Train to Busan – Much Needed Life For The Zombie Film

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Whether, like me, you feel the zombie genre hasn’t offered anything new or exciting in a while, or whether you’re still in thrall to the wave of undead films, games and TV shows swarming across our screens, Train to Busan will offer up fresh meat on those rotting bones. To put it simply, this South Korean horror movie has become a late entry on my top films of the year.

The plot is straightforward; a disparate group of passengers board a train just as we are given glimpses that something bad is happening around them. The bad thing, of course, is a zombie apocalypse and director Yeon Sang-ho handles the perfectly timed build like a master, cluing us in ahead of the characters just enough so we feel the noose tightening around them.

Really, saying anything more than that regarding the plot would just spoil the fun for you, suffice to say that all hell breaks loose and the passengers of the train must survive long enough to reach the promised safety of the final stop, the city of Busan.

The film knows what it wants to be and revels in the pleasure of a non-stop barrage of thrills and chills. But, much like George Romero’s high point in the zombie genre, Dawn of the Dead, Sang-ho uses the film to make some barbed comments on society. That it makes them is worthy of attention and even though the film makes them a little bluntly on occasion these moments tend to be undercut with character building emotion, so they’re rarely wasted. One particular revelation is actually groan-worthy in its attempt to tie things up too neatly, but the director is smart enough not to linger on it too long before leaping into the next bravura sequence.

And bravura these sequence are. In the interests of keeping this review spoiler free I’ll just mention a favourite, prolonged sequence where our core group of passengers attempt to rescue another group trapped at the rear of the train, meaning they will need to pass through several train cars of zombies – and back again. It’s a sustained line of set pieces highlighting both the film’s ease with character development and its ability to ratchet up the tension, making smart use of some interesting wrinkles on the usual zombie characteristics and in particular of the location and its surroundings. You might even shed a tear or two.

There are some clichés here to be sure (the noble sacrifice gets more than one airing), but Sang-ho and writer, Park Joo-suk give their characters enough life (the living ones at least) to carry you through any hiccups and do enough with the nail-biting action and visuals  to make this a first class journey (…oh come on, I had to say it at some point in this review).

Train to Busan is a wonderful, high concept action/horror movie told with breathtaking confidence. Stylish, elegant and exciting, this is destined to become a major cult horror movie, regarded in the same revered breath as John Carpenter’s run of work from the late 1970s through the 1980s. A far less interesting Hollywood remake surely beckons.

Just when you think there’s little left to be said or done with the walking dead, along comes a movie which shows there’s life in those shambling old creatures yet.

Daniel Radcliffe Is The Only Stiff Thing About Swiss Army Man

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What if I were to tell you that the most heartwarming, life affirming movie of the year involves the farting corpse of Harry Potter showing Paul Dano the meaning of friendship and love? I should mention that it also verges on being a musical.

If that seems unlikely, then the opening of the film, written and directed by Daniel Scheinert and Daniel Kwan, will do little to persuade you. Dano, marooned and hysterically lonely on a tiny desert island, is attempting to commit suicide before being saved by the appearance of Daniel Radcliffe’s flatulent corpse washing up on the beach.

What follows next is a journey, both geographically (although that might be part of a grander delusion) and emotionally, of these two lost souls, who gradually connect with each other and, in that bond, reconnect with the world they left behind.

Dano is charming, desperate and possibly off his rocker, but he makes being delusional seem like a highly likable trait (for most of the running time, at least), while Radcliffe further proves his post-Potter career as being of increasing interest. His corpse is, paradoxically, full of life, showing constant curiosity at the strange new/old world that’s trying to come back into focus around him. Despite the constant farting, he is as likable as his co-star, and their utterly charming relationship is a joy to behold even as it flirts with homo-erotic necrophilia. How many films can you say that about!?

It’s all as strange as it sounds, but the quirkiness is held together by a strong emotional core, never quite tipping over into careless whimsy (though a large chunk of the final act veers dangerously close). This is a film full of beautiful and fragile moments, while at the same being chock full of farts and erections. It’s a bold and beguiling mix and the music score and songs, by Manchester Orchestra’s Andy Hull and Robert McDowell are magnificently uplifting, adding yet another wondrous layer to this strange confection.

If you’re not put off by the bizarre description you’re likely to be rewarded with a disarming buddy movie quite unlike any other, one that will make you laugh out loud and tug at your heartstrings. It will linger in your mind long after the final hilarious sequence which somehow manages to turn flatulence into something quite emotional.

And if all that doesn’t convince you, where else can you spend so much time focusing on a dead Harry Potter’s rampant erection!? Trust me, there’s nothing stiff about this film (apart from Daniel Radcliffe).

No Bullshit, The Greasy Strangler Is Warped But Brilliant!

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Big Ronnie is a grinning grotesquerie who wanders around in a series of bizarre outfits, frequently with his nasty-looking penis dangling halfway to his knees. When he isn’t dragging his poor emotionally stunted, needy son, Big Brayden, around to present a tourist trap disco tour of derelict locations, Ronnie covers himself in layers of thick grease and violently murders anyone who crosses him. Or even poor, hapless souls who don’t cross him. Ronnie is not exactly picky when it comes to strangulation.

Underneath the unwashed y-fronts, (literally) in your face fart gags and dangling penises there beats a curiously affecting, albeit diseased, heart. The murder plot eventually gives way to the story of a father and son finding each other after years of emotional abuse, before tailing off into a deep end of… well, actually, I’m not sure exactly what happens at the end. There might be a point to it all, but I’m not sure it actually matters if there isn’t. At the very least you’re sure to come away from a viewing wanting to sing and dance to the line “Hootie Tootie, Disco Cutie!” As cinematic gifts go, that’s pretty decent.

There’s nothing remotely real-world about Jim Hoskings’ film, and yet it’s not difficult to imagine these characters existing on the fringe of society, too out there even to be featured on reality TV shows and living on the same block as Pink Flamingos’ Egg Man and Connie & Raymond Marbles, or even Blue Velvet’s Frank Booth in a lighter mood.

Imagine a film that has some of the oddball feel of a Napoleon Dynamite sequel as made by John Waters, featuring a synth-driven electro pop score, with lashings of sex, gore and greasy murders, and you’ll get a good feel for what you’re letting yourself in for. There are moments of such out and out goofiness (Ronnie’s spotlit, street disco solo – all wild hair, gangly legs and dangly cock – being a prime example) that you can’t help but warm to the strangeness being thrust in your face.

The three leads (Michael St. Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo) give fearlessly physical, genuinely off-kilter performances, putting Jared Leto’s pissant Suicide Squad Joker to shame with what they dare to do for the camera, and still manage to make their characters just a little more than cartoons, giving their three way love triangle more heart than the constant anal fingering might suggest. But don’t worry if you think it’s all going to get too touchy-feely… there’ll soon be a phone sex scene of junior furiously fiddling with his infintesimal cock while mouthing sweet nothings to his amore, such as “Imagine me stroking your clitoris with a pink feather and then you cradle my sack.” This might be the film that the acronym WTF was made for.

The Greasy Strangler is, as they say, not a film for everyone. But it is one of the more bizarre and frequently laugh out loud funny films I’ve seen in a long time. It also has the best and most disgusting prosthetic movie wang since Mark Wahlberg’s Boogie Nights dazzler. So you know you’re getting bang for your buck.

Doctor Strange Trailer Goes Full Psychedelic

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Since all of the previews of Marvel’s forthcoming Doctor Strange movie to date have focused on the impressive yet Inception-inspired visuals of cityscapes folding in on themselves, there has been much nervous talk that the company and director Scott Derrickson would not go full on psychedelic.

Happily, the IMAX featurette released today (see below) can put our little fanboy hearts to rest, for right there, snuck into a piece by Marvel’s head honcho, Kevin Feige, rhapsodising about the comic book genius of artist (and Doctor Strange co-creator) Steve Ditko, is a sequence of visuals guaranteed to bring a smile to the faces of long-time fans (though… nerd alert… it’s a shame neither of the visuals accompanying the talk by Feige are actually drawn by Ditko, but still…).

Obviously (and happily) Marvel and Derrickson have been holding back to reveal too much before the film’s release in November, but these glorious visuals look like a page of Ditko 1960s inspired psychedelia come to life.

As a card carrying (well, FOOM card carrying) Doctor Strange fan since the early 1970s I can honestly say this has me even more excited about what looks like Marvel’s full step into cosmic weirdness.

I’ve got my cloak of levitation and all-seeing Eye of Agamotto ready for November 4th, see you at the cinema!

Iron Fist, The Defenders and… Sigourney Weaver!

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With Luke Cage seemingly another success for Marvel and Netflix (albeit one receiving more of a mixed signal from critics – and I mean regarding its dramatic qualities, rather than the absurd non-argument about the wonderful diverse cast coming from dull witted racists), excited viewers have been looking towards their next fix for binge watching from this team.

And this weekend at the New York Comic Con, the companies have dropped two fabulous pieces of information. First up, the first, full teaser trailer for Iron Fist (which finished filming just yesterday).

There’s been some discussion from fans of the comics that this might be the show to veer furthest away from its four colour origins, but for those concerned with such things (and you can count this author among those) the signs are encouraging in this latest and more revealing trailer. Full on kung fu action? Check. Dragon tattoo on his chest? Check (Though if he gains that tattoo by fighting with a giant, fiery dragon, a la the comics, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle). Glowing fist of power? Check and double check.

As you can see in the trailer, “The Final Defender Arrives” which leads to the other major morsel dropped by Marvel, that the villain for the big team up series, The Defenders, featuring Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist, is none other than Ripley herself, Sigourney Weaver.

The thought of these superb characters coming together in one, big Netflix-tastic mash up is enticing enough, but the knowledge that they’ll be squaring up against La Weaver is enough to make this must see TV already.

Iron Fist drops March 17th, 2017 while The Defenders is expected to drop later in the year. I’ve already booked my place on the sofa for both!

The Thinning – It’s Not About Hair, You Know…

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My first thought on seeing this trailer for forthcoming YouTube Red movie, The Thinning, was that it was going to be a story about hair loss.

Introduced by “YouTube star” (it says here) Logan Paul with the words “Hair flip. What’s up?” as he tosses his not quite flowing mushroom bobbed locks to one side, I envisioned this poster child for white male privilege having to endure the horrors of thinning hair during the course of the film, surely ensuring he’d never be allowed to party at Spring Break again.

But no, instead the Young Adult movie is something to do with a whole lot of equally white teens with full heads of hair having to take basic intelligence tests (well, there’s your problem right there, of course). Preying on the fear of exams this seems to entail some shady government plot to cull people with imaginary names (Logan Paul, Peyton List, Calum Worthy… ha ha, Calum Worthy…) who are ejected from their shopping mall utopia to go live with people with bad skin care routines, no Vine account and club cards at Wal-Mart. So basically, it’s a horror movie for people who frequent Urban Outfitters.

Or maybe it’s about killing off the really dumb teens, I couldn’t remember the plot thirty seconds after finishing the trailer, just Logan Paul’s hair.

I’m still trying to work out whether this is one of the most ghastly things I’ll never watch, or if it’s actually a work of genius – a film completely populated by fully-realised CGI simulacrums who have been named by committee (…ha ha, Calum Worthy).

Either way, The Thinning isn’t about hair loss. Which seems like something of a missed opportunity to me. But then I’m not Logan Paul.

“Hair flip!”