Posts Tagged ‘horror’



USA 2009  Directed by: Ruben Fleischer Script: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick  Produced by: Gavon Polone  Cinematography: Michael Bonvillain  Editing: Peter Amundson & Alan Baumgarten  Music: David Sardy  Cast: Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray

There’s hardly anything more entertaining than a good horror comedy, and ZOMBIELAND is about as good as it gets. Planet Earth is ruled by zombies and the last dudes alive are trying to make it to the holy land: a supposedly zombie-free zone, an amusement park on the west coast. Needless to say that this trip is not a vacation and that it takes more than just guts to make it to the destination alive.

ZOMBIELAND is the most original zombie movie in recent memory, simply because it was about time someone disrupted the “new wave” of the genre which hasn’t added much to what Romero et. al. have done decades ago. Not to forget that even Romero himself isn’t going anywhere new.

Not since Peter Jackson’s early films and especially BRAINDEAD (a.k.a. DEAD ALIVE; and yes, we’re still waiting for the complete & uncut release of this masterpiece, ideally on Blu-Ray) have we seen a funnier, wittier and smarter zombie film than ZOMBIELAND, which may be twisting every possible cliché into a comical situation, but at the same time pays homage to the genre instead making fun of it.

ZOMBIELAND, as we see it, is a much more serious and honest zombie movie than many crappy films claiming to be so totally tough and badass. The gore factor alone doesn’t make a sincere zombie movie, you also need to understand and love the genre. In other words: only when you truly master your subject you can transcend it and apply a perspective of your own that does more than just repeat what’s been there before.

It would be pointless to dwell into each and every funny scene or gory moment here; you’ll have to watch these for yourself for maximum impact. ZOMBIELAND is very much driven by situations, not by a storyline, so as mentioned the movie is playing out its comical moments and twists and turns along the way as it doesn’t have to care much about a complex story. What may not work with other films, the recipe is more than right for ZOMBIELAND. One remark though: the movie is definitely worth watching for the hilarious Bill Murray sequence alone.

ZOMBIELAND proves that dedication to the genre is the key. With just 4 ½ characters and a very basic storyline it manages to entertain us with loads of absolutely great ideas and make for one of the most rewarding movie experiences of 2009. It’s all about the details, just like Harrison’s character Tallahassee says at one point: sometimes you have to enjoy the small things in life.




Thailand 2010  Directed & Written by: Kongkiat Khomsiri  Story: Wisit Sasanatieng  Cast: Arak Amornsupasiri, Chatchai Plengpanich, Sonthaya Chitmanee, Sikarin Polyong, Attapan Poolsawasdi

One of the most ambitious Thai films of late 2009 was certainly CHEUN (SLICE) by ART OF THE DEVIL co-director Khomsiri: Papa Chin, a dodgy cop, is looking for a serial killer, and he only has one last chance to find him within the next 15 days according to his fed-up superiors. His last resort is Tai, a former colleague, who is now doing time in prison and is released temporarily to help searching for the killer who apparently is an old acquaintance from the past. Tai goes back to the place where he grew up and starts putting the pieces together – just to find out a shocking truth indeed.

CHEUN turns out a really serious, no-nonsense crime thriller. Particularly convincing are the emotional moments that can excel even the expected and very graphic scenes of violence. CHEUN – quite surprisingly – is not a simple, predictable slasher movie, but avoids severe plot holes, features good actors and is beautifully shot, edited and scored. Ambitions do pay off.

Despite some minor “references” to other films (borrowing ideas from DON’T LOOK NOW, A BITTERSWEET LIFE or OLD BOY) CHEUN remains an original, skillfully written and equally convincing as drama, emotional coming-of-age story or brutal thriller. CHEUN is also very smart when it comes to connecting the various storylines without losing track.

Particularly astonishing about CHEUN however are the extremes that Khomsiri plays around with while keeping everything perfectly balanced: the brutal murders couldn’t be any more graphic, while the emotional scenes are truly touching. CHEUN may actually be the better drama: more and more do we start to sympathize with the killer, more and more is it not anymore about who the killer actually is, but why he kills. The reasons behind quickly become more fascinating than the atrocities.

The uncomfortable truth (still) is: when we look into an abyss, the abyss also looks into us. The killer didn’t turn himself into a monster, but society did. CHEUN is one of the few films in recent memory that doesn’t compromise or let us off the hook – long after the film is over we keep thinking about it.

CHEUN is authentic, down to earth, genuine, and reminds me of the completely underrated Hong Kong drama SLOW FADE. It doesn’t reach its extreme levels of permanent depression and decay, but the downwards spiral is equally inexorable. The showdown doesn’t gear towards redemption, but a last knockout.

I can’t help but wonder why I am doing this to myself. And can’t wait to watch CHEUN all over again nevertheless.




Japan 2009   Directed & written by: Koji Shiraishi  Production: Kazue Udagawa, Kyosuke Ueno  Cinematography: Yohei Fukuda  Cast: Hiroaki Kawatsure, Tsugumi Nagasawa, Shigeo Osako

The BBFC can think what they want, but if there’s a movie that should have been banned then that’s HOSTEL, which is nothing but perverted mainstream entertainment (although that’s why it’s naturally also a guilty pleasure). HOSTEL’s only idea is to create situations that provide a pretext for torture, and the big news is that this doesn’t happen within a niche genre anymore, but HOSTEL makes this kind of Grand Guignol spectacle acceptable for Tom Dick and Harry (just as it was for centuries before the Video Nasties spoiled it).

GROTESQUE has a reasonably good idea, one that works even without the extensive use of special effects. The splatter scenes in GROTESQUE are not its real goal, and neither do they have aesthetically or functionally much in common with the Japanese gore movies of the 70’s or 90’s. Even less does GROTESQUE belong in any way to the so-called „Torture Porn“ genre (a term that has been at a least co-invented by the film industry itself to market their products better). Obviously the BBFC hasn’t seen it that way (it almost feels like the BBFC judges have primarily been evaluating the possible intention of the film, instead of the outcome itself – disregard what the creators of the movie wanted to do). The conclusion is that the established studios can get everything out there – or can anyone imagine that HOSTEL or PLANET TERROR, directed by Mr. John Smith, would ever be screened in major cinemas?

The simple, sharp premise that carries the entire film is: would you suffer and die for him or her to make the killer spare his/her life in return? That’s the question a couple kidnapped just after their first date is facing. Abducted and held hostage in a warehouse the killer makes one thing clear immediately: no one gets out alive. Except, one of them sacrifices him/herself. So how far can they go for the other ones freedom?

Whatever’s been written about the movie: GROTESQUE is clearly one of the best horror films of last year and one of the better films of 2009. Koji Shiraishi has chosen the most suitable visual style (responsible for the cinematography is Yohei Fukuda, director of ONECHANBARA; where the latter was lousy from beginning to end this time setting and character of movie may have helped accidentally), the film features an excellent (although short) script and a very good cast. The couple is the perfect girl & boy next door, no heroes, which adds even more grizzly realism to the film. The serial killer is very credible, free from the usual clichés. Bearing in mind that the people involved in the movie are by no means geniuses I tend to assume that GROTESQUE is a fluke resulting from a series of fortunate coincidences – they didn’t set out to create a small horror masterpiece, but they did everything right nevertheless.

Last but no least are the special effects very solid, especially in view of the budget. At times they are really quite uncomfortable to watch (there are some indeed grotesque moments). The surprisingly good dialogues and cast help enormously to let the massacres seem even more serious than they already are anyway. Clearly, GROTESQUE operates beyond all conventions, but in face of its context that often makes sense. And sometimes GROTESQUE makes us only think that we have just seen something terribly explicit on-screen, when it fact that simply isn’t the case at all.

GROTESQUE is a bit like Tsutsumis CHINESE DINNER on speed: short, raw, creative, sharp, without much ado about nothing. GROTESQUE proves once again that the chief enemy of creativity is good taste.