Movie Review: Train to Busan

Oh the movies and their zombies. From way back in the pre-code era with Bela Lugosi starring in White Zombie and transformed forever by George A Romero with Night of the Living Dead, the zombie has been a favorite for films. In more recent decades the sub-genre has exploded internationally and now available for rent and purchase via iTunes and other portals from South Korea comes Train to Buson.

I was quite lucky and in that I did not watch this on my home television but rather I got to see it in the 46 seat micro-theater Digital Gym here in San Diego and if you get the chance to see this properly in a theater you should leap at it. (If you are in San Diego it plays through Thursday January 13th.)

The story is about a father, Soek Woo (Played by Yoo Gong) and estranged ten year old daughter Su-an. (I am guessing at her age as I don’t remember if that specified it in the film even though it opens on her birthday.) He is the typical hard working corporate ladder climbing parent who has let the career displace family and Su-an desperately want nothing more for her birthday than to take the train to Busan and see her mother, who is also estranged the father. The zombie outbreak erupts and their journey becomes one of survival.

For long time zombie fans, these are more akin to 28 Days Later, fast moving and fast transformation that Romero’s slow implacable marchers.

This film is no low budget knock-off affair. The actors, from the leads down to the smallest supports, were selected with care and fit perfectly into their parts. The director makes excellent use of the tight and closed confines of the setting to created a situation of terror, dread, and claustrophobia. The writers manages the often difficult task of upping the stake continually without either becoming predictable or shattering disbelief by racing too far too quickly. The film is bright and full of colors but retains an essential darkness born of the dread and danger while never slipping into cynicism.

Aside from a few fairly minor editorial quibbles, like submarine films I think this would have greatly benefited from no shots outside the train and never allowing the viewers a moment of relief from the claustrophobia, this movie works beautifully. It was horrific, exciting, engaging, and by the end deeply touching, go see it if you can, rent if you must.

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The Zombie Apocalypse Doesn’t Work

Sorry fellow zombie movies fans but the Zombie Apocalypse as seen in films like Dawn of the Dead just is not credible. Setting aside the issue of dead bodies reanimating, that’s the gimme you have to accept for the setting premise, the hordes of undead overrunning civilization just isn’t going to happen, A friend and I ran these numbers twenty years with much lower level of access to data set and now with the wonders of the internet I can really find data to work with on this subject. My data is pulled from the CDC statistics from 2014 and is applied to the city of Los Angeles.

Way out in the country where did all these bodies come from?
Way out in the country where did all these bodies come from?

In the USA the rate of death is 823.7 person per 100,000 of population per year. Divide that by 365.25 and you get a daily rate of 2.25 per 100,000 population. L.A. has a population of 4,030,904 giving it an average death rate of 90.69 deaths per day. As you can see we are already seriously deficient in potential zombies. However lets say the anomaly that reanimates the bodies effect all bodies 3 days dead and less. That produces a potential zombie horde of 272.08 units. Now if you simply divided them out by the land area of L.A. (469 square miles) you end up with 1 zombie every 1.72 square miles, but people don’t die even distributed throughout a major metropolitan city. Again taking data from the CDC we can say in rough number that:

37% die while under in patient care (Hospitals)

30 % die at home

19% in long term care or nursing homes

7% at the ER or urgent care.

7% other or unknown.

Of that 3 day total I would spitball – and this is entirely my guess take it as you will – that 90% of those who died at Hospitals, Urgent Cares, Nursing Homes and the like will be bagged, tagged, and either buried or in secure storage. I’m going to be cynical and say only 80% for those who died at home and I’ll be really generous to the future zombie horde and let them have all of the other or unknown. So if we run with those percentages how many free range zombies do we have to threaten the vast population of the City of the Angeles?

52.5 Zombies.

To make matters a little worse… 29.93 of those zombies will be aged 75 or older. Nearly all will start off in buildings already designed and ready for emergencies except the 19.04 that dies in unknown and other locations. In my opinion if you want to have a credible Zombie Apocalypse you need a massive die off in conjunction with the reanimation.

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L.A. Trip and 3-D Dawn Of The Dead

Saturday a friend and I made the couple of hour drive from San Diego to Hollywood to fulfill a bit of seasonal entertainment. Using some discount combo passes I got through my day job we planned to do Universal Studios in the afternoon then stay for their ‘Halloween Horror Nights‘ before taking off for the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood Blvd and the World Premier of the 3-D version of 1978’s Dawn of the Dead.

For the most part the trip went as planned. The drive to Universal wasn’t too bad, moderate traffic, but a lot more than what I normally run into when I did the same thing on early Sunday mornings. Our Combo passes allowed entry into the theme parks after 2 pm so there was a lot of time but we of course visited the new attraction, a scarehouse inspired by the AMC program The Walking Dead. We got in a few rides and then it was time for dinner.

After a brief meal we re-entered the park for the Halloween Horror Nights. Here the park has set up themed mazes, more scarehouse really, and themed area with some fo their attractions still running. Because we had a movie to get to at 10 o’clock we knew we’d be fighting time and opted as our first maze the one with the shortest posted wait time – Freddy vs Jason.

Okay it may have had the shortest posted wait time, but it was beyond the park itself at the far end of the backlot. The hike to reach was long, but I did get to see sections of the lot I had never seen before. The maze itself was fun, with clever practical effects.

After that we returned to the upper lot of the theme parks – another long hike – and selected as our final maze Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Blood Brothers. This was a longer line and after the maze we departed straight for the Egyptian.

We arrived and discovered a line that stretched form the box office, through the theaters courtyard, down the sidewalk and around the corner. I had purchased our tickets on line we there was little fear of being locked out due to a sold out performance.

The show time was 10 pm but we weren’t even inside and the appoint hour came and left. We did eventually get in and I turned away from the crowd leading us up to the balcony. The Egyptian is an old school movie palace, huge and lovely. We had pretty decent seats and after getting our snacks settled in for the blood and mayhem.

Before the show there was a short talk by the film’s producers who over saw the 3-D retro-scan, making that start time even later. In the end I didn’t care.

The film looked gorgeous. The image was sharp and bright, the 3-D effect better than many films shot and released in the 3-D today. There were times when I thought to myself ‘This is like looking through a window, not at a screen.’ I was very nice seeing the film in a theater. I own it on blu-ray and consider it to be Romero’s best Zombie movie, but I had never seen it in a proper theater. During the 1979 run I did see the film – at a Drive-in theater with spotty sound, a washed out picture, and while sitting on a bicycle. (I owned no car in high school.) So this was a real treat and worth not getting home until 3 o’clock in the morning. If you like this movie, or bloody gory zombies films, and this plays in your area, see it.

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Final Thoughts on the Horrible Imaginings Film Festival

I had no idea that going to the festival would wear me out so much. I remember eight years when I met the director of the Festival Miguel and he shared with me his vision of launching a horror themes film festival. I will admit that I thought his dream was audacious but I said nothing to discourage because we need audacious dreams and dreamers.

Now the Festival is seven years old, growing in size and I have finally gotten to attend.

Wow.

My a rough estimate in my little noggin there were 45-50 hours of programing and far more hits than misses. Miguel said that he received 1300 submissions a number that staggers me.

I haven’t spoken about the venue for the festival and that needs a mention. The Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA) hosted all five days of the festival. It is a museum that my sweetie-wife and I have passed many, many times during our Sunday walks in San Diego historic Balboa Park. The theater was a lovely space with a dome ceiling speckled by hundred of little lights creating an illusion of stars and an evening sky during the films. I understand from some who went to school in San Diego that it is a destination for school trip and the like. The theater is well maintain, in part because there are no concessions and food and drink are banned.

Perhaps the greatest emotional impact the festival had on me is rekindling my filmmaking desires. After watching so many smart, imaginative, and creative short films I want to go out rent a red camera and make one of my own.

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Halloween Horror Movies part I

Here’s a quick post about movies I have been watching this week as part of a celebration of the season.

Up first City of the Living Dead (1980)

1-city_living_dead_posterAn Italian Zombie film made after George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead City of the Living Dead occupies a strange place in the zombie landscape. So many films copied Romero’s zombie take over of the world that it quickly became cliche. (Though still popular as seen in the hit tv show The Walking Dead.) City doesn’t go for the traditional Romero zombies not the traditional arc of action. Here there is a clear cause to the undead, a priest committing suicide in a cemetery, and a third act objective to resolve into a ‘happy ending.’ The film was made in Italy but is set in America. The dubbing is adequate and naming the doomed city Dunwich was a nice hat tip to Lovecraft, though nothing that occurs is inspired by his mythos.

Often discussed among fans of zombie movies is the subject which zombies are the worst to deal with. Romero’s original shamblers, Snyder fast runners, O’Bannon’s intelligent and nearly indestructible dead, but this movie presented one that is truly beyond them all. While they feed on the living, and even have a penchant for taking brains out directly through a skull, (the Italian films tend to be more graphic), these living dead unlike any other can teleport and kill you with a look. No crap, people end up very messily dead from zombie staring contests. They are easier to kill. (Impaling seems to be the required technique.) Plus the whole world ending plague can be averted if the right things are done to put king zombie — our transgressive priest – back in his place. Overall, I enjoyed the film but it is not on my buy list. You can stream it on Hulu.

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Movie Review: Maggie

Yesterday was massive movie day here at my condo. During the afternoon I have a few friends over, ordered a couple of pizzas, and we watched three classic Universal Horror Films. (The Invisible Man, The Wolf-Man, & The Phantom of the Opera [1943]) Afterwards we spend a few hours playing board and card games, making for a rather enjoyable day just on that, but there was an interesting discovery still waiting for me.

The zombie genre has seen all sort of films mining this public’s fascination with the terminally hungry. We have the zombie movie as horror, (Night fo the Living Dead-1990), social commentary (Night of the Living Dead-1968), comedy (Return of the Living Dead), satirical commentary (Dawn of the Dead-1979), Romantic-Comedy (Shawn of the Dead), and many more but last time I watched for the first time a film that was a family drama set in a zombie apocalypse, Maggie.

Maggie stars Abigail Breslin, Joely Richardson, and Arnold Schwarzenegger . The set-up and the setting are stark and simple. A father (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is trying to care for zombie virus-infected his daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) while dealing with the strain of a world collapsing around him and the forces tearing at at his blended family.  Nearly all of the film takes place at the family’s isolated farm, but it is not isolated by hordes of the undead, but rather the collapse of the infrastructure is isolating people as the world slowly descends into zombie fueled chaos.

There are no action set pieces, there are no massive scenes of the undead tearing into people, there are no scenes of high-velocity destruction as fight off faceless hordes. Instead this a story about people caught in emotionally impossible situations and the terrible decisions and unavoidable fates that lie before them. While this story uses zombies and turning into a flesh-devouring automaton as their plot devices the themes apply equally well to anyone watching a loved one suffering under a terminal condition.

This is film also surprises in the range of acting talent is displays for Arnold. This is a quiet movie about emotional hell and he plays it well. Who knew he could cry on cue? Much like Boggart and The Caine Mutiny, this is the sort of story he could not have made under a studio system.

Maggie had a limited releases this year and is currently available on DVD. It’s worth the time.

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Sunday night Movie:Dawn of the Dead(1979)

THIEVES AND BAD GUYS: Thoughts on George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead’

Speak of zombies and for most people the scenario conjured to mind is one with a world in ruins, scattered band of survivors battling mindless hordes of the undead intent on consuming all flesh. The filmmaker most responsible for that apocalyptic vision is George A Romero and his movie ‘Dawn of The Dead.’ Other filmmakers, Jorge Grau with ‘Let Sleeping Corpses’ Lie (aka ‘The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue’) and Lucio Fulci with Zombi 2 (originally titled Zombi, but renamed with the release of Dawn of the Dead in it Italy as Zombi.) hinted at a coming disaster as part of the finale of their zombie movies, but it was Romero and ‘Dawn of the Dead’ that first gave us a world lost to a tide of the dead. While the zombie genre encompasses everything from the horrifying to the silly, it is this movie, released unrated in the Unites States because of explicit violence, that is the towering work of art with much more to say that, shoot them in the head. Be warned, hereafter there be spoilers. Continue reading “Sunday night Movie:Dawn of the Dead(1979)

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A Geeky Annoyance

Here let me get something of my chest; I HATE the term xenomorph as the proper name for the creature featured in the Alien franchise.

Now I fully sympathize with people in that using the word ‘alien’ as a proper name is clumsy to the point of stupidity. Science-fictions, and SF movies are overrun with aliens of ever strip and creed from the Mu-Tants of This Island Earth to Mr. Spock of Star Trek and countless others, so trying call one particular breed of alien, The Alien, make for grammatical suicide. Continue reading “A Geeky Annoyance”

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