Archive for the ‘Horror’ Category

Review – Train to Busan

Posted: February 17, 2020 in Film, Horror, zombie
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I got to catch this film recently and it definitely scratched the horror itch I’ve had of late. That blend of gore, gut wrenching emotion and suspense made Train to Busan a rollercoaster of a viewing experience. A frightening premise with suitably disturbing infected monsters and a cast of likeable protagonists trapped on a high speed train combine to make this one of my favourite zombie movies of late.

Whilst a biological outbreak begins to take hold, spreading like wildfire through the population, we are introduced to a father, Seok-woo, and his daughter, Su-an. A workaholic, Seok-woo realises that overlooking his daughter’s birthday isn’t the kind of role model he wants to be. Promising to take Su-an to see her mother, the two embark on a long train ride. As their journey begins, what appears to be riots start to break out across the country. And, one of those caught up in the violence makes it on to the train.

The film does a brilliant job of introducing us to the characters; a team of baseball playing high schoolers; a pregnant wife and her husband; an elderly pair of sisters; plus, a bullish businessman. As the train chugs on, the stowaway is revealed to be infected with something very, very bad. She quickly turns into a flesh eating zombie, causing chaos as she attacks passengers and train attendants in the confined space of the carriage. Those bitten are soon turned, joining in the carnage, and a bloodbath ensues.

It’s here the emotional power of the film takes hold. Su-an admonishes her father for his self-centred reaction; though a child she prefers to help the other passengers than leave them to their own fate. Soon the infected far outnumber the healthy and, when the train is forced to stop at a station, the group are separated. Thankfully, Su-an is helped by the pregnant wife and husband but in amongst the chaos, the divide between the altruists and selfish is made clear. It’s here that Soek-woo makes his choice.

Train to Busan manages to capture the horror of violence, the helplessness of being confined within a train and people’s reaction to a terrifying situation. Some can’t help but help whilst others are intent on using their fellows with little regard other than their own survival. The characters are resourceful and determined and the choices they make reflect this. There are some tough moments and the film doesn’t shy away from any of it. The action is full bore right until the end and it’s a finale that doesn’t hold back. This is top notch zombie horror, highly recommended.

Review – The Silence

Posted: February 11, 2020 in Film, Horror, Horror
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Continuing my horror viewing as Storm Ciara battered the UK, I decided to give The Silence a watch. Unfortunately, afterwards, I felt like I should have read the book by Tim Lebbon instead. The premise for the story was great and there were moments that showed promise but the film couldn’t capture it. Instead it fell short, opting for a series of set pieces that didn’t really gel together and as a whole didn’t add up to much, lacking any real emotional effect.

Leading with a group of researchers opening up a buried cavern system beneath a mountain, the film starts strong. The cave unleashes a horde of carnivorous flying creatures that immediately begin to ravage American, leading to apocalyptic destruction. People soon discover that the ‘vesps’ hunt by sound forcing many to flee the cities for the quiet and isolation of the countryside, including the film’s lead characters. However, this is as far as the film gets before unravelling, unable to do the source material justice. Not even the ever solid Stanley Tucci could save it.

I’ve no doubt the book makes more of the recently deaf protagonist and her family, including their ability to use sign language to communicate silently and avoid the monsters. The film can’t and clumsily introduces a very 2-D villain who, for some inexplicable reason has cut out his and his followers tongues. It’s not unreasonable to quickly realise that you still make noise even without a tongue…

This, and other glaring plot holes, rendered the film a bit toothless. It’s a shame. As I said, the premise seemed good, the cast were solid, the horde of flying monsters presenting a frightening situation. However, in the end it just didn’t come together to make a good film.

The current storm over the weekend made for the perfect setting to view some horror movies. There’s nothing like the howling wind and torrential rain to accompany a scary film. First up, was The Babysitter, a fun gore-fest with a very 80s slasher vibe.

It’s not the kind of film I’d usually pick but the reviews were fairly decent. Set in a single location and using, and somewhat subverting, the trope of high school killers, the film did a fantastic job of hitting all the right notes whilst maintaining a self- awareness about itself. It was that blend of actual slasher horror and 80s pastiche that really made the film so entertaining, along with a cast that fit the bill perfectly.

From the self-obsessed cheerleader to the shirtless jock, the murderous gang were brilliantly led by the ‘babysitter’ Bee. Portrayed as the cool girl and the crush of the teen protagonist, Cole, she managed to be both fun and super creepy all at once. Along with this, Cole himself was played by a great young actor who, for some reason, reminded me of Micheal J Fox. So, after a great opener where Bee protects Cole from a bully before segueing into a entertaining montage, night falls. Sent to bed, Cole is encouraged by his friend to spy on his babysitter and see what her gang get up to.

It’s not good. What appears to be a cliche teen gathering, turns bad fast. A hapless outsider caught up in the game of ‘truth or dare’ finds himself in the spotlight. Rather than a very public first kiss, instead he gets killed; fairly gruesomely too. And, Cole witnesses it all; the bloody (over the top) death, the ensuing discussion about the evil ritual the blood is for and Bee’s true, frightening reason for babysitting. They need his blood.

What follows is a game of cat and mouse as Cole has to use all his ingenuity to escape the teen cult. Like all classic slashers, he has to take on and defeat each of the gang; each kill a mix of laughs and gore. There is a decent dose of tension to the proceedings and Cole is a smart capable hero.

Comedy-horror is tough to pull off but The Banysitter did a decent job at keeping me entertained. The actors were well cast and, though it didn’t raise the bar, the blend of gore fuelled horror and 80s homage to the genre made it a fun film.

The second book from Gary Kemble, once again, features the reluctant investigative journalist, Harry Hendricks. Less than a year after the events of Strange Ink, Harry once more finds himself embroiled in a dark mystery with frightening supernatural spirits at its heart. And, for a second novel, Dark Ink has ramped up the horror and criminal elements a number of notches.

Recovering from his near-death experience, Harry has taken up martial arts, gone freelance and, generally, turned his life around. But, when an old police contact calls him to help with a string of mysterious deaths, Harry can’t help but be intrigued. It’s a gruesome case, but there’s something more to it and the police can’t figure out what it could be, nor if it’s suicide or something else. The fact that four other cases have all left similar ‘suicide’ notes behind naming a goddess is even more worrying. Soon, Harry is chasing down leads on other cases too, his days as busy as ever, looking into a potential fraud of union funds to pay for prostitutes as well as a private school paedophile ring.

As he begins to dig into the stories, he finds himself intrigued by a madame who is connected to a number of the deceased men. She is also being visited regularly by a union boss whose wife suspects him of using misappropriated funds. It’s the beginning of a thread that wraps up Harry in a web of darkness. Determined to uncover the dominatrix’s part in the deaths, Harry visits the woman, a Mistress Hel, but is soon entranced by her. Unable to think clearly, his obsession with Mistress Hel takes a dark turn.

Befuddled and floundering, Harry can’t see how close he is to putting all the pieces of the puzzle together. However, his psychic helper, Sandy, once again comes to his rescue. The Mistress has performed a demonic ritual, and has used her power to enthrall Harry and others to her whim. Yet, her whim is more than mere humiliation and torture; it is a desire to destroy lives and bring about the rising of a terrifying supernatural spirit. With Sandy’s help, Harry finally realises what all the threads connect to and just how deep the mystery goes.

Once again, Dark Ink captures Brisbane and it’s urban life perfectly, creating a wonderful canvas against which to paint its grisly plot. The blend of thriller and horror is brilliantly balanced yet, this time, little is held back. From the brutal opening chapter, Dark Ink gets under the skin; the pages fly past, each chapter urging you onwards. The build up to the conclusion is well constructed as the pieces fall into place, revealing a complex and horrifying reason behind everything. It’s an unsettling read at times but the eminently likeable Harry keeps the action rolling until the explosive end.

Published by Titan Books

Review copy

Aside from the frighteningly accurate and realistic introduction by editor John Joseph Adams, I do enjoy a good tale of the apocalypse and this collection contains stories from a number of highly regarded authors. I’ll be doing a series of reviews as I read the anthology.

First up, Elizabeth Bear’s Bullet Point. How the author manages to pack so much into the short story just goes to show her skill at the craft. After an unknown event, where the entire population of Las Vegas simply disappears, Isabella is left wondering and wandering in the desert heat. Ticking off lists off what is left and what has gone, never to return, Isabella finds solace in a future free from the troubles that plagued her past.

That is, until she meets a fellow survivor. What follows is a tense yet intriguing and, to be fair, unexpected. It’s a wonderful window into a weird scenario that captures a feeling with impressive ability.

Red Thread by Sofia Samatar is told through the eyes of a teenager, leaving messages on some sort of virtual notice board to her friend Fox. Each note tells of her travels as she and her mother find sanctuary and shelter at different ‘centres’. And, with each note we learn more about the world they live within; one populated with isolation zones and ‘centres’ and something described as the Movement. Between the lines and behind the personal story there is the greater concerns of climate change and war and violence, and in its subtle way, Red Thread draws a somber tale of humanity scrambling to survive.

I skipped ahead in the collection to read Jonathan Maberry’s Not This War, Not This World, because, well, it’s Jonathan Maberry. As the author explains, this short is a sequel to some of his other work, connecting other stories together and acting as a prequel to George A. Romero’s films. It is a no-holds-barred look into the life of a DELTA sniper, unravelling in the face of a zombie apocalypse. Maberry pulls no punches as his protagonist is faced with the most awful of choices. As the sniper, Sam Imura, breaks under the pressure, his world shrinks down to one of two decisions; to match forward and protect the innocent or to take himself out and end the nightmare. Under the stars, on a cold night, facing down a hungry, undead horde, neither is an easy road.

Published by Titan Books

Review copy