Tag Archives: zombies

Cargo

If (when) the zombie apocalypse happens, please feel free to refer back to this post, which will justify your bullet in my brain. Thank you in advance for your cooperation. The truth is, I am not a survivalist. I don’t want to live without hot baths, good wine, soft cheese, manicures, memory foam, air conditioning, smooth legs, clean fingernails, diamond earrings. I never want to run because I have to. I don’t even like to camp. Fight for my life? I avoid sales so I don’t have to fight for the last pair of 7.5 patent leather Mary Janes. So if shit hits the fan, I’m checking out. Even if it turns out the zombie outbreak was really just a particularly gross strain of the flu, I promise not to mind. This is a risk I’m willing to take in order to ensure that I never spend a day hungry, or cold, or scared out of my mind, or wearing yesterday’s underwear, or having unminty breath – and yes these things are all EQUALLY repugnant to me.

Cargo is about a man who is not as smart as I am (I could start every single review save The Theory of Everything with that sentence, and I just may). Andy (Martin Freeman) and his wife and baby daughter are surviving by avoiding land altogether and sticking to their house boat. But when his wife gets injured, it’s either probably die from zombies or MV5BMjUwNzYzNzg1N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjM1MDcyNTM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_definitely die from blood loss. And again they choose wrong and head inland, where poor Andy has the unenviable task of keeping his family alive when every single other thing wants them dead.

Cargo is newly arrived on Netflix, where we are promised both a “thrilling” and “emotional” ride and ohmygod yes. I hid under the blanket so much, both to convince my rapidly beating heart to vacate my throat and get back into the cavity from whence it came, and to sob unobserved (the dogs get overly concerned).

This movie wins because it’s not about the zombies. In fact, the zombies aren’t really the villains (and why would they be, any more than lions are villains; they’re simply acting the way they must). Instead we focus on just a handful of people fleeing them. It’s character-driven, and casts some very capable people to show that off, not least of all Martin Freeman who broke my fucking heart. And the film is further improved by the baked Australian landscape, which is all that and a bag of Tim Tams.

I don’t normally have the heart, or the stomach, for a zombie movie, but exceptions must be made for one this good.

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Burying The Ex

Max, an inveterate nice guy, moves in with his girlfriend Evelyn, who turns out to be a bit of a bitch. You know, classic manipulative, controlling stuff that makes you wonder what kind of a nitwit Max is to have sold his gas-guzzling car and given up delicious, delicious meat for her in the first place. But anyway, eventually Max grows a bit of a backbone and decides to break up with her…but before he can do the damage, a bus obliterates her to hell. Evelyn is now his dead ex-girlfriend.

Which is the next best thing to a breakup, I guess, in that he can now make a move on the hot girl at the ice cream place. They’re so well-suited because she has streaks of fake purple hair, and they both like monsters and cemeteries and stuff! Unfortunately, Max Photo by Suzanne Tennerhad made a promise on the devil-genie to love Evelyn forever, and she takes that shit seriously. So seriously that she digs herself out of her cold, dark grave and returns as a horny little zombie. Which may sound appealing until you account for the slipping flesh and her commitment to making Max’s life a living hell. And that’s before her cravings for brains start!

Anton Yelchin plays the nice guy, which makes sense. I miss Anton Yelchin. Alexandra Daddario plays the hot ice cream girl, which sort of makes sense, except she’s not a convincing princess of darkness or even just a goth. But she’s got big, pillowy breasts so I guess if I just keep my eyes where the director wants them, I’d have less to complain about. The crazy dead girlfriend is played by Ashley Greene and this is where I really must object. Nobody who’s ever hired her has truly been serious about their movie. There are certain women in Hollywood whose inclusion in a cast signals to the rest of us that this is not going to be a quality movie and is probably not even going to pretend be.

Max and Olivia share a passion for horror, but this movie doesn’t really fit the genre, despite the whole zombie thing. I think it’s supposed to be a comedy, as evidenced by the annoying, low-rent-Jonah-Hill half-brother character who doesn’t even have the decency to be played by actual Jonah Hill. Anyway. I couldn’t take this thing seriously, it sure as heck wasn’t scary, but it wasn’t funny enough (or funny at all) for me to even acknowledge it as a comedy. The makeup and effects are sub-par and the story is so unimaginative to call it derivative would be to give it respect it doesn’t deserve.

TIFF 2017: Bingo! I Got Bingo!, Part 2

Catching 3 films by female directors is easy. The TIFF lineup this and every year has lots of interesting films to choose from, many of them directed by women. Getting full TIFF Bingo isn’t so easy.

I have stress dreams about the Midnight Madness ball and avoid it like it’s a not deep-fried vegetable so that’s out. And, while Battle of the Sexes had its moments, I can’t honestly say that I thought “Now this I’ve got to try”.

But I did…

Thank a Volunteer

Mom and Dad– The festival and the city that hosts it can be a little overwhelming at first. Even though I feel like an expert by the end of my stay, every year I’m feeling a little disoriented when I first get into town. So I’ve just checked into my hotel, it’s 11:40 at night, and I’ve got a Midnight Madness screening of Brian Taylor’s Mom and Dad in 20 minutes. I’m running around trying to find Ryerson theater and I’m getting stressed out imagining all the ways that I could humiliate myself trying to volley a beach ball in a crowded theater. Luckily, a friendly orange shirt is never far away and I was very thankful to the volunteers who helped me find where to line up. I never miss a chance to thank a volunteer and I applaud for them every time the TIFF commercial prompts us to.

So, anyway, Mom and Dad. Taylor (Crank, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence) seems to be just begging us to make this a cult classic. An unexplained virus suddenly hits suburbia in the middle of the school day that infects parents with an uncontrollable urge to violently murder their offspring. Poor Carly (13 Reasons Why’s Anne Winters) and Josh Ryan (Transparent’s Zackary Arthur) are forced to fend for themselves against their now-deranged parents played by Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair.

Mom and Dad is bananas. Almost every aspect of the film- from the basic concept down to the music and over-caffeinated editing- seems driven by the same manic energy that fuels Cage’s typically unhinged performance. The actor, who in the eyes of the enthusiastic Midnight Madness crowd may as well have been John Lennon, already starts overacting long before the virus starts making everyone crazy. He outCages himself in this movie and- while it would be a stretch to call it a good performance- it feels like the right performance for this movie. But it’s Blair, surprisingly, who somehow finds a way to keep this runaway train from going off the rails. From the start, we can tell that her character is a good mom. She loves her kids but she’s exhausted and taken for granted. She’s the only believable character in the whole thing and her presence brings Mom and Dad back to earth. It’s through her that we start to sense that the virus is tapping into an existential crisis that was already in place before the infection.

To call Mom and Dad good would be ridiculous but it’s not really trying to be. It just wants to be fun and, for the most part, it is. It’s often funny, even coming dangerously close to smart, especially when it’s in terrible taste.

Phone Dies

I got some great photos this year, many of which you can see if you follow us on Twitter. I like sitting in the front row so I was able to get some shots of Nicolas Cage, Alicia Vikander, Alexander Payne, and Darren Aronofsky that I’m really happy with. But you won’t see a photo of Ellen Page (who, if I’m not mistaken, counts as a superhero out of spandex) because my phone died.

The Cured– So I did manage to get a couple of pictures of Ellen Page during the Q&A for The Cured. They’re just not tweetable because my phone didn’t have enough juice left for the flash to work. So it’s not a great picture. It’s a shame because I love her.

And, yes, fortunately for my TIFF Bingo card, my phone officially died on my way back to my hotel.

On to The Cured. This debut feature from Irish director David Freyne finds yet another way to breathe new life into a genre that seems to never run out of ways to reinvent itself: the zombie movie. Once this version of the zombie apocalypse has died down, two thirds of the “infected’ have been successfully cured and are slowly being reintegrated into society. Ex-zombies don’t have it easy though. They still have painful memories of the suffering that they inflicted and most people still don’t trust them.

Senan (Sam Keeley) has just been released from a treatment facility and is taken in by his brother’s wife Abbie (Page) who has been widowed by the outbreak. When he falls in with a militant group of zombie rights activists, Senan struggles to find a balance between his desire to fit in and atone for his crimes and his instinct to stand up for his fellow cured.

To Freyne, his film is really about how we treat each other in today’s mixed up world. It’s a serious movie with serious themes that somehow finds time to deliver the goods when it comes to zombie scares. Freyne’s direction is confident and precise, more so than almost any other movie I saw at the festival this year.

So there you have it. I wore out my phone battery, saw 3 films by female directors, thanked every volunteer that I spoke to, and even managed to see some good movies while I was at it. By now, experienced Bingo players have probably already spotted my path to victory but please feel free to stay tuned for more details.

 

Train to Busan

Seok-Woo (Yoo Gong) is a busy hedge fund manager who thinks mainly of himself, and his success. He’s pushed away his wife, who has left him, and he’s letting his mother raise his young daughter, Soo-an (Soo-an Kim). When a Wii fails to impress Soo-an for her birthday, Seok-Woo reluctantly agrees to take her on a trip to visit her mother. They board a trail from Seoul to Busan, and their timing is impeccable (although, to be honest, I’m still not 100% if it was impeccably good or impeccably bad. You decide). Just as their train is pulling away, a very fast-spreading zombie infection overtakes the station. Has the train gotten away cleanly? Well, no, not entirely.

Like Snowpiercer and Murder on the Orient Express, the train setting gives a unique twist on the genre in question, in this case, the good old zombie movie. A train, as you MV5BMGUyZDQ2NzEtZDIwMi00ZTA4LWEyM2EtNTIyZDdlZjBmNmY3XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjEwNTM2Mzc@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1494,1000_AL_know, is basically a big metal tube and while it’s travelling, you’re all but locked inside. There’s no where to go. All the players, good and bad, and all the answers, good and bad, must be found within the train.

Seok-Woo is intent on protecting his daughter. It’s sad that it takes an apocalypse for this father to finally dedicate time for his daughter, but there it is. For better or worse, their fates become intertwined with those of the people in their compartment: a pregnant woman and her aggressive husband, a couple of elderly women, a vagrant, a high school baseball team, an arrogant businessman.

Director Sang-ho Yeon makes brilliant use of the cramped quarters. The action sequences are taut. He’s less confident about the wobbly social commentary he sometimes wants to make, and the zombies’ abilities do waver a little bit depending on what will service the plot, but it’s never very long before another burst of action is upon us. The characters have actual personalities; some you’ll root for, some you’ll cheer for when they get eaten.  Sure dad’s character arc is a little predictable, but when’s the last horror movie that even bothered with one? Train to Busan is a little overlong but very watchable, even for a chickenshit like me. Zombie outbreaks tend to bring out the worst in us but Yeon reminds us that we’re still capable of compassion and sacrifice as well. He elevates the film from its generic genre; though its roots are still evident, this film is as fresh and unique as it filled with spilled brains.

The Girl With All The Gifts

I was really worried that this movie would be too scary for me, but its immediate familiarity reminded me that I’d read the book upon which it is based (by M.R. Carey), and knowing I’d survived the book meant I could surely handle the film as well.

Not for nothing: it’s about a “fungus” that’s extremely zombie-like in its presentation. Miss Justineau (Gemma Arterton) is a teacher at a military-run school at Hotel Echo. Her “hungry students” are all infected with the fungus. Under heavy restraints, they aren’t locarno-festival_the_girl_with_all_the_gifts_publicity_still_h_2016just taught, but tested. Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is test subject #1. She’s a very sweet young girl until flesh is nearby, and then her jaws start chomping involuntarily.

When the base is suddenly overrun by hungries, Melanie escapes with the compassionate teacher as well as Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close), the woman doing all the experiments, and just a few remaining soldiers. Because they’re low on blocker gel (the lotion that makes them less appetizing to hungries), they’re loathe to keep her so close by, but Dr. Caldwell is unwilling to let her best subject go. Melanie might be the key to an antidote.

Their small party need to make their way to the next safe spot, called Beacon, but getting there isn’t going to be easy. There’s some typical zombie movie gore, but this movie manages to be more by focusing on the relationship between student and teacher. And Melanie manages to be more than just a zombie, with her constant yearning to be fully girl-1474366013901_largehuman. Newcomer Sennia Nanua is very compelling in her role; Melanie is a monster, but Nanua gives her a sense of humanity that transforms this horror film into something more urgent, more terrifyingly relatable.

Director Colm McCarthy gives us some memorably startling images, even going so far as to shoot aerial footage over Chernobyl for an apocalyptic feel. The Girl With All The Gifts is not a traditional zombie movie, nor horror. It has a social conscience and some sound science, refreshing the genre with intelligence and dark humour. It’s not a perfect movie, it’s a little muddled, a little indefinite, but it’s a thought-provoking hybrid much like Melanie herself.

Beyond The Grave

Beyond the Grave (Portos dos Mortos) is a post-apocalyptic indie sensation out of Brazil, where it successfully made the rounds of film festivals. It’s about a police officer looking for a serial killer, more or less. The catch: life is governed by magic and madness in this new reality. The serial killer is possessed. The cop is fueled by vengeance. This is not a tale of good vs. evil, but rather, the bad vs. the very bad.

The cop picks up a couple of teenagers on his travels – a risky thing to do, he knows. But they too are searching for someone who did them wrong. The cop isn’t much of a talker but luckily the boy can provide both sides of any conversation. And the bonus: the cop has a gun without bullets, and the kid has a lone bullet.

beyondgrave6a_zps0481e190During their road trip they pass what look like zombies to me, but low-budget zombies you’d see trick-or-treating at your house come Halloween. It’s hard to embrace horror when the effects are too cumbersome to be scary. There are some genuinely interesting visuals here, most of them blood-soaked, but it’s not enough to make up a frustrating act in story-telling. The quiet serves the story well though, the audience learning much of what we know from a constantly cracking radio rather than any character.

I was a little upset, and by a little upset I mean and I was REALLY FUCKING UPSET when a zombie pulled out a gun. I mean, doesn’t that violate everything we know about zombies? And how do the zombies have guns when the cop’s is useless? I know I just mentioned two paragraphs ago that this post-apocalyptic world is governed by magic, I just didn’t expect the ‘magic’ to be ‘stupidity.’ My mistake.

So I lost interest in the movie quickly after this, especially when some super cheesy music was played over a montage where the teenagers learn to shoot a gun…that has no bullets.

So this movie is probably only to be enjoyed by those who really love zombie flicks – foreign, subtitled, low-budget, fantasy, road-tripping zombie movies with a western twist. Which I can’t say that I am.

 

 

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies

I know exactly what is wrong with this movie: it deviates too much from Seth Grahame-Smith’s book – and for that matter, from Jane Austen’s.

Grahame-Smith’s novel was a clever and funny mash-up that clearly honoured its source material (credit to Quirk Books editor Jason Rekulak, who came up with the idea). Fans of Austen will follow along delightedly, finding all of their favourite bits suddenly transformed by the presence of the undead and the ninja Bennett sisters’ unparalleled fighting skills. It almost feels like untitledAusten left her novel wide open for a zombie attack, having an independent heroine spoiling for a fight and lots of solitary carriage rides through unpopulated areas.

Unfortunately, writer-director Burr Steers thought he knew better than both Grahame-Smith AND Austen, and departs from their material quite substantially. This from the esteemed writer of How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days.

The movie has glimpses of period drama and some real horror gore but has no idea how to unite the two. Instead, it drives toward an action flick, concocting very weird scenarios in which the zombies are not just a plague but a formidable, willful enemy. Lily James acquits herself well as the delightful maxresdefaultMiss Bennett, and seems to remember that she’s supposed to be having fun. The movie, however, takes itself too seriously and winds up being ludicrous. All the juicy bits of Austen’s writing are MIA and the zombies lack bite (it’s rated PG-13) so it rather fails on both counts. The zombies keep looking for brains, but they won’t find any here.