Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

MV5BMjA4MDA4NzAzN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTQ3MTA1OTE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,740_AL_Horror is a forgiving genre. Fans do not expect perfection; they generally do not nitpick to excess. They are adept at overlooking minor flaws such as bad acting, lack of logic, and narratives that take a sudden 90-degree turn at the end out of sheer desperation. All they ask is is to keep the pace up, keep the scares coming, and when in doubt, at least keep it weird. The one filmmaking error that cannot be forgiven in horror is when the movie is just flat-out boring. (more…)

Train to BusanRap versus rock. The designated hitter or pitchers batting. And, of course, the most contentious of arguments pitting fans of a classic approach against a band of upstarts: slow-moving zombies or their quick-footed brethren.

These are the unresolvable debates of our time. And while the Korean horror action flick Train to Busan (aka Busanhaeng) will not end the vitriol, advocates for a more fleet flock of undead have received a major boost from writer/director Yeon Sang-ho. In his first live-action feature film, Yeon has crafted a thrilling ride through a society sliding into the zombie apocalypse, utilizing a passenger train as his literal and metaphorical vehicle. (more…)

NerveNerve had the good fortune to be released in the same week that Pokémon Go may have crested. The underlying conceit of the film is that a game app for smart phones could be so alluring that it would drive users outside to play it. What once could have been dismissed as satiric science fiction is now an established fact. If you doubt the potential power of apps, go to any urban area and watch for the folks holding their phones slightly above waist level as they shuffle forward and swipe, occasionally breaking the spell to shout, “I got a Jigglypuff!”

The app in the film is called Nerve, but it could be called Dare or I Bet You. Users register as players or watchers (the latter forking over $19.99 for a 24-hour window). Players are challenged to complete tasks directly tied to personal phobias culled from data mining online profiles. Predictably, there’s a good bit of being in public naked and almost falling off tall buildings. Complete the dare and a deposit is made in your bank account. Fail or bail, and you lose everything. Oh, and don’t forget – snitches get stitches, so don’t tell your mom or the cops. (more…)

ViralLike a parasite or a particularly unpleasant invasive species, venereal horror can be a nasty and truly gruesome phenomenon – if done properly. The source of the horror can spring from the earth or drop in from outer space. The result can be sex crazed maniacs, hopped-up zombies, or just any non-specific antisocial and lethal behavior, but the motivation of the creature that results from the infection is simple: survive and multiply. Prime examples in this sub-genre are David Cronenberg’s Shivers and John Carpenter’s The Thing. Viral is closer in its DNA to Cronenberg’s film than Carpenter’s, but whereas Shivers was full frontal venereal horror, Viral is the equivalent of just holding hands.

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The WailingThe Wailing is a film that works – almost in spite of itself. It plays footsie with several genre conventions, while outright flouting others. It’s a horror movie that runs for 156 minutes. It’s a police procedural with an overweight, adulterous barely competent cop on the periphery of the investigation. One moment, The Wailing is about as subtle as a rake stuck in the head of a zombie (an actual image from the movie), and the next, it is as enigmatic as the mysteries of the world’s religions. It’s a Hitchcock mystery. No, it’s a gruesome hunt for a serial killer. Wait, it’s a biblical allegory.

You could spend the entire post film discussion arguing about the proper categorization for this latest offering from director/screenwriter Na Hong-jin, and not even have time remaining for a discussion of what the movie’s epigram from the Book of Luke means when it is uttered by a character in the denouement. (more…)

Pat-Garrett-Billy-the-KidMore people have heard the stories behind the making of Sam Peckinpah’s last Western, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, than have seen the film – or so it seems. Made by a director in an alcoholic haze with the antipathy of studio bosses, the film has become the stuff of legends, punctuated by the apocraphyl tale of Peckinpah urinating all over the screen after a viewing of the dailies. Faced with a production that was over budget and behind schedule, the studio yanked control and hurried a version far from the director’s vision into theaters where it was panned. The film has been “rediscovered” twice since its initial release, with a “preview” edition in 1988 and a “special” edition in 2005. The AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland recently screened the special edition, simultaneously confirming AFI as the premiere conservator of America’s cinematic legacy and the film’s unique brilliance. (more…)

Dragon InnToo often lost in the hype surrounding anniversary re-releases and 4K restorations of classic films is whether these movies still maintain a contemporary entertainment value or are they of interest only to cinephiles and film school students. So far in 2015, we have seen the 75th anniversary release of The Maltese Falcon and a return to theaters of the 1954 classic, On The Waterfront. Not only are these two movies among the most influential in film history, both remain riveting cinema and still hold the power to enthrall a mainstream audience. (more…)