BARE BONES: THE HORDE (2009)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

horde

THE HORDE (2009)

French horror has a group of dirty cops raiding a tenement to avenge one of their own against some drug dealers inside. While things go wrong inside, a zombie apocalypse erupts outside. Tensions rise, as cops and crooks reluctantly work together to survive.

Flick is directed by Benjamin Rocher and Yannick Dahan from their script with Arnaud Bordas and Stephane Moissakis. For a screenplay by four writers, it follows the zombie formula quite closely, with lots of gore, shooting them in the head to take them down and has more contemporary fast zombies, as opposed to traditional slow ones. Thus, herein lies the problem, we’ve seen it all before. It’s not badly made and the action can be fast and savage, but it’s also all too familiar, especially if you are a fan of the genre. There are also points were the film stops dead for long dialog scenes, where the zombies seem to almost courteously hold off their attack till everyone’s done talking. Blood drenched final act delivers some good stuff, but still nothing to really set this apart from any other recent zombie films, in an extremely overloaded genre. Flick stars Claude Perron, Jean-Pierre Martins and Eriq Ebouaney.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: PENINSULA (2020)

MZNJ_ICFA

now playing

bars

PENINSULA (2020)

Korean horror/thriller is a fun, if not extremely derivative, sequel to the 2016 zombie outbreak flick Train To Busan. This installment takes place four years later with the Korean Peninsula abandoned and quarantined by the rest of the world. A barren, zombie infested wasteland. Ex-soldier Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) now lives in Hong Kong, with his brother in-law Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon) and the two relocated Koreans are treated like outcasts and live in squalor. A local mobster offers the duo a chance to make enough money to get themselves out of the gutter. They and some other expatriated Koreans are tasked with going back into the quarantine zone and retrieving a truck filled with $20 million in American dollars. The heist goes awry and Jung-seok finds to his horror that there are two groups of survivors still living there, a family he’s encountered before and an ex-military unit who may be more dangerous than the hordes of flesh eating undead. Can Jung-seok, Chul-min and their new allies get out alive against both hungry zombies and crazed soldiers?

Yeon Sang-ho again directs with a script from he and Park Joo-suk. This sequel isn’t quite as much of a roller coaster ride as Train, but is still entertaining. While Train put a fresh coat of paint on the well-worn zombie sub-genre, Peninsula seems content to spin a yarn that is parts of Romero’s Day and Land of the Dead, a large portion of the Governor story arc from The Walking Dead and part Road Warrior with a last act truck chase. The film is more concerned with the drama between the human factions and while there are plenty of zombie’s, they do take a back seat to Jung-seok and pretty survivor Min-jun (Lee Jung-hyun) trying to get the truck and Chul-min back from the Unit 631 compound, which is run by the vicious Sergeant Hwang (Kim Min-jae) and demented Captain Seo. It’s entertaining, yes, but seems far less fresh and far less energetic than the previous flick. Train was nothing new, but Peninsula seems to make less of an effort to revitalize it’s familiar tale. Another thing that holds it back is a heavy use of only moderately effective CGI. A lot of the zombie action and the truck chase at the end are obvious CGI effects and it takes away it’s effectiveness. The truck chase looks like a video game at times and it keeps us from being too drawn in like Road Warrior‘s intense chase finale. In between we get innocents forced to battle zombies for entertainment and a preconscious child who always outsmarts and saves the adults. There is a lot of bloody violence, but nothing too gory and Yeon Sang-ho does paint an impressive apocalyptic picture of the abandoned and zombie infested South Korea. The movie adds the appropriate melodrama with Jung-seok haunted by his past, and his link to Min-jun and her daughters. This gives the film a little emotional content and at the end we are entertained, but it is far less memorable than it’s predecessor.

The cast are all solid. Gang Dong-won makes a good hero as the guilt-ridden, ex- soldier Jung-seok. He plays his inner turmoil well and he is a good action hero. Lee Jung-hyun is a solid heroine as mother and survivor Min-jun. She’s tough and quite the fighter, but still has her humanity. Lee Ye-Won is cute and thankfully avoids being annoying, in the precocious child role of younger daughter Yoo-Jin and Lee Re is likable as her tough teen sister Jooni. Kim Do-yoon is also fine as the embattled Chul-min, who is captured by Unit 631. Rounding out are Kim Min-jae as the cruel and vicious Sergeant Hwang, who is Sang-ho’s equivalent of Day of the Dead’s Captain Rhodes, and Koo Kyo-hwan as the desperate and deceptive Captain Seo. A good cast.

So, in conclusion, while it’s not an equal, Peninsula is still an action packed and entertaining sequel to Train To Busan. While it’s predecessor also reused a lot of ideas from past zombie epics, it seemed far fresher than the recycled ideas do here in this second installment. At almost two hours long this is still a fast paced and sometimes bloody adventure, though not quite as energetic and intense as Train To Busan. Familiar, not quite as energized, but still fun.

-MonsterZero NJ

Rated 3 (out of 4) bullets, which a lot of fly in this movie.

 

 

 

 

bars

BARE BONES: BLOOD QUANTUM (2019)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

BLOOD QUANTUM (2019)

Canadian zombie flick presents a novel twist on the popular sub-genre. It opens with a starkly effective scene of a fisherman’s gutted catch coming back to life and escalates from there. An outbreak of some kind has the dead returning to life and eating the living, while also infecting those they bite. It is, however, not affecting the Mi’gmaq people of the Red Crow reservation and now they must fight to survive against the growing horde from across the river. There is another conflict though…Red Crow Sheriff Taylor (Michael Greyeyes), wants to help survivors from outside the reservation, who obviously present a danger, while others feel they should fend for themselves. Now the tribespeople are split as the dead close in.

Film is written and very well directed by Indigenous Canadian filmmaker Jeff Barnaby. On a zombie film level, it has fast moving zombies, some fantastic and very abundant gore and some very impactful attack sequences, despite being part of an overpopulated sub-genre. What makes this stand-out, is the sometimes powerful commentary on the treatment of indigenous peoples and on the state of their own communities on the reservations. The metaphor of a people being overrun and their land taken by outsiders is certainly not lost here. The conflict between those wanting to abandon the outside world and those like Taylor who want to remain compassionate is very compelling. It’s a strong statement on human compassion, when those who have been treated terribly by others, in the face of crisis, risk and sometimes loose their own lives to help those who have never been kind to them. It gives an already solid and inventive zombie film a very effective emotional undercurrent. Add to that a strong cast of characters with indigenous actors playing indigenous peoples and you have one of the more unique and effective tellings of a very familiar story in quite a while. This is a very good example of how the horror genre can be used to portray important themes and messages while still being entertaining. Check it out on Shudder!

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

BARE BONES: ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE (2018)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE (2018)

Flick may be the first zombie Christmas musical ever, but, aside from that honor, it’s also quite fun. Story takes place at Christmas time and finds Anna (a delightful Ella Hunt), soon to graduate high school and dealing with things most girls her age deal with. Anna’s life, in the small town of Little Haven, is turned upside-down, however, as a zombie apocalypse breaks out. Now Anna and her dwindling number of friends must fight for survival with guts, determination…and song.

Film is directed by John McPhail from a script by Alan McDonald and Ryan McHenry, based on Henry’s Zombie Musical short film. It is surprisingly bloody and takes it’s zombie subject seriously, while also providing some laughs and quite a few catchy musical numbers. Star Ella Hunt is quite charming in the role of Anna and even when the tone darkens, as the zombie outbreak intensifies, Hunt’s Anna remains buoyant and hopeful…and so do we. A cute, fun movie that is both musical and comedy, yet remains a horror flick, too. Mixing genres isn’t easy and this flick does it right. Very entertaining.

SONG LIST *

1.”Christmas Means Nothing Without You”-Shonagh Murray

2.”Break Away”-Ella Hunt, Sarah Swire and Malcolm Cumming

3.”Hollywood Ending”-Cast from Anna and the Apocalypse

4.”The Fish Wrap”-Roddy Hart, Tommy Reilly and John McPhail

5.”It’s That Time of Year”-Marli Siu

6.”Turning My Life Around”-Ella Hunt and Malcolm Cumming

7.”Human Voice”-Cast from Anna and the Apocalypse

8.”Soldier at War”-Ben Wiggins

9.”Nothing’s Gonna Stop Me Now”-Paul Kaye

10.”Give Them a Show”-Ella Hunt and Paul Kaye

11.”I Will Believe”-Ella Hunt and Mark Benton

12.”What a Time to Be Alive”-Ryan Joseph Burns

13.”What a Time to Be Alive (Orchestral Version)”-Cast from Anna and the Apocalypse

 

*as per wikipedia

-MonsterZero NJ

3 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

BARE BONES: SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (2009)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD (2009)

George Romero’s seventh zombie opus gives the feeling that the legendary director might be growing tired of making zombie movies after four decades. Survival’s story of feuding Irish clans and the living dead is weak and a bit ludicrous as an island matriarch (Richard Fitzpatrick) is trying to keep the island’s zombie inhabitants “alive” and a functioning part of society, despite their appetite for human flesh. His exiled rival (Kenneth Welsh) believes the opposite and returns to the island with some rogue soldiers…including Sgt. Crockett (Alan van Sprang) from Diary of the Dead…to prove his point.

 Once again Romero tries to show us people are far more dangerous, by greed or stupidity, than the zombies, but this time his message is as half-hearted as as is his direction. Romero directs the movie like he just doesn’t care and a lot of it seems like a joke, as if he isn’t taking his own material seriously. Previously Romero used satire to deliver his message, now the usually deft satire is replaced with dumb humor that disrupts the more serious tone. Not sure what kind of film Romero was trying to make this time and not sure he knew either. Sadly this would be his final directorial effort upon his passing in 2017.

-MonsterZero NJ

Humerus-Bone1 

bars

BARE BONES: DIARY of the DEAD (2007)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1


DIARY of the DEAD (2007)

With the loss of horror great George A. Romero earlier this week, I thought I’d “dig up” this old review of one of his last zombie flicks…

After an unpleasant experience filming Land of the Dead with a big studio, Romero returned to his low budget roots and applied the camera POV style to his latest zombie opus. He starts from scratch telling the story of a new zombie outbreak through the camera of a group of film students making a horror movie…when the real horror begins and the dead begin to rise. It’s not perfect, but it is successful at making the zombies scary again by viewing them through the eyes of the terrified students. There is the trademarked gore and the gritty low budget style suits Romero far better then Land’s big budget gloss. Romero can be preachy at times with his social views and if you’re not a fan of the POV style films, this probably won’t win you over, even if it is far less shaky than most. It’s a return to form in many respects for the master of horror, though not quite a classic like the films of his original dead trilogy. Stars Michelle Morgan, Joshua Close, Shawn Roberts, Amy Lalonde, Joe Dinicol, Scott Wentworth, Philip Riccio and Alan van Sprang whose rogue soldier character returns in the follow-up Survival of the Dead.

 

-MonsterZero NJ

Humerus-Bone1

 

bars

BARE BONES: HERE ALONE (2017)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1


HERE ALONE (2017)

With the zombie/infected sub-genre being overplayed right now, it is at least somewhat refreshing when a movie tries to do something a little bit different with it. Sadly, focusing on survivor drama is also getting played-out and this film tries hard, but really didn’t offer anything new. The story finds Ann (Lucy Walters) now alone after loosing her husband (Shane West) and baby during some kind of viral outbreak which has produced the usual vicious zombie-like infected. She survives alone in the woods until she comes across fellow survivors teen Olivia (Gina Peirsanti) and her step-father Chris (Adam David Thompson). Now the three must try to learn to trust each other and bond as the threat of infected attack is always just outside their campfire.

Flick is well directed by Rod Balckhurst from a script by David Ebeltoft, and really tries to add a different slant to a very tired sub-genre, but just doesn’t quite give it a unique enough spin to make it completely engaging. We have three survivors of a situation that is very overplayed, trying to learn to trust each other after suffering their own loses and pain. We get to know Ann through flashbacks to the beginning of the outbreak and then the deaths of her husband and child. We understand why she may be hesitant to get attached to new people. Her survival routine is well portrayed as she tries to outwit the infected who inhabit a nearby house filled with canned food. Then she must deal with Chris and Olivia, including feelings for the man and jealousy from teen Olivia. It’s all well-done, but sadly nothing really new enough to really keep one’s interest for the almost hour and forty minutes. There is some intensity in the last act, as there is the inevitable confrontation with the infected where Ann must make a choice between her feelings for Chris and her motherly instincts towards Olivia. It plays out dramatically well, as Blackhurst appears to be a solid director and the acting is good, too, but what comes before is just a somewhat toned done version of what can basically be seen on Walking Dead each week. A nice effort, but one that falls short due to familiarity of a sub-genre currently…and ironically…being beaten to death.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

 

bars

IT CAME FROM ASIAN CINEMA: TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016)

MZNJ_ICFA

now playing

train to busan

bars

TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016)

Korean horror/thriller is a fun mash-up of zombie outbreak flick and disaster movie that may be familiar in it’s story elements, but uses them very well. The plot has self absorbed businessman, Seok-Woo (Gong Yoo) in the middle of a divorce and taking his young daughter, Su-an (Kim Su-an) on an early train to Busan to see her mother. Meanwhile, a leak at the YS Biotech plant starts some kind of viral reaction that turns people into vicious killers who spread the infection through their bite. One of the infected gets on the train and now, while the outbreak spins out of control in the country all around them, the infection starts to spread throughout the cars. Trapped with increasing numbers of the infected onboard, the survivors must battle for their lives against the mindless killers, as well as, the selfish living who would sacrifice others for their own survival. But there is hope, as their destination, the district of Busan, has become one of the only safe havens left…now they must live long enough to get there.

Park Joo-suk’s script is very reminiscent of flicks like 28 Days Later and World War Z with some familiar disaster film elements thrown in, like the pretentious ass (Kim Ui-Seong) who thinks his life is worth more than that of others and the pregnant lady (Jung Yu-mi) fighting for both her and her baby’s survival. But it is Yeon Sang-ho’s tight and skilled direction that takes the routine and familiar elements and really uses them well. He has a background in animated films and this helps him keep the action fast and furious and the film is visually satisfying and very colorful with a surprisingly bright color palette for a zombie film. There is quite a lot of bloodshed, though Sang-ho restricts it to an R-rated level and we don’t get the Romero or even Walking Dead level gore…though the film really doesn’t need it, as tension and suspense are more it’s focus. The director does gives us plenty of that, but doesn’t leave out character development or social commentary, which is added at just the right amounts. The film moves quickly, but does stop to let us catch our breath for a few moments, or to let certain plot points and events resonate. There are a few clever twists, such as the zombies not being able to see in the dark and for his first live action film, Sang-ho does freshen up the many clichés. There are a few slow spots here and there and one element of the climax gets a bit over-sentimental, but otherwise this is a solid thriller with a good cast of characters and high quality production value all around.

With his horde of zombies being very effective, the director does guide his cast of human characters well, too, even if they are mostly all stereotypes. Gong Yoo is the selfish workaholic, Seok-Woo, who has ignored his wife and daughter to the point of divorce and alienation. Obviously, he learns to be more selfless and to be a hero during these dire events. Kim Su-an is very sweet as his neglected daughter and she handles her part very well, being likable and sympathetic without getting in the way or being annoying. She’s a tough and strong-willed kid played by a promising young actress. Jung Yu-mi is the stereotypical pregnant lady, but she gives her Seong-kyeong some fighting spirit and keeps her from being a helpless damsel. Ma Dong-Seok is solid as her husband, Sang-Hwa, the traditional tough guy character who shames the selfish lead into becoming more heroic. Rounding out the main cast is Kim Ui-Seong as a ruthless businessman who thinks he is more important than the others and will risk everyone else to insure his own survival. A very stereotypical character for this kind of film played to perfection by the actor. We hate Yong-suk and want to see him get his. A good cast that add some dimension to characters typical of both the zombie and disaster genres.

One of the benefits of living in an area with a heavy Asian population, aside from the yummy authentic food and great markets, is that my local theater occasionally will play a high-profile Korean film complete with subtitles. I just started hearing good word about this when I noticed it had opened at my favorite movie haunt right here in town. Seeing this in a theater was definitely a plus and despite being very familiar with it’s plot and story elements, a skilled director used them very well and delivered a fast paced and suspenseful flick that overcame familiarity with simple fun. It’s well-crafted and takes itself just serious enough, so we do too. It’s spatters plenty of blood, piles up a significant body count and has enough furious action to be effective despite the heavy ‘been there, done that’. It also does so while delivering some well-rounded characters, stereotypical as they may be. Original?…no. Fun despite being part of an over-saturated genre?…very much so!

MonsterZero NJ Extra Trivia: Star Gong Yoo and actress Jung Yu-mi, who plays the pregnant Seong-kyeong, are actually from Busan, South Korea, the destination for our embattled train passengers.

-MonsterZero NJ

A solid 3 (out of  4) baseball bats…sadly, the only anti-zombie weapon on a train!

alyce rating

 

**************************************************

bars

BARE BONES: SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE and SINISTER 2

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

scouts guide

SCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (2015)

Completely generic and predictable horror/comedy finds three nerdy boy scouts (Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller and Joey Morgan) teaming up with a stripper (Sarah Dumont) as they search for one’s sister (Halston Sage) during a zombie outbreak (does one town merit an apocalypse?).

There is literally nothing new or even remotely clever in this routine zombie comedy directed by Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones‘ Christopher B. Landon, who, for some reason, needed three co-writers to crank out a by-the-numbers flick with little or no inventiveness or originality. We get exactly what we’d expect…a lot of gore, even more vulgar toilet humor and the typical ‘nerd wins hot chick by battling evil’ scenario that has been done to death since the 80s. It’s not that the flick is ever really boring or badly made, it’s just that it is completely void of anything that might set it apart or deviate from the same formula, be it zombie comedy or ‘nerd becomes hero’ flick, that has become commonplace by now. Landon did a good job with Marked Ones and gave us a few scares and a second wind with a well worn franchise and formula. So, why he couldn’t do the same here is disappointing. The cast all have fun with the material, at least and feisty Sarah Dumont is notable as eye-candy and ass kicker. Also stars Krampus‘ David Koechner as a Dolly Parton obsessed scout leader.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

sinister 2

SINISTER 2 (2015)

Sequel finds Deputy So and So (James Ransone) now having left the force and tracking various murder cases, linked to Bughuul, across the country. His search leads him to a secluded church and farmhouse where a mother, Courtney (Shannyn Sossamon) and her twin sons (Dartanian and Robert Daniel Sloan) are hiding out from an abusive spouse. Of course, this is a former crime site and Bughuul and his child minions have their sights set on one of the boys.

This awful sequel makes the big mistake of having the worst character from the first film be the lead here. Of course he’s called Deputy So and So, because Deputy Dewey was already taken. This weak flick is surprisingly written by original flick scribes, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, though this time directed by Irish director Ciaran Foy. The original had it’s moments, but was a bit overrated, but this sequel is just boring, sluggishly paced and gives us nothing new or interesting about the thinly written, generic boogieman Bughuul. Most of the screen time is taken up by his creepy spirit children trying to coax one or the other of the boys to join them in murder and Deputy So and So being just as annoying as last time. It’s a snooze-fest with zero tension, suspense or legitimate scares. A complete waste of time and surely a disappointment for fans of the first flick.

-MonsterZero NJ

1 and 1-2 star rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars