thirty one days of horror part 4

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October 10: Train to Busan. 

SHOULD I? Status: Please, Definitely, Do Watch

Listen up, people. This movie is so good it deserved its own post.

This Korean-language film provides a fresh take on zombies, I mean a fresh take like no other. I hadn’t necessarily considered zombie films played out before, but I certainly didn’t see their appeal. My sister’s the zombie girl; I’m more of a haunted house sort of person. Zombie movies just never really introduced anything new to me; they seemed rather limited in their scope of the supernatural problem.

Train to Busan revolutionized zombies for me. Here, for once, we have a zombie film with equal parts gore and heart; in this film it feels like there’s something truly at stake, and the outcome isn’t clear from the start. In fact, the outcome still isn’t clear 10 minutes from the film’s ending. I loved it. My sister and I have been recommending it to friends heavily.

Please, please watch Train to Busan – you might even thank me for it.

– 2016; Netflix

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thirty one days of horror part 3

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October 7: The Craft: This is a classic that’s worth revisiting every couple of years or six. I bit my teeth on 90s-witchy-magic films and series like this (see Charmed, Angel, Buffy, anyone?) and so it feels like home. That being said, there isn’t that much which is terribly original or terribly finely done here. – 1996; Netflix


October 8: Raw: Now, Raw was more of an interesting kind of movie. It’s a French language film, which made my viewing partner happy (as we are watching through several languages now which makes us very multi-cultural). This film was different enough that I did a fair bit of research online about its critical reception and interpretation. I would say there is a fair amount of jump/body/gore horror, which I am not a fan of. However, as a whole, the film is interesting and worth watching. I’m not sure how great it hangs together, as either a whole or a whole horror movie, but it’s certainly decent enough. This is sort of a zombie film. – 2016; French language; Netflix


October 9: The Rezort: This was a re-watch for me. It remained OK. It wasn’t terrible, it was a relatively different way to approach zombies, except the movie really is “Jurassic Park but with zombies, not dinosaurs” – most heavily in the first half but the impact is felt even through the score. – 2015; Netflix


 

thirty one days of horror part 2

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October 3rd: A Nightmare Before Christmas. An all-ages-adored classic, need I say any more? Absolutely recommended – 1993; Netflix


October 4th: The Presence. German-language haunted house found-footage film in which the guys are jerks and the girl ends up with the shrapnel from them.  Is that enough sub-genres for you, by the by? – 2014; Netflix


October 5th: Out of the Dark. Billed as a horror movie, but in the same way that dark Baltic films about forced teenage prostitution brothels are categorized as “horror.” Keep your grim realities with linear causes, effects, and scientific explanations out of my dark twisted jump fantasies. Honestly, couldn’t get into the movie, and lost interest halfway through in favor of talking over the TV to my sister (faithful 31 days of horror companion) about anything and everything else. – 2014; Julia Stiles; Netflix


October 6th: Scary Movie 2. The first time I’d actually seen this movie. I heartily enjoyed it. This Scary Movie spoofs haunted houses/haunted house movies in general, leveraging the horror insta-classic The Haunting as both a rich field for satire and primary skeleton for plot. David Cross pre-Arrested Development is neurotic, delightful: in short, hasn’t yet become overdone. Recommended  – 2001; David Cross; Netflix

thirty one days of horror

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October 1st, yesterday: *Gerald’s Game.* Quite good for a movie with about three actors, and a Netflix original. I heartily recommend. Having read the book years ago, I was intrigued to see how Netflix dealt with a plot which spent about 75% of its time on one woman trapped in one room with just her thoughts. I’m happy to report that the movie manages this brilliantly. The story is remarkably fast-paced and engaging when you consider this limitation; ignoring it, the movie exists as an impressive, cohesive, and yes, lingeringly terrifying tale of horror. – 2017; Netflix


October 2: 1) *The Reapening.* Biblical plagues and overly religious Southern towns. Pretty good, but the twist isn’t that surprising. Do recommend. – 2007; Hilary Swank; Netflix

2) *The Bar* – Spanish language horror comedy. Pacing is good, plot is twistingly interesting, and I enjoy the classic capsule episode feel. Sci-fi-esque and gov-conspiracy-lite, too. – 2017; Netflix

 

DEAD SET

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SHOULD I? Status: Would Watch

Availability: On Netflix

Zombies + Big Brother. British accents, a collection of cads. Who’ll be killed off next?

THE QUICK & DIRTY DEETS

  • No CGI, moderate jump scares
  • Zombie genre, NOT found footage, surprisingly
  • Zombie Deets: moderate speed, not daylight sensitive, drawn to ?? energy??, life??, not sound-oriented
  • Black humor

Bechdel? NOT SURE Blackdel? YES

THOTS

I really liked the concept of Dead Set; it’s about what happens on the Big Brother set when a zombie outbreak infects England. When I saw that, I started the miniseries immediately. That’s right – Dead Set isn’t a movie but a 5-part miniseries. Don’t let Netflix fool you with its “1 season” garbage. The series was released in 2005 and besides, Episode 5 doesn’t leave much room for hope.

Overall, I think Dead Set is a success. There’s a wide variety of personalities across the characters, who are complex while also believable. The unfolding zombie drama is interspersed with enough short flashes of comedy to lighten the tone, at times, somewhat. That’s a needful thing in this grim scenario, where nearly all our surviving characters are trapped on a set with no outside world contact and no knowledge or hope that anyone else is alive out there.

Because the characters have such strong personalities, the audience gets a nice glimpse into several possible reactions and different characters’ attempts to come to grips with their new situation. This is pretty satisfying, as it provides multiple options for any internal “What would I do?” which might be happening.

However, Dead Set isn’t a total home run. The major problem is, simply, time. Over the series’ first two hours(4 episodes), a lot of care is given to characterization, development, and connecting with the audience. This is successful; the first four episodes are genuinely interesting, build on each other, and increase their hold on our attention. Unfortunately, that leaves 30 minutes to deliver the whole of a satisfying conclusion, and that just doesn’t happen here. It’s a tall order, to be sure. Instead, the 5th episode devolves into shrieks and conflict noises so quickly as to become shrill, and the dialogue devolves until you might as well spare your ears and turn the volume down. Watch it if you’re want to, if you’re really really curious, but I found it a total turn-off.

If you like Big Brother, you’ll get a kick out of Dead Set.

A CHRISTMAS HORROR ANTHOLOGY

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Would Watch

Available on Netflix

Watch William Shatner return to his roots in this surprising holiday anthology.

THE QUICK & DIRTY DEETS

  • Moderate jump scares, moderate-high CGI
  • Surprisingly large cast in this expansive, multi-genre collection
  • Blackdel: Y / Bechdel: N

THOTS

Join William Shatner as the appealing “Dangerous Dan,” a local radio station DJ, as he broadcasts his way through Christmas in annual tradition. While Dan drinks, opines, and keeps those classics coming, A Christmas Horror Anthology cycles through four concurrent small-town tales. Basically, the film provides a peep into several lives, as their stories progress over 12 hours or so from Christmas Eve into Christmas. Admittedly, it doesn’t help to consider this construct too hard: it’s difficult to believe anyone with a kid would wait until Christmas Eve to obtain a tree; maybe less so, yet still specious, imagining that 3 teenagers would use the day to finish a school project. Surely, they’re on holiday. But I speak this on removal. In the movie universe, small errors such as these are easy to gloss over. They don’t impair the film.

Many of the horror anthologies I’ve seen have stories which are barely, if at all, interrelated: V/H/S, V/H/S 2, The ABCs of Death 1 (and 2?), Holidays, and The Theatre Bizarre are all evidence. Sometimes there’s a frame narrative to explain this; sometimes there isn’t. When there is, the strength of that narrative tends to vary. A Christmas Anthology provides a pleasant variance from these traits. Including the frame, the movie presents five related narratives using a small-town, everyone-knows-everyone herringbone weave. It gives the collection a very “jes’ folks” feel I enjoyed.

It’s always fun with anthologies to try to kind of crunch some numbers and see if there are any common themes or genres or sort of general bents among the stories. In this film’s established universe, everyone is deeply flawed. Even happy endings have a cost. This seems to imply that, when bad things happen to people, they tend to deserve it – except for the frame tale, which ponders the randomness of fate’s pain. It’s fun to look a little too deep like this. Just keep a little skepticism about planning and intent.

If you’re going to watch a holiday horror movie, A Christmas Horror Anthology’s a pleasant use of your time.

KRAMPUS

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SHOULD I? STATUS: Would Watch

Available for Comcast or Verizon OnDemand Rental (Verizon’s cheaper)

This moral tale’s more like Black Christmas than the Nightmare Before, despite its apparent family-friendly vibe.

I guess I may be a little late to the game on this one; Krampus came out for the holiday season last year. I remember my little sister was positively amped for its theatrical release. I’d been intrigued by the trailers as well. However, we neither managed to watch it until this last week, spurred on by Thanksgiving and the fresh set of winter holidays. 

Krampus turned out pleasantly worth the watch.

Here’s an “I’ll be honest:” I expected a more lighthearted affair. Indeed, Krampus’ first 30 minutes strongly echo the bumbling, comedic feel one can find in seasonal classics like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, maybe a little The Grinch minus its Whoville trappings – you know, that sort of innocent evil story-for-all-ages vibe. The multifold family members which constitute the film’s cast effectively elicit its audience’s empathy and rueful chagrin in addition to a healthy dusting of chuckles. And boy, what an intelligent approach this is to these despicable twelve, Krampus’ consanguineous dirty dozen: here’s a bunch of humans with spades of conflict between them, plus enough off-putting personality traits to count on both hands (and none may need share), but the director still needs to make us, the audience, like them. We need to root for these petty savages. They win us over in two equal parts; with the relatable aggravations that dog all mid-size families, colored in just-broad-enough cartoonish strokes. Paint strife funny and no one will scapegoat anyone for it too much.

Once we get to know everybody, and kind of like ‘em even if we hate ‘em, Krampus reveals it has gloves on beneath the cheer. With one hard hook, this film gets its shit real real, real quick.

Turns out this isn’t National Lampoon after all: no one’s lives are at stake in that holiday comedy. Same with The Grinch and sure, Nightmare Before Christmas, even – since both of these deal in fairy tales, the mind begs to compare and equate Krampus with such fluff. I was frankly shocked at the film’s first character death/disappearance. “I didn’t think this was that sort of movie,” I commented to a friend. “I didn’t think, you know, they’d actually kill anyone.”

From that point, Krampus doesn’t let up. While the serious horror treatment was a surprise, initially, and maybe just to me (maybe I forgot the tone of the trailers, or something), I have to applaud it. I didn’t expect Krampus to put anything real at stake. After all, it was a horror movie, but it was a Christmas movie, too. In my experience horror-Christmas movies tend to 15% horror, 85% gingerbread, tinsel, and loads of at-the-end, good-feels. Not so, Krampus, and it’s both the surprising of my expectation and the serious-ness of its scare which, at the end of the day, have won me over. I have no reservations. I recommend Krampus to you utterly.

If you feel in need of an antidote to angels, cherubs, carolers with rosy cheeks and Auld Lang Syne anytime in the next six weeks, then I say cue Krampus right on up.