Like many horror movie fans a yearly tradition of mine is to hold horror movie marathons to celebrate Halloween. This time around it was more difficult to choose the titles since a lot of them that have come out recently didn't seem worth it. So I did what I always do when this happens. I go back into time. Although I did stay pretty close to now. The following titles are: Train to Busan, As Above, So Below and The Lords of Salem. I will review these films in the order I have watched them. And also will indicate which of them I thought was the best.
First to watch is the most recent on this list:
Train to Busan a.k.a. Busanhaeng (2016)
Not going to beat around the bush and will state that this without a doubt is the best of all the movies this night. To be honest this surprised me. I don't know about you but I do think there have been too many shows and films about zombies and most of them aren't that particularly good. And if they are good they are hardly original or creative. Now Train to Busan might not be all that different it does manage to surpass most zombie films somehow. From start to end it's one hell of a thrill ride. If I had to put a finger on it it achieves this by staying close to how people really would act if a zombie apocalypse would to happen. Not everyone will instantly act and behave like a hero. Although another aspect that I found exciting was how the zombies behaved. I prefer the slow walking ones for sure. The inevitability no matter how slow is what terrifies the most. However in this film they are fast. Super fast. Faster than in the Dawn of the Dead remake for example. But that is not what was made them scary. In Train for Busan these zombies somehow act like a hive or ant colony. I think the latter comes the closest describing the way they behave. If for example they came across an obstacle they would try to overcome it by piling themselves up so that the others could climb and walk on them. I don't think I have seen that happen that often in series or films. I really like this approach. It was very fresh. Next to that the cast is top notch. You will certainly love or hate the characters you get introduced. Especially the executive guy I named Donald Trump. He represents all of what I despise in people who feel entitled. Ma Dong-seok / Don Lee who plays one of the passengers was awesome. He kicks some major zombie ass and was one you root for all the way. Gong Ji-chul who plays our main character also was good as the reluctant hero. In the few hours that pass he transforms from a passive father to one that definitely should win best father of the world award. The daughter (Soo-an) also was quite good. Not once did she get on my nerves like most child actors do. On top of the good acting and the thrills the film does a real good job depicting the despair and sadness that comes with apocalyptic events like these. So a must watch if you ask me.
Next on the list was a gamble. But one that turned out to be quite good.
As Above, So Below (2014)
This is a found footage film where all of the events will be seen from a first person perspective. Now this may put you off since this is an overused gimmick that very rarely does it right. That is why I am happy to report that this is one of the better ones. It tries to avoid the usual trappings by combining adventure elements with horror. The film moves along in a very fast pace and most of the time the characters don't think or ponder too long about certain events that just occurred. Now I personally have some mixed feelings about that since I do like it when tension and dread is build up slowly rather than fast. However the speed also enables you to not give the events too much thought and often will leave you surprised or mesmerized. Although at one point it does become clear what the events entail as the characters get closer and closer to their goal. The imagery that comes with them can be very haunting creepy and intense. A major plus is that even when you don't really get to know the characters that well, you won't get annoyed by them. Except maybe Scarlett. The Lara Croft clone whose determination often is more infuriating than admirable. She is the main character and she actually is the one who triggers all of the events and therefore is very deserving of some major punishment if you ask me. Still, I can't deny that I did like her being a strong character who wasn't afraid to get hands on when needed. But that being said I wasn't particularly happy with how the film had ended. Now maybe it is because the director wants you to leave it to the viewer how you interpret it. Which often I find lazy and inexcusable. In this case I could go along with it to a degree. One thing I do think that needed more exploring are the events and what caused them. I would have liked to see more direct confrontations and at least a few hints from another perspective. I find that stuff fascinating. Take note of this people who made this film. Overall a pleasant watch and very worth your time.
This brings me to the final and worst film in this marathon.
The Lords of Salem (2012)
The Lords of Salem starts out pretty strong and does contain some elements I found intriguing at first. But soon it becomes apparent that nothing is done with them and that in the end it all was pointless. And I have to say this is a real shame because this had potential. One odd decision on Rob Zombie's part is the fact that he has given his wife Sheri Moon the lead. Why? Not that she is that bad of an actress. I have seen far worse. But that being said, there is nothing about her that is appealing. You simply can't care for her since she lacks the acting chops to convey that. Since she is pivotal to all of the events in the film you can imagine why that would hurt the film. Knowing who to cast or not to cast is also an important task of the director and Rob Zombie already is behind on convincing me that he is any good. He also has said that this film was his most personal one. That does not make any sense to me. He will have to explain this to me in detail otherwise all I can say is that Rob Zombie has to be one sick and twisted individual. Most of the visuals are very Kubrickesque without the meaning and context though. Stanley Kubrick while also offering abstract visuals did make them more coherent and essential to the story. Zombie just shows you creepy and disturbing imagery that have very little to no consequence. There is no direct follow up to them. So it never truly feels like they matter. And to be honest they don't. The film still with have given you the same feeling without the creepy music and visuals. The biggest flaw of this film is that in the end very little happens. And whatever does it's without consequence or meaning. In other words it's boring people. That is an accomplishment in itself since the film does contain some gore and creepy ideas that could be perceived as shocking if you are not used to seeing that. Although for a horror fan like me you have to do better than that. Give this one a miss. It absolutely is not worth your time.
Overall I thought this horror movie marathon was a success and fun despite The Lords of Salem being very disappointing. It did make me appreciate the better films a whole lot more. But I do hope that next year will offer better horror films since it has been while that a film actually scared me.