I would have to say 4/10.

Night of the Living Deb

night_of_the_living_deb_xlgI wen’t into this film mostly blind. I knew it was a Rom-Com and that it had zombies. Funny thing, while watching this film I kept thinking “This feels a lot like Infestation”, which turns out is because it’s by the same director, Kyle Rankin. Looking back at it my only real issue with Infestation was that it was trying to be a zombie film without the zombies. Night of the Living Deb fixes that by being about zombies. Well, zombies and romance.

Night of the Living Deb, opens in a bar on the eve before the Fourth of July in Portland, Maine. Deb Clarington (Maria Thayer) is talked into making moves on a hot guy in the bar by her close friend Ruby (Julie Brister). Deb has a rough start to the conversation with the hottie, Ryan Waverly (Michael Cassidy). Though her fortunes change when Ryan’s girlfriend, Stacy (Syd Wilder) breaks up with him. This, along with the copious amount of drinkings allows for an awkward morning after. When Deb wakes in Ryan’s bed the next morning leads to an awkward exchange and Deb tries to keep his interest. Even as Ryan forces her from his apartment, into a burgeoning Zombie Apocalypse.Deb and Ryan are quickly forced back together as Ryan’s apartment is the only safe haven. After taking an assessment of the situation the pair decides to head to Ryan’s father’s home. On the way Deb stops at Ruby’s shop to check on her, only to find that she has been turned into a zombie. So she does what any friend would do, trap her in the trunk of her car in case a cure is found later. When they arrive at Ryan’s fathers house, Deb meets Ryan’s brother Chaz (Chris Marquette) and his father Frank (Ray Wise). Also, Stacy, who has been there since the previous night. Things get awkward again when Stacy tries to get back Ryan, and worse when Frank learns that Deb works for the news…

My favorite things about this film is undoubtedly Ray Wise. Who basically reprises his role from infestation. Which isn’t a bad thing. He and Chris Marquette have great chemistry once again, as looking back their chemistry in Infestation was the best part. Here they bring that same level of energy and charm.

Beyond Ray Wise there was only one performance that I really liked and that was Maria Thayer. But it took a while for her to grow on me. I’m not sure if was that her performance softened or if her writing improved as the film progressed. Up until they reach Frank’s house I found her character annoying and almost insufferable. Though after that point she became a character I actually found myself oddly behind.  Her forced geek humor gave way to a more human performance that felt more like how a person might actually act.

If you pay attention you might have noticed I love me some Rom-Coms. I could easily go as far as to say that Rom-Coms are my second favorite genre, a distant second to horror. But second all the same. Here I was less than impressed with the Rom-Com aspects as they often come as forced. This is due to the dull and mediocre chemistry between the leads. A problem that the film never quite gets under control.

Final thoughts, I actually really loved it. The B-Movie camp shows in such a way that I can’t help but be suckered in by it. I know I gave Infestation a less than stellar review, but time and the over a hundred films since then has made a big difference.  The low-budget and Ray Wise really add a fun charge to this film that I can’t deny. Most of the parts of this jive together rather well and those that don’t I can easily forgive. Night of the Living Deb was easily good enough to make me want to dip more into Kyle Rankin’s work. 7.5/10