Double Feature: #Alive (2020) & The Bridge Curse (女鬼橋, 2020)

Next up in the Halloween movie marathon is an Asian film double feature with South Korean Netflix zombie film, #Alive paired with Taiwanese horror film, The Bridge Curse, both on Netflix fittingly for this themed month.

Let’s check it out!

#Alive (2020)

#

Director (and co-writer): Il Cho

Cast: Ah-In Yoo, Shin-Hye Park, Bae-soo Jeon, Hyun-Wook Lee

The rapid spread of an unknown infection has left an entire city in ungovernable chaos, but one survivor remains alive in isolation. It is his story. – IMDB

There’s no doubt that there is no shortage of zombie movies out there. I mean, we’ve covered a ton of them here but after the success of Train to Busan, its hard to write-off what South Korean cinema has to offer. #Alive is a little different. In many ways, its about survival during the zombie apocalypse (which movie isn’t) but its more than that as its about two characters self-quarantined during this post-apocalypse. As much as there’s zombies, its about a guy and a girl both in their own apartments in the same complex surviving in their own way. Its a different angle because its also very character-oriented. #Alive is structured in a good progression from a focus on the guy and his survival to realizing he isn’t “alone” and then reuniting the characters to survival together. Its a little far-fetched in some scenes when they reunite and plays upon how lucky they are to beat a ton of zombies but it does work pretty well in terms of the tension and atmosphere.

In reality, there is where #Alive stands out and that’s the two characters. In reality, the zombies are a definite threat but they are less scary than the desperate situation that the two characters are caught in. With their wits and their own know-hows, they end up being quite a team of helping each other out and each having their own story and unknowingly saving each other in some subtle moments that clues in on their individual characters that the other doesn’t learn about. Zombie movies at this point are the best when they are entertaining to watch which #Alive is absolutely there. Sure, it doesn’t give anything new with the zombies or the post-apocalypse situation and maybe even the characters but the angle and the premise or making it more character-oriented and a lonely quarantine probably lands even better because its released during the current landscape in our own reality and at least made me question my own preparedness at home for whatever survival needs that I might be lacking.

The Bridge Curse (2020)

Director: Lester Hsi

Cast: JC Lin, Vera Yen, Summer Meng, Ning Chang, Ruby Zhan, Yi-hung Hsieh, Cheng Ko

University students, planning a bravery initiation test for their fellow classmates, choose a campus bridge rumored to be haunted by a vengeful female ghost. – IMDB

I’ve always been pretty skeptical about Chinese horror movies in general. As much as they try, it all turns out to be fairly generic and full of horror tropes. With that said, I’ve only started going through some horror stuff sporadically from Taiwan (prior it was mostly Hong Kong horror) and The Bridge Curse is one of those that recently landed on Netflix. The Bridge Curse has some strong vibes of Dreadout, the game and not the film adaptation, which was decent enough. Actually there are some scenes that almost replicate that of one or two cutscenes from the game. The Bridge Curse plays on a lore about a female ghost haunting a bridge where at midnight, the steps leading away from the bridge will mysteriously have one extra step and if the person walking the steps counts to the extra step and turns around then they will see the ghost and be haunted. The story itself is fairly generic and it does have some creepy moments but most of it is rather expected. Where it does fall flat is that the surprise in the finale is a bit lackluster and it has to do a lot with the execution. In some ways, it may have benefited from being either a full found footage film instead of bouncing back and forth between that and the normal film structure. It might actually have worked better as the former.

The Bridge Curse’s structure is a parallel of bouncing between the past where the university students perform this initiation set-up/demonstration for their juniors and the story progresses at the same time as the present where a reporter is on location investigating the details of it to get to the bottom of this Bridge Curse and whether there was something more to the case. The structure is pretty good as it pairs up the two parts from one side reaching a certain room and then bouncing back to the present being in that room. The pieces of clues that she finds and how she connects it together also works well logically.

As much as that, the university students has their own little issues and some of the parts and the dialogue is not scripted that good, making these characters a little empty as well. At the same time, the scares are all fairly predictable even if some of the execution did turn out a little creepy although the ghost reveal did happen a little too early and the scares at times happened a little too frequent which made it lose its effectiveness by the end.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two Asian horror films?

Double Feature: Dawn of the Dead (1978) & Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Halloween marathon continues as we move onto the next pairing of the next movie of the Living Dead franchise, Dawn of the Dead matched up with the 2004 remake that also happens to be one of my favorite zombie movies (but surprisingly, I’ve never written a review for it).

Let’s check it out!

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Dawn of the Dead 1978

Director (and writer): George A. Romero

Cast: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross, David Crawford, David Early, Richard France

Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall. – IMDB

Set in a shopping mall with four people barricading themselves in a hidden nook of the building while being in the more optimal position of being somewhere that can support their needs for the time-being, Dawn of the Dead is a fairly straight-forward movie of people with different skill sets stuck together with an escape helicopter on the roof ready to leave if anything happens.

With movies like this with small cast and one setting, its really a big reliance of giving space to set up both the location and the characters while of course, learning more about the zombies in this world. In terms of the location, the mall is pretty well laid out. There is a lot more exploring of the key locations they frequent both at the beginning when they first get there and the end when a group of raiders come crashing in and the aftermath of how to escape this now unsafe space.

The characters quickly drop from four to three which spans for a decent part of the movie. Considering the small group, its expected that it doesn’t drop too fast. The three characters, while diverse in their skills and they do build a bonding together and a way to function together, its a fairly slow part of the movie as they live in the mundane routine of being trapped together. At the same time, they are caught in the situation of the girlfriend character being pregnant but also trying to help with what she can to not be the typical damsel in distress. These three characters are okay to watch. Perhaps the least intriguing parts is the middle bit when they are together and it gets a little slow. Not to mention the group of motorcycle raiders comes crashing in and is led by a cameo role by Tom Savini.

The first movie gave an introduction that the zombies are slow and came back from the dead. In this one, its still a bit of the same except highlighting the spread of the zombie apocalypse. Perhaps the ending is where the key point is that links to the next movie a little bit (as an afterthought of watching Day of the Dead, that I will talk about soon).

Dawn of the Dead (2004)

Dawn of the Dead

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer, Ty Burrell, Michael Kelly, Kevin Zegers, Michael Barry, Lindy Booth, Jayne Eastwood, Boyd Banks, Inna Korobkina, R.D. Reid, Kim Poirier

A nurse, a policeman, a young married couple, a salesman and other survivors of a worldwide plague that is producing aggressive, flesh-eating zombies, take refuge in a mega Midwestern shopping mall. – IMDB

Dawn of the Dead remake is one of the few movies that I enjoy in Zack Snyder’s filmography. Its not that I dislike it so much as I’m just not a big fan of a good portion of his latest work with DC movies. But that’s a discussion for another day (maybe if Movies and Tea ever does a season on Zack Synder). As a full length feature film debut, Snyder shows some great potential. The remake takes some similar choices such as its setting and also having a pregnant woman in the group however, that about stops since it then proceeds with a great choice of having a bigger cast of characters. It amends the slow pace of the first film. Of course, the arguing point of having more characters is that these people will have less depth and a varying amount of time spent with them but then on the upside, gives more bodies to be lost when the time comes. In reality, zombie movies work a lot like shark movies in that aspect, right?

The array of characters actually does give a lot of room for more relationships to bond and some standout characters to pop up. Sarah Polley as the main female character Ana is really great as she is rather tough right from the start to the end and she forms a connection with Michael (Jake Weber) who is a quiet and resourceful character that seems to have some story behind him as well. One of the more fun times is the slice of joy that Ving Rhames’ character Kenneth finds as he befriends a man across the parking lot that runs the gun shop. With security guards and people of different backgrounds and priorities in mind, this group eventually faces the same issue of having to find a way to exit which leads them to a credit scene that shows their escape and what happens.

Watching the original and then watching the remake again actually makes for a great appreciation since the script itself as well as some of the supporting roles give a nod to the original. Whether its having Tom Savini also pop up in the role as the country sheriff as well as one of the main characters in the original, Ken Foree pops up as a Televangelist role saying the same line that he did in the original “When there’s no more room in Hell, the dead will walk the Earth”. I may have forgotten some of the other things but noticing these little elements adds a lot to this film in general.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen Dawn of the Dead (original, remake or both)? Thoughts?

Fantasia Festival 2020: Yummy (2019)

Yummy (2019)

yummy

Director (and co-writer): Lars Damoiseaux

Cast: Maaike Neuville, Bart Hollanders, Benjamin Ramon, Clara Cleymans, Annick Christiaens, Eric Godon, Joshua Rubin, Taeke Nicolai

An orgy of blood, violence and fun in which a young couple travel to a shabby Eastern European hospital for plastic surgery. Once there things unravel. – IMDB

There’s no doubt that zombie films are still rather a huge focal point. Belgium offers its version of horror comedy as it sets this zombie film called Yummy in a sketchy plastic surgery hospital doing some experimental things on the side. When a couple decides to go to the plastic surgery through the request of the girlfriend Alison to have a breast reduction, Michael wanders around with one of the staff Daniel and ends up discovering a gory Patient Zero which gets loose. Chaos awaits as the hospital gets infected and the few survivors hiding out in various locations need to find a way out. As with the location, some of the patients is hard to tell whether they are infected or not as well as adding some nudity into the mix. All this adds together for some rather comedic moments.

Yummy is somewhat of a double -sided coin. On one hand, it offers its viewers what you’d expect from a zombie film. Its entertaining and funny at some parts. There’s a lot of blood and gore to satisfy those expecting it in a zombie movie. Trust me, there are some rather disgusting bits. It gets right to the root of the zombie action fairly quickly and is well-paced. It does all the motions of a zombie film fairly well. Its fun enough to keep wanting to see more and how some of the stupid decisions these characters make or even what other spontaneous things they do to make the situation worse. I’m talking mostly about the boyfriend character Michael who is set up as a character who is rather useless and seems to mess things up more throughout the film more than contribute to the situation.

yummy 2019

With that said, the characters are rather one-dimensional. Normally, with low-budget zombie films, its really not expected for a lot of character depth except these characters aren’t exactly engaging to watch. Some of them are downright bad in nature or just doesn’t feel like anyone to root for to get out of this whole ordeal. Its almost expected that someone is going to betray or just be a coward or not stick together to survive and of course, all those things do happen. In reality, its hard to chalk it up to whether its the characters fault since the cast seems to have portrayed them fairly well or the story which seems to be lacking the unique element to make it stand out a little more.

However, credit where its due, the setting in the plastic surgery hospital is a fun choice and does add a lot of points plus the effects are done rather well. There’s a lot of use of the surroundings including intestines and whatnot and some creative use of the equipment to turn into a bomb. Overall, Yummy is a fun zombie movie. There’s some funny parts and is a silly experience as a whole with a lot of gore and blood and then a decent amount of nudity. I’m a little lukewarm towards it since its fun and all but I can’t see myself watching it again since I wasn’t a big fan of that type of ending (but spoiler free so I won’t dive further into that). Zombies, horror comedy, shabby hospital, blood, gore and nudity all seems to be things that you like, Yummy might be the movie for you.

Blog Tour: Undead Ultra by Camille Picott (Review/Giveaway)

Undead Ultra
By: Camille Picott

thumbnail_Undead Ultra Cover

Publication Date: April 7, 2016
Genre: Science-Fiction/Post-Apocalypse/Zombies

We’re celebrating Zombie Awareness Monthwith a mini tour of Undead Ultra by Camille Picott! Read on for details, an exclusive excerpt, and a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card!

Synopsis

It’s life or death…

…and two hundred miles to run.

Can she survive the zombies and save her son?

When the virus hits, nobody is prepared. Society collapses and Kate’s son doesn’t have a way out of his dorm. She has to go get him, but the roads aren’t safe, and the government has blockades.

Everything is at a standstill.

It will be the race of her life.

Kate loves running. She’s gone from marathons to ultramarathons and knows what it takes to run a hundred miles at a time, but this is different.

This is twice as far as she’s ever run…

…and finding food is a problem.

Is it even possible?

You’ll love this unique take on the apocalypse because the struggle is unlike anything you’ve read before.

Add to Goodreads

Review

 Zombie apocalypse stories are a bit overused in the current landscape whether its books (or movies). However, Undead Ultra takes on a different take from the fast-paced style to taking the characters on an ultramarathon of over 200 miles for these two running best friends to rescue their kids from their different locations as they realize that cars attract too much attention and are dangerous to use in the current zombie apocalypse world that has overrun the country. Packed with a lot of unknowns and their expertise in running and the limited supplies, they go on this insane run that tests them both mentally and physically to not only survive the length of the run and weather but also their biggest unknown factors, zombies.

There’s a lot to love about Undead Ultra. The execution of the whole story is done incredibly well. It balances the zombie threat in a myriad of different encounters as well as the limited amount of people they meet on this run, some good and some bad as well as sharing their own darker stories with each other that they may not have shared previously. At the same time, they strategize on supplies and the different phases that they go through during this ultramarathon, probably something that not a whole lot of people are incredibly familiar with in the first place. The zombie element brings in the bad ass character elements and builds the two characters as they harden to having to fight them. The story element gives both characters a lot of insight on their past and builds them up so that the readers can know them more and connect with them. The last element of ultramarathon is simply a survival element. Its both strategy as well as survival and sheds some light on the whole concept of ultramarathon and how tough it is and the mental exercise it really is. All of these balance well together to put together this thrilling run.

Undead Ultra features primarily the two characters, Kate and Frederico. Kate wants to go find her son Carter at his unversity where she has news and communication that he is still managing to stay alive but danger is moving closer and closer. She is the main voice of the story. However, her running companion and best friend Frederico is something of a rock and has his own hardships which include some alcohol abuse and trying to find his daughter on the way as well. These two characters have a lot of depth to them as the story unfolds further with each of their conversations and especially Kate’s memories of the past as well as Frederico’s recounts of his past. As they go through their ordeals, their characters build with the knowledge of their past as well as their present actions and decisions.

There’s a lot to love about Undead Ultra. Its a fun read and a page-turner. Its incredibly well-executed and has well-developed characters as well. While the zombie apocalypse landscape might seem familiar and there isn’t a lot to change about it, somehow the execution of sending the characters on foot for an ultramarathon-esque rescue mission is one that sounds crazy but makes all the difference in making this story stand out.

Goodreads Score: 5/5

Purchase Links

Amazon
UBL
Audible

About the Author

Camille Picott

Camille Picott has been writing Stories from the End of the World since she figured out how to turn on her family’s Apple IIe computer and wrangle a floppy disk into the drive. She loves nothing more than penning an epic action scene or pushing a character to his limits.

When Camille isn’t writing or spending time with her family, she loves to run absurdly long distances. It’s not unusual to find her hitting the trail in her running shoes long before the sun rises or cranking out miles (and stories!) on her treadmill desk. She considers sleep optional and largely overrated.

Visit Camille at www.camillepicott.com to sign up for her newsletter.

Facebook
Instagram
Twitter
Youtube

Giveaway: $5 Amazon GC

Rafflecopter Link

Blog Tour Schedule

May 11th

Backshelf Books (Review) https://backshelfbooks.com/
Banshee Irish Horror Blog (Review) www.bansheeirishhorrorblog.com

May 12th

Reads & Reels (Spotlight) http://readsandreels.com
Tranquil Dreams (Review) https://klling.wordpress.com/

May 13th

Misty’s Book Space (Review) http://mistysbookspace.wordpress.com

May 14th

Cup of Books Blog (Review) https://cupofbooksblog.wordpress.com/
J Bronder Book Reviews (Review) https://jbronderbookreviews.com/

May 15th

Gemma’s Book Reviews (Review) http://www.gemmmasbookreviews.wordpress.com Read and Reviewed (Review) http://readandreviews.blogspot.com/
Jessica Belmont (Review) https://jessicabelmont.wordpress.com/

Blog Tour Organized by:

R&R Button

R&R Book Tours

BITS 2018: Deadsight (2018)

Deadsight (2018)

Deadsight

Director: Jesse Thomas Cook

Cast: Liv Collins (co-writer), Adam Seybold, Ry Barrett

A man with partial blindness and a young pregnant police officer must work together to escape from a deadly virus that has spread across Grey County. – IMDB

Zombie movies are a dime a dozen these days. So many of them pop up and disappear but then every once in a while, we see some that add their own twist either with their characters or their plot. Deadsight takes the route of having two rather weaker protagonists who end up meeting and fighting for survival together. Its a refreshing idea  not only for choosing not really less competent characters but characters both with physical weaknesses or hindrances to their health temporarily to have to fight together but also the fact that the reason behind why all this happened and how this deadly virus has caused this zombie apocalypse of sorts.

Deadsight

With that said, its important to take a look at these two main characters. Ben (Adam Seybold) who is partially blind gives the fear because the audience can see his attackers before he can, creating a lot of fast-paced tense moments. On the other hand, Mara (Liv Collins) who is pregnant has the obvious disadvantage of having less physical capacity as she obviously has because she is a police officer and that makes her a strong character because she is quite resourceful. As much as these two have their weaknesses, they also never dwell on them and because stronger and more capable roles because of it. Another nice part here that cuts out a lot of any drama is making these two strictly staying in line with surviving, and what makes this executed well is that while we never learn too much about these character’s backgrounds, it is their actions during this situation they are thrown in and crafts their true nature and personality and makes us want them to make it out of this ordeal alive.

Deadsight

Aside from well-crafted characters, Deadsight also is well-paced. That is linked to a previous comment about keeping it less about drama and more about survival which a lot of horror films forget about. At the same time, there might not be a whole lot of dialogue between the characters but there is a decent bit of zombie attacks, escapes and encounters to make it an intense and fast-paced work. A part of this has to do with the camera work and how it delivers each of these scenes and the other part has to do with having an impressive soundtrack that is subtle but also creates the proper atmosphere. Not to mention the zombies are also designed really well.

Deadsight

If there is one little thing to criticize about Deadsight, it would have to be that all the characters have this incredible desire to throw out their weapons after one use. That doesn’t mean guns but rather axes or things that can be used over and over again. However, that can be overlooked since many films do happen to do that. One thing that lift this film is its camaraderie between the characters despite being strangers, especially in the final at when they complement each other’s weaknesses  to be a stronger team. The whole movie is done well but the final act has some great elements as it works itself to end on an intense note. Deadsight is a well-executed zombie film that you should watch.

Deadsight is screening its world premiere on November 25th at 4:30pm at The Royal Cinema for Blood in the Snow Festival. 

Double Feature: Seoul Station (2016) & Audition (1999)

Welcome to a Friday edition of Double Feature!

My initial plan at the beginning of the year was that Fridays would be for sharing my dive into Asian cinema (more particularly Hong Kong films) but hey, I’m a fan of all kinds of movies so as I ease back into the Asian cinema world, I’m heading into another Shudder double feature with Audition (1999) recommended to me by my fantastic co-host Elwood and the prequel of one of my favorite zombie movies, Seoul Station. Japanese and Korean double feature. This one is all kinds of different tags for why it works as a double feature already.

I’ve heard good stuff for both of these movies so I’m excited to check them out!

Seoul Station (2016)

seoul station

Director (and writer): Sang-ho Yeon

Voice Cast: Ryu Seung-ryong, Shim Eun-kyung, Lee Joon

Several groups of people try to survive a zombie pandemic that unleashes itself in downtown Seoul. – IMDB

With the massive success of Train to Busan (review), its hard to pass up the prequel that started the story. Seoul Station takes us back to where it all started pretty much. Although, who did bite the poor homeless man? We never will know how it started but Seoul Station focuses on a few people whose lives are intertwined and are escaping for their lives as the people around them are infested and attack the people around them. These clueless characters learn about what the zombies are capable of and that well, they are actually the undead. Seoul Station has its good and bad. Is it quite as good as Train to Busan? No, its pretty far from the tension and the story pacing and characters. However, that isn’t saying that its a particularly bad animated prequel. It does a good job to set the stage of what its successor can go from and builds an understanding of how the zombies in this world work. Of course, there’s still a lot more to learn in Train to Busan as movies like to make zombies evolve.

Seoul Station doesn’t have quite the exceptional characters to love. The main girl is made to be weak and whiny but somehow makes it through a lot of close calls. Her boyfriend that is on a separate area as they track each other time to meet up is pretty useless as well and makes a lot of bad calls and doesn’t have the guts. However, he is paired up with an older man who is tough as nails. There’s a whole story behind this and that leads up to the plot twist at the end. The story is somewhat generic but the twist was a surprise although the final twist was quite predictable. Where I find it excels is in its art. The movement and speed of the zombies have this blur behind it which is a lovely touch added in to make something of a motion blur and that works wonders for the aesthetics and effect. The areas and the zombie itself are creepy to look at. The tone of the movie and the backdrop here are done incredibly well also.

Overall, Seoul Station might not offer a unique zombie story and has its surprises and some rather predictable moments. However, it delivers on its art and visuals in this animated feature. Not quite as memorable as its successor but still worth a watch to lay the foundation for the next film.

Audition (1999)

Audition

Director: Takashi Miike

Cast: Ryo Ishibashi, Eihi Shiina, Tetsu Sawaki, Jun Kunimura, Renji Ishibashi, Miyuki Matsuda

A widower takes an offer to screen girls at a special audition, arranged for him by a friend to find him a new wife. The one he fancies is not who she appears to be after all. – IMDB

In many ways, I can see how Audition is a great horror film. In fact, its quite the psychological journey. Messed up and what not the further you dive into the plot. In fact, the ending is so weird that it kind of goes through a confusing phase. I still can’t quit figure out what went on. As psychological as it all was, it was one of those situations that never felt right to begin with. Auditioning for girls for a role that fitted into what this widower wanted, not sure I’m okay with that since it feels pretty contrived and manipulative in the first place. Nothing good comes from that. Then the girl herself was really weird to begin with but apparently Aoyama (played by Ryo Ishibashi) saw something in her.

The story has many layers and to be fair, it works for the most part. I can’t say that I’m the biggest fan of Audition. There are some solid atmosphere here and the pacing is fairly good. The cinematography and sound design is great in boosting the atmosphere. The star of the show probably did have to go to the girl here played by Eihi Shiina who was so creepy and mysterious. The final moments however kind of did it for me. What started out as psychological turned into this torture porn that turned my stomach a little and I’m usually not so easily disturbed by it. If that was the intention, it definitely achieved its goal but for myself, I felt like it didn’t fit in so well.

I can’t quite pinpoint what I felt let me down for Audition but it just didn’t feel like it ever reached the potential before heading in directions I wasn’t too fond of. I do acknowledge it has some great character and a lot of mystery and atmospheric horror. But something just didn’t work completely for myself.

That’s it for this Asian Horror double feature!
I anticipated watching both of these quite a bit but both of them let me down just a little.
I can definitely see their merit but it just wasn’t exactly for me particularly Audition.

Have you seen these two? Thoughts?

Flesh for the Zombies (short story) by Anthony Renfro

Reading has been a tad slow these days and I’m kind of feeling like I’m cheating on this Goodreads challenge because I’ve been reading a lot of short stories and comics/graphic novels but I guess this does work because its really been a whole new adventure. However, the world is much better in smaller doses especially when I finally got around to checking out Anthony Renfro’s new short story Flesh for the Zombies. For those who don’t know, Anthony is one of us bloggers and he is also a writer. You can find him at Haiku, Poetry and Occasional Hullabaloo and his newer blog, One Writer Ranting. Over the years, Anthony has been great and its always great to get a free copy of his book because I do love his writing a lot. Flesh for the Zombies continues with the story of Mike Beem which is a pretty cool character that has been around for a few short stories already.

Flesh for the Zombies
by: Anthony Renfro

flesh for the zombies

When Mike Beem’s community is savagely attacked, he must exact revenge on those who wronged him. He must put aside all the good he has ever accomplished in order to become someone else. A man without a moral compass. A man without right or wrong. A man who is a cold blooded killer. Will he get his justice or will he die trying? The answers lie within the pages of this short story. – Goodreads

What started with A Zombie Christmas turned into A Zombie Christmas 2 and now we have Flesh for the Zombies which follows a very cool bad-ass with quite a soft heart who makes the best out of a sudden zombie apocalypse. Mike Beem is a great character created by Anthony Renfro for these stories and despite these only being short stories, the events Mike Beem goes through and the way he talks and his actions truly allows the readers to see who he is. With Flesh for the Zombies, the story dives a little deeper as the community he built is not destroyed by a group of people who has taken the zombie apocalypse and gone the different direction of how he chose by making things a living hell and when they choose to destroy his community that he’s built with positivity and create a safe(r) haven for what is going on outside, it turns a side of Mike Beem and makes not only us but the character itself question the limits of his actions especially in the face of hard choices. Its not to say that in the face of a zombie apocalypse there won’t be hard choices even before but the tone of Flesh of the Zombies has matured quite a bit from when we first saw Mike Beem and his desire to bring Christmas from the survivors of his neighborhood. To me, that shows improvement and character depth all of which makes me happy to see that the author has chosen this new path. For those who have read A Zombie Christmas, we already know that the author likes to take a different approach to this zombie apocalypse business and its quite creative. The most impressive part for Flesh for the Zombies is it takes it down a very different path with very intriguing results making this a very fulfilling short story.

Overall, Flesh for the Zombies takes a turn down a deeper and darker path for an impressive character that gives it some character depth. Packed with vivid description and some hard choices for the protagonist to make, this short story is a page turner and one that stands together well with the Mike Beem stories from before, A Zombie Christmas 1 & 2 but also should stand well enough by itself as it is self-contained.

Links to buy the short story (if you are interested)

Fantasia Festival: Train to Busan (2016)

Continuing with a incredibly final showdown in the second consecutive day at Fantasia starts with a late morning screening of the North American premiere of Korean zombie film, Train to Busan. Those of you who know me know that I enjoy zombie films a lot. In fact, they are almost always entertaining to watch. Train to Busan caught our attention immediately and we had to add it into our rundown no matter what. Even if it meant going for the late screening the night before and waking up early to see this, not to mention standing under the scorching morning sun which was nearing 30 degrees Celsius. It was not pleasant but in our hearts, we believed that it would be worth it.

Train to Busan (2016)

Train to Busan

Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Cast: Yoo Gong, Su-an Kim, Dong-seok Ma, Woo-sik Choi, Yu-mi Jeong, Sohee

While a zombie-virus breaks out in South Korea, a couple of passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.-IMDB

Train to Busan is a Korean zombie movie that runs for almost two hours. It is absolutely one of the longer films showing at the festival. Zombies occur after a biotech company leak. It focuses on a self-centered fund manager Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) who after much convincing decides to take his daughter Su-an (Su-an Kim) to Busan for her birthday to his ex-wife. However on his way there, an infected girl ends up crashing into the train right before departure and from there it enters a claustrophobic and dangerous zombie film. At two hours, it is hard to imagine a tightknit movie but Train to Busan is executed extremely well. In fact, it doesn’t rely on jumpscares most of the time. It builds its characters and structures a story around them as they escape and learn about these zombies that have invaded the train.

Train to Busan

Before we head into the meat of this movie and tackle the characters, we have to dive into the zombies in Train to Busan. The zombie design is done really well. At this point, we have to start believing that we have seen everything there is to do with zombies. However, there is nothing tacky about these zombies. They die for a second and contort in a terrifying way into zombie mode right away. They growl and are infected with rage. Certain parts might even remind you of a cross over of World War Z with Zombieland. They have white out eyes and are incredibly vicious and quick. In short, they attack what they see. Anything else is for you to discover when you watch this because that is half of the fun.

Train to Busan

The heart of Train to Busan are the characters. They may act predictable but it proves a point that sometimes well-executed tropes are equally as effective. Our main character is the fund manager (as mentioned before) who has his young daughter with him. His character develops the most, especially his relationship with her. His daughter is worth a mention because she is incredibly talented in her role.  She never is annoying or bratty. In fact, she acts exactly as well as a child would probably act when thrown into this situation. Also, we have a father to be (or as Fantasia’s description calls him a “two-fisted goon”) and his pregnant wife: the righteous hero who also is the humorous guy with his one liners and infectious attitude. His wife creates a wonderful balance for the tact that he lacks. This goon is the absolute highlight of the movie. On the other hand, it highlights the fact that in times of crisis, human nature is a scary thing because the natural instinct of life preservation occurs and people do extremely selfish acts. One character in this whole affair is an absolute piece of garbage. You will know who it is right away and the feelings of hate that he stirs up might be hard to imagine. Along for the ride are some teenagers heading to a baseball tournament and a pair of senior sisters and some of the train crew who make impact on various scenes. If you find yourself cheering for some of these characters, especially the wildly fantastic father to be character, it is normal. We all were at the Fantasia screening also.

Train to Busan

 

However, there is one aspect that fell short: the way it was wrapped up. In fact, it may be the only aspect of this intense zombie film that may drag it down a little.  The ending was being taunted to its audience. It kept seeming like it wanted to end but somehow was playing up to the final scene. At a certain point, it simply felt contrived. While the ending was not bad, it was unnecessarily dragged out to achieve the end results that they desired which may or may  not be perfect. Perhaps, it felt a little too neat for some.

Train to Busan is a gripping and thrilling ride that will have you holding your breath.  It takes you on a claustrophobic and heart pounding adrenaline run with a growing population of terrifying zombies. It tackles human nature, life preservation, struggle for survival with brilliant characters that will make you fear for their lives, cheer them on their bravery and honor and feel sad when the good guys are sacrificed. This is a zombie movie after all. It is inevitable. Despite its contrived ending, Train to Busan is well worth a watch (and many more times after that).

Book Review: Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion by Jack Flacco

It is my absolute honor that fellow blogger and author Jack Flacco asked me be part of his review team for his new book that will be launched next Tuesday (October 21st) to be the first group to read and review his new novel, Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion.  This is the sequel of his previous novel launched last year called Ranger Martin and the Zombie Apocalypse.

Jack is a very awesome blogger who has a fantastic blog featuring a few lovely segments like Women Who Wow Wednesday and Freedom Friday and Monday Mayhem. I urge you to check out his blog right HERE!

Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion

by Jack Flacco

Ranger Martin and the alien invasion

I’m not a huge reader of zombie books.  In fact, I only started last year when I read World War Z and Warm Bodies for their movie adaptations.  And then there Jack first novel which dragged me into this lovely zombie apocalypse world when his main character Ranger Martin was extremely entertaining to watch.  He reminded me a little of the free-spirited, going out of with a bang  personality like Tallahassee in Zombieland.  Of course, as a character in a novel, the development is done better.  With the way things ended in the first one, this second one picks up a little while after as the original group separates due to difference in opinions.

In this world, its already succumbed to the zombie apocalypse except now an unknown entity has invaded them.  No one knows who they are and where they are from but they do know that they are causing a lot of pain and destroying the remaining human life that exists.  What is their plan? No one knows.  Regardless, Ranger Martin has to hold up his responsibility for taking care of the kids that sticks with him and while these entities try to track down one of their members, Randy, he also tries to find them and stop their plans before there isn’t anything and anywhere left for them.

Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion never really stops.  Unlike the first where there moments to slow down and breath, despite still being extremely eventful this one is non-stop action for the most part.  It also traces different groups: Ranger Martin and his crew, a new group of kids, the military, etc.  We get a perspective of how things are further than just where Ranger Martin is and that gives the readers a wider perspective of the world that Jack has built with the zombie apocalypse.

I have to say that adding aliens to the equation is very smart.  Its not just zombies but now it gets worse when you add in an unknown thing that has unknown capabilities like aliens.  Its a whole different ballpark and it makes for an exciting adventure.  Thats how I felt while I was reading this novel.  It was really fun and the description of how things went down was very vivid that I could get what was going on. Ranger Martin is still a fantastic character and in this one, he gets a deeper development as we get to see a little more of his history and background here and there.  That helps to connect with the character.

The new additions to the book each were good in their own ways.  Some didn’t get a lot of development and some only showed up near the end, however each had their purpose.  The only thing I felt wasn’t done as well was the relationship from last novel’s Matty and Randy.  Except, I wonder if it could be different because there isn’t much time to think about having something more.  Its just sometimes the actions a bit irrational and that was just one part where I felt that way so the impact wasn’t huge.  Plus, it is considered young love as they are just 15 years old and never really quite encountered feelings especially in the situation and environment they are in.

Ranger Martin and the Alien Invasion has a clever premise, doubling the danger of zombies and adding in another layer with aliens, while keep Ranger Martin a memorable character who isn’t going to back down from any situation.  The action is consistent and frequent making this an exciting and at times, intense read.  The characters from the previous books each have a little more development and growth in this one and we learn a little more about them. Although there are little parts that could be polished, it is a step up from the previous book which felt lengthy at parts, which never happens in this one and if it did, I wasn’t frequent enough for me to notice it.  Definitely a great read and I highly recommend it.  Its fun, entertaining and full of action! 🙂

If this interests you, remember to take note that it comes out on October 21st.  Also, remember to check out Jack’s site (which I linked above)!