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Review V/H/S (2012): If you can get past the horrible shaky cam you will find a lot of horror goodness in this anthology!

genre: thriller, horror

For about ten or fifteen minutes or so you will get overwhelmed by the most horrendous shaky cam you probably have ever seen. I wouldn't be surprised if some of you will get nauseated by this. It's advisable to not have eaten or drunk too much because that won't end well. But if that is not enough you will have to endure the most despicable human beings on this planet. I was immensely close of giving up on this film until I got my first genuine horror treat. And it was magnificent. 

V/H/S is an anthology film consisting of supposed found footage videos. Let me tell you that I am not a huge fan of those since most of them don't really offer something that substantial. However there have been examples like Rec and The Visit that offer a lot. I am happy to report that V/H/S is one of those good ones. However like I said you will have to stomach some horrendous shaky cam and other terrible effects before you get to the good stuff. But once you do it will be very much worth it. Some segments are done so well that you genuinely will be freaked out at times. Unfortunately some segments are a little to the generic side and rely on gore more than actual build up of suspense and creepiness. To be honest that is perfectly fine since the super freaky and creepy stuff will more than make up for that.

This anthology film is heavily underrated if you ask me. People who have been giving this bad reviews probably didn't get past the first fifteen minutes. Especially the ones claiming that there is nothing creepy or scary going on. If you keep objective and calm there is so much going on. In the background and on the forefront. V/H/S is never afraid to go over the top when it's needed but never forgets to be subtle. At the same time a lot of interesting issues are depicted.  Some of the horror depicted is psychological and if you allow yourself to think about it even more terrifying than the supernatural elements.

So in short I am pleasantly surprised since I was not expecting to like this at all. But I did. And so will you if you are a true horror fan.

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Review Seoul Station (2016): Dark, bleak and unrelenting!

genre: animation, horror, drama

Seoul Station is the prequel to Train to Busan that it is much darker and bleaker than the live action film. There are hardly any sympathetic characters in this one. The few that are present, most of the time, fall victim to their own humanity, but worse to the stupidity and selfishness of the main characters. The animation seems to be in function of how the people are in this film since it's never beautiful or colourful. If you are shown a guy with a crooked face that is done on purpose to show you that he is a crooked character. I didn't realize this until very late. 

Especially Hye-sun is a useless and despicable character. She hasn't done anything worthwhile in life and keeps relying on others for everything you can imagine. I swear I can't remember a scene where she is not whining and crying. If she had any admirable traits I could overlook her flaws. But unfortunately she is very passive and lazy. Yet somehow people want to rescue her all the time. Like her father and no good for nothing boyfriend. To be fair the boyfriend tried to pimp her  out to make some money so he at least is trying even if it is reprehensible. 

Seoul Station might be animated but it's not for kids and the squeamish. It is very confronting and gives us a social commentary on how for example South Korea treat their homeless people. Although I think this applies to many other countries in the world so you can interpret this more broadly. It is very heartbreaking to witness how a homeless guy is desperately trying to get help for his sick (infected) buddy but simply gets ignored or abused for doing so. Homeless people are seen as lowlifes or worse as people who don't count. Next to that the film is very critical of how the government treats their own citizens once the infection has spread significantly. This theme is common in most zombie films and one that unfortunately needs to be addressed again and again. Can you really rely and depend on them to help you in your hour of need?  Seoul Station has a few surprises for you in store so be sure to stick around especially when events play out in predictable fashion. 

I know that a lot of zombie films even animated ones are meant to entertain but a lot of them do try to infuse some issues we should pay attention to. And Seoul Station in that aspect is unrelenting. It shows us people when they are at their darkest and nastiest. Might be unpleasant to watch at times but one that should be watched and learned from so that we can do better. So this definitely is one I recommend.    

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Review Beyond the Gates (2016): Uneven but fun throwback to Eighties horror!

genre: horror, adventure

Beyond the Gates is made for a specific audience and therefore might be lost on people who aren't the intended audience. So who is the target audience? People like me who have grown up in the Eighties and people who appreciate that incredibly special and creative decade. Beyond the Gates very heavily depends on this love for the Eighties and the nostalgia factor since as a standalone horror flick it doesn't quite deliver.

Is that a bad thing? In this case it certainly isn't. The Eighties style and atmosphere is easily the main draw. Everything else is just secondary or trivial. Naturally I would have liked a better written script and perhaps a little more spectacle. But despite the film's flaws I never stopped liking the film. Even the slow pacing and illogical actions of the main characters never made me dislike the production. Director Jackson Stewart shows promise and I hope he will continue making films like this and I am sure of it that if he does he will make that one film that will steal the hearts of many people.

The story is simple. Two estranged brothers come together to clean up their father's video store who has been missing for a while now. They both assume he is death and won't be returning. They have their reasons for thinking that. During the clean up they discover this VCR board game and strange things start to happen. It is very obvious that the film did not have a large budget and therefore is limited to showing the bare minimum. But believe it or not that is part of the film's charm. It is asked of you to use your imagination a little more than usual. In general I favour the show, don't tell principle only in this case it would not have made a real difference to the overall vibe so I was very happy to let my imagination go. And trust me I have a pretty wild one. The film does have a few surprises for you in store so you will be rewarded somewhat for your patience. I was also glad to see that I am not the only one who misses VCR's and video (rental) stores. I spent hours browsing through the titles. Looking at the covers. Reading the back covers. Then deciding whether to rent it or not. When in doubt you would ask the clerk for his opinion on the movie. Often it would lead to pleasant discussions about movies and other things. There was a whole social aspect to it that is lost now.

So yes for me Beyond the Gates was a fun viewing experience but it won't be for everyone.

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Review Sadako vs. Kayako (2016): The curses of Ringu and Ju-On facing off. What can possibly go wrong?

genre: horror

My expectations for this film weren't that high to begin with. Reviews weren't too positive. But when it comes to certain genres that is something I need to find out myself. Especially when it comes to horror. Sometimes even the worst horror films have something special to offer. Sadako vs. Kayako is no different.

Although you do need to realize that this film is hardly scary. There are some nice and creepy moments. But they pale in comparison to what you have seen in the original movies. One question that undoubtedly will haunt you is how have they put these iconic franchises together? The concept is pretty crazy and quite ambitious for sure. And I have to admit that its done in a clever way. It's simple, obvious and therefore brilliant. However it happens far too late in the film leaving very little time to enjoy the clash between the two famous ghosts. But why did it take so long for them to get to the point? If I had to guess it is because they wanted to breathe in new life into these franchises and introduce new people to the films. So for the most part it is assumed you don't know about these curses and they basically show you the essentials of what they entail. Mind you they leave out a lot of the lore and background which messes up a lot of the fun. It's those creepy details that make these curses so effective. It can be argued that director Kôji Shiraishi does expect you to be familiar with these films since he hardly gives his audience the time to digest all of what is happening on the screen. However for fans of these franchises apart from a few new elements nothing new is brought to the table. Most of the time it feels like scenes are dragging since we already know what is going on. I was waiting for the main event to start already and it took them one hour and twenty minutes to get there. That would have been fine if the film had a duration of two hours. But that's not the case. We are talking about ninety-eight minutes. Which leaves 18 minutes for Sadako and Kayako to get their groove on and what happens? Almost half of that time is spent on the victims. Plus the ghosts aren't shown as the super evil entities we know they can be. Kayako almost is a joke. I won't reveal what happens next but it is stupid and awesome at the same time. If the sequel is coming then it is going to be interesting for sure. 

But no matter how awesome it is and probably is going to be, it also is very stupid. This film doesn't deliver on what the title promises. There is very little battle to speak of. The outcome of that fight is preposterous to say the least because it's so random and illogical that it will make your head spin. I know that I should not be speaking of logic when it comes to horror films. Still let me remind you that even the most far fetched horror flicks should abide by their own rules they have set. This film literally throws everything out of the window just so that they can deliver that twist you could not see coming. No of course not since it doesn't make sense whatsoever. Granted this whole film is a bizarre project since more likely it will anger the fans than that it will please them. But I like the concept of universes merging. It has a lot of potential when done right. There are some small redeeming factors because of the concept but unfortunately not enough to make it worth your while. I would not have mind at all if they would have gone all old school and genuinely were trying to scare you.  Because it has been a long time I have seen a proper Ring or Ju-On film. Unfortunately the innovation aspects detract from the dread and terror considerably. Still I do have to point out that I prefer the ghosts of this movie over the one in Rings. Even in their handicapped state they are far more impressive than Samara ever could be.

Overall Sadako vs. Kayako doesn't deliver on what it promises. And as is I can't recommend this. But there are some elements that were fun and entertaining especially in relation to the sequel if it is coming. If it is going to be made then this will be worth it since the outcome of this film does have all the potential for ultimate horror goodness. 

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Review Undisputed II: Last Man Standing (2006): A little overrated but decent sequel!

genre: martial arts, action, crime, drama

Undisputed II as the title suggests is the sequel to Undisputed where George "Iceman" Chambers now is played by Michael Jai White. George must be the unluckiest man in the whole wide world who again ends up in jail. This time he is set up by the Russian mob so that he can fight Boyka (Scott Adkins) who is the undefeated champion in this Russian prison. Not much background is given on  him but modesty is not of his characteristics. Apparently he really likes it there as he is more concerned with fighting and training than getting out. 

You would think it would be a no brainer for George to do what the Russian mobsters want him to do. Unfortunately George is not particularly bright in this part which somehow gets mistaken for stubbornness. But believe me it's stupidity. Any other person who ends up in a jail like this would do whatever to get out. But not George Chambers. He is rude and defiant all the way. This would make sense if he thought that he would never get out. But actually he acts this way since he is under the impression he will be getting out soon. He realizes he has been set up but still is very trusting of the justice system. How can you be if you are thrown in jail without any type of trial or due process. So he needs to be convinced. It is at this point the film pays attention to some side characters and their predicaments. One of these characters is played by Ben Cross. It's a travesty to see such a good actor reduced to playing a role like this. Especially since he is not even allowed to do much. While it's admirable that they tried to infuse this film with some melodrama often these scenes feel tonally wrong and actually get in the way of the action. The story drags far too much and makes the 90 minute duration feel a lot longer. In a martial arts flick it's never good if story detracts from the action.

The action itself is top notch. Very well choreographed and fun to watch. But it has to be said that compared to the original Undisputed II has less impact.  George Chambers is in a very dire situation and yet it rarely feels like there is a lot at stake. That is a real shame since with better direction and story Undisputed 2 could have been more exciting. Boyka is a big deal and Adkins certainly does his best to make him memorable but sadly he is let down by the plot and direction. He is interesting enough especially action wise but his character is not fleshed out enough that is deserving of his popularity. Which for me was a little disappointing. I certainly don't understand the praise of this movie  is getting. The majority of the fans are claiming that this sequel is better than the original. It's not. Not by a long shot. The whole tone and vibe of this film is completely different. This George Chambers is a whole new person compared to how he was portrayed by Ving Rhames in the original. And the fights in original were more intense. Just shows you that good and exciting action requires more than better or flashy choreography, 

Overall though Undisputed 2 offers enough B movie goodness for you to have a nice time. But it's not as good as fans are claiming. So keep that in mind.

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Review Baby Driver (2017):When hype clouds people's judgement!

genre: action, crime, thriller

Ever since the film was announced a lot of hype was surrounding Baby Driver. This was supposed to be the one film to reinvent the heist genre. And surely enough a lot of people went mental over this film praising it like it was the second coming of Jesus. Naturally this made me happy and couldn't wait to see it. Imagine my surprise when Baby Driver turns out to be an average action film at best with here and there some cool moments but nothing else. 

The opening sequence was far from exciting but it showed promise. To my astonishment it went downhill from there for at least an hour. Only Jamie Foxx managed to keep me interested as he plays a very scary character quite convincingly. To a smaller extent Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey as well but they are both sleepwalking through their roles and don't bring anything to the table to flesh out their characters. I liked the kid called Baby. But apart from his special condition (Tinnitus) there was nothing extraordinary about him. They keep saying how he is a good driver but still manages to drive like a blind lunatic. Whatever. Baby is a good kid but kind of an idiot who gets in far too deep for his own good. You would think that after having been around in the criminal world you would be more careful and smarter. Anyway Baby has a thing for Debora. Which is nice since she has a thing for him as well. Why this love story was put in is beyond me. Yes I get it. She helps him to choose the right path bla bla bla. For a film that was supposed to be very unique and special it sure is a stickler for done to death clichés. 

Luckily the second hour is much better and actually manages to be exciting, thrilling and stylish. But again it can't escape predictability. So events play out like you expect them to. The shoot-outs done to the rhythm of the music was a nice touch. I only wished they would have done more with the soundtrack. Weren't we promised that? I never really got psyched or pumped up like I did with the tracks on Guardians of the Galaxy for example. Actually I could name ten other titles where the soundtrack got me more pumped than this one did. So why is Baby Driver getting all hyped up? It's not original or fresh as claimed. It has a gimmick but that is about it. 

Overall Baby Driver is a disappointing affair as it is not as good as hype wants to make you believe. It has it's moments but it's far from the super exciting or memorable film we were promised. 

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Review The Limehouse Golem (2016): Close but no cigar!

genre: mystery, thriller, horror

Victorian London is shook up by a serial killer named The Limehouse Golem shortly before the most famous serial killer, Jack The Ripper, would make his entrance. Who is this vicious killer?

For a while this film had me going. Everything seemed to click. Bill Nighy as the reluctant  Inspector John Kildare. Olivia Cooke as the enchanting Lizzie Cree. An intriguing murder mystery. And for the most part the wonderful atmospheric recreation of Victorian London.  Unfortunately as a thriller or horror The Limehouse Golem fails miserably. Apart from some very brief depictions of blood and gore the terror and dread is completely absent. The possibility of supernatural elements concerning the Jewish myth is not even touched upon. Very curious is the decision to only show the murders in flashbacks and only pay attention to it once the plot asks for it. How am I supposed to be terrified or put on edge if you are never going to show me why I should be?  It also doesn't help that the majority of the people in London are hardly bothered by the killings since we are never shown that people fear for there lives or are outraged by the murders. 

What is left is a mystery that fails to hook you in completely as it never truly misdirects you. Two red herrings once confronted are immediately dismissed and disregarded. Now this would have been fine if there were many of these misdirections. But there weren't which leaves very little to ponder on thus eliminating the suspense. I mean even with all the good will and my willingness to overlook the lack of good twists and turns it was painfully obvious what direction the film was going. The ending therefore was very disappointing. 

As a period piece however this film is compelling enough. It points out certain social issues without ever becoming political or moralistic. Although it is clear that the film does imply that things now have improved considerably. Next to that it was nice to see some music hall performances and how the crowds respond to those. Back then that kind of entertainment was much more appreciated than now. Especially since they played out actual events on stage.  

If it weren't for the great cast I probably would not have been able to get into this film. It's a real shame that director Juan Carlos Medina did not even attempt to venture into the mystical and supernatural. Since that was one of the things that could have given this mystery an edge, I also don't really understand why the gruesome murders are not depicted or treated as such. Thriller 101 demands you emphasize the cruelty so that your audience is hooked. 

I was intrigued but that was more because of my craving for genuine thriller / horror goodness. I feel let down since The Limehouse Golem really had the potential to provide it. It reminded me of the Jack the Ripper mini series with Michael Caine but without the thrills, suspense and the surprises. Close but no cigar!


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