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By midlandsmovies, Nov 3 2016 01:59PM

Train to Busan (2016) Dir. Yeon Sang-ho

This Korean thriller/horror film sees an absent father attempting to please his disappointed daughter by taking her to Busan via the high speed train only for an infected passenger to cause carnage as a zombie virus begins to spread throughout the carriages.

With echoes of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer – where the confines of a moving train provides similar claustrophobic action – the passengers’ immediate dangers contrast with the wider implications of the infection spreading to cities throughout the country.

The zombies’ crooked shuffles are a particular highlight so huge recognition should go to the choreographer who has injected (pardon the pun) that particular trope with some added zombie zing with twitching and spasming bodies. Arms dangle at awkward angles in a contortion of limbs and appendages. As the film progresses, the passengers work together as a group and fight against the hordes in well edited action scenes with true-to-life risks. An extended bloody punch up with flying baseball bats and swinging fists will be adored by fans of these films.

However, despite the above, the film has the usual zombie tropes which I sadly find so similar to any other zombie film and therefore I can’t really recommend it to anyone other than afficiandos of the genre. I really struggle with the same concept over and over without anything being added to the formula. As although the positives include the film being incredibly well shot with empty stations and crowd chaos along with some fine acting, the family drama dynamics are really no different to a Roland Emmerich disaster film. Selfish father learns to put others first? Wow, what a revelation.

Trains provide an interesting location for some great films and sequences (see our love for loco films in our video blog here) but the zombie sub-genre of horror has never really infected with me with any real sense of appreciation. Fans won’t be disappointed at all but there wasn’t enough new additions to really give the genre a shot in the arm. Zo-zo.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jul 20 2015 06:52PM

The Diary (2015) Dir. Ash Connaughton

First up, a confession: I don’t get zombies. I don’t get pop culture’s current collective hard-on for a monster which even a heavy smoker like me could escape by keeping up a stiff walk for five minutes, and whose scariest feature is something a good dermatologist could sort out with a 2-week course of cyclosporin.

So it was with a certain amount of “Oh Christ, not again…” that I approached The Diary, a zombie short weighing in at a hefty 11 minutes (plus blooper reel). Would this be a slavish homage to Romero and The Walking Dead, or more along the lines of an arch wink towards the genre a la Zombieland, Shaun of The Dead or (pretty please?) iZombie?

Yep, it was The Walking Dead thing.

It opens with a gunshot, a man running, and two chav zombies (chombies?) who, in spite of travelling at approximately a third of the man’s speed, catch up with him pretty sharpish as he stops to look at a wound on his arm. He does this for a surprisingly long time, considering the chombies are STANDING RIGHT BEHIND HIM. But they continue to very obligingly stand there wobbling until he’s finished looking at his arm, whereupon he turns round in his own sweet time and shoots them in the head. Doesn’t even bother to double-tap; bad form.

So far, so zombie.

This is followed by three minutes of him coughing, an occasional vomit, and intermittent falling down. Because he’s been bitten, y’see, presumably by one of the chombies, and the zombification process apparently requires a lot of coughing, some puking, and a bit of falling over for full gestation to take place.

The rest of the movie is just as formulaic: a couple of zombie hunters out on patrol decide it would be a brilliant idea to split up and search some buildings; Zombie Hunter #1 encounters the now fully zombied-up guy from earlier; his gun jams; he’s saved by Zombie Hunter #2 appearing in the nick of time; there’s a repeat of the close-up of a gun barrel pointing slightly to the right of the camera, smashcut to black, OC gunshot (but still no double-tap).

There’s then a bit of exposition (the newly-dead zombie caused the zombie outbreak in the first place, but he may have found a cure; our two zombie hunters are members of a bigger zombie hunter gang which they don’t much like being in, but what’cha gonna do?), and the film ends. The two young actors who play the zombie hunters try to imbue their characters with a bit of personality, but there’s not a lot of wiggle room in the script for them to fully develop this during their limited time on screen.

Overall, it’s a solid enough piece of amateur genre film-making, hitting all the beats that it needs to hit, even if it does so a little predictably. As a whole the piece would be improved by a bit of judicious editing to make it sharper and punchier, but that’s the sort of thing that’ll come with experience. The director’s a young man, so he has plenty of time yet to find his own voice.

tl;dr version – If you like zombie films, you’ll like this.


Review by J. Sirin

By midlandsmovies, May 16 2015 08:19AM

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2015) Dir. Kiah Roache-Turner

Rated 18 – released by Studio Canal on May 8th 2015

A dusty post-apocalyptic road movie set in Australian outback? No, not Mad Max: Fury Road but you can see why the film is being released around the same time here in the UK. Like Cannon Films in the 1980s where successful films were copied on a much lower budget, the current trend is to infuse your idea with a self awareness of how bad your film actually is and revelling in that awfulness. Wyrmwood isn’t aiming for a “meta” take on the zombie genre though, and in fact begins with a much more serious tone than the rom-com-zom films of late and attempts to find new angles in an already saturated horror market.

In flashback we hear the story of Barry and his family who attempt to escape from a zombie attack but after jumping in their car, his wife and daughter become infected and he has to consider the unthinkable. Meanwhile his sister is kidnapped by a sadistic agency conducting experiments and Barry meets up with an aboriginal survivor called Benny and they begin a journey in the outback to tackle the growing horde. The use of masks looks great visually (again though, this has echoes of the new Mad Max) and it is infused with some unique ideas such as zombie blood being used as petrol. Also, with a low budget and shot at weekends, the film mainly sticks to gruesome prosthetics and make-up effects with a splattering of CGI blood for head shots.

You probably won’t get a bloodier film for $160,000 these days but please take note that the no-budget thrills are for serious aficionados of the genre only. With me never being a fan of zombie flicks and the infinite sub-genres it spawned, I failed to find the fun in this action-filled film and it certainly won’t convince anyone other than serious horror fans to give it a watch. Dialogue not fit for a home movie and me having literally no idea who the characters were are just a few of its many flaws but you’ve got to admire its stab at a few new ideas in the world of the undead. Also, a few dark jokes help entertain the Friday-night fright crowd it’s obviously attempting to reach out to.

The petrol-searching road warriors have got the luck to be piggy-backing on Mad Max’s higher profile release this month despite Wyrmwood being originally released in 2014. A tired film in a tired genre, this is ultimately a pale zombie imitation of life. Or should that be death.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Nov 18 2014 07:35PM

The dead walk…to the Phoenix!

Saturday 15th November 2014 meant only one thing to many British zombie fans – the annual UK Festival of Zombie Culture, held as ever since its inception at the Phoenix Arts Cinema in Leicester.

Now in its eighth year it has become the longest running Leicester film festival and thankfully, unlike its subject matter, shows no sign of dying soon. Following the now established format this year saw around 12 hours of films, the return of the arcade of the dead, retail stalls, author appearances and the fantastic 3 minute zombie killing challenge amongst much more.

In a departure from the programming choice of last years sell out event, a quick glance at this years film schedule showed a return to a more international flavour, featuring two UK premieres and some of the best films of the last four years, many of which are yet to be released over here.

I arrived at the cinema a bit before midday and was immediately greeted by the sight of the undead coming back to haunt the living but thankfully these creatures were not craving (my) human flesh but the freshest slabs of celluloid featuring their kin.

After collecting my composure and an early pint it was time for the first film, a slot which I usually associate at past festivals with zombie classics, particularly the films of Lucio Fulci (City of the Living Dead, Zombie Flesh Eaters) so it was surprising to see a 2014 film scheduled for this time, although less surprising when I saw that it was a Fulci inspired American zombie flick called ‘Bombshell Bloodbath’. Before the film however we were treated to a reading by Birmingham author David Moody, which added a nice touch to proceedings and helped showcase that this festival celebrates all areas of zombie culture, with it being particularly encouraging that Moody is a Midlands born and bred published and successful writer.

On to the film itself, director Brett Mullen combines the eerie-faux Gothicism of Fulci’s unofficial ‘Gates of Hell’ trilogy with a strong grindhouse element via Gordon’s Re-animator combining to make something not quite like any of the other films at the festival. With a script paying homage to the golden age of the Italian zombie cinema but without seeming clichéd and featuring a lead character coming across as a mix of Alice in Resident Evil and the women in Baise Moi it was easy to fall under the spell of this film, which showed there is still plenty to be done with the genre.

Before the next film, it was Wolverhampton based goremonger and author Adam Millard’s turn to treat us to some zombie literature, even if it did heavily contain cowboy masturbation, and was another fine example of talent not only coming from the Midlands but being recognised for their contributions to the genre.

At a festival timing is everything, and sadly for me, both the pace and tone of Exit Humanity fell flat after the action of Bombshell Bloodbath. Despite boasting a stellar cast of genre stalwarts including Bill Moseley (TCM 2, Devils Rejects), Brian Cox (Troy, Manhunter, Trick r’Treat) and Stephen McHattie (300, Watchmen, Pontypool) something just didn’t click and it appeared to be a paycheck and nothing more to these guys.

The film follows Edward Young (Mark Gibson) as he tries to survive in the aftermath of a zombie outbreak during the end of the American Civil War; he joins up with a fellow survivor but soon learns that building a life and keeping ones integrity comes at a heavy price. Although some loved it for me, the film took too long to get going but even more disappointing was that it set itself up as a poignant and character driven film yet lacked the substance to connect on that level and was a clear case of the sum of its parts being greater than the whole.

The third film of the Festival saw its first Indian entry (although not the first south Asian film as previously the Pakistani film ‘Hells Ground’ was shown) with the 2013 zombie comedy ‘Goa Goa Gone’ which followed a group of friends join up with members of the Russian mafia getting stuck on a remote island off the coast of Goa, as they witness a party drug turning ravers into zombies (sounding vaguely similar to the maligned Uwe Boll mess House of the Dead). Unfortunately I missed this film but only heard positive reports regarding it.

Back on track and after a food break was the Australian effort ‘Theatre of the Dead’, also 2013, which saw a dance troupe trapped in their theatre as the zombie apocalypse threatens to get in. Although, as with many zombie films, you need to be just as wary of the living as the dead…especially when events could lead to a bad review.

Perhaps just because of the setting I was immediately put in mind of a zombie take on Soavi’s ‘Stagefright’ and also the many zombie stripper films which are essentially very similar in tone and set up. Theatre of the Dead provided all the right laughs but none of the gore or tension required to pull off this style and essentially left us with a mediocre and derivative siege movie which borrowed liberally from Romero’s films amongst others. However, of special note was the guy who played the director in the film who seemed to have the majority of the best lines and a great presence when he was in screen, channelling Andy Nyman’s asshole character in Brooker’s ‘Dead Set’.

One film that is not average though is Cuba’s ‘Juan of the Dead’, and while almost every zomcom since Shaun of the Dead claims comparison in terms of quality this one genuinely deserves the praise.

In the film, Juan and his down on their luck companions don’t see the destruction caused by the zombie apocalypse, as they already have next to nothing, but the opportunities as they set out to, ironically capitalise on the nations misfortune all while the government claim that the undead are simply dissidents revolting against them and, most likely under U.S. influence.

This film is not only full of fun but, like all the best genre films, also has an underlying message and meaning adding weight to humour and connecting on multiple levels and it is to the credit to Zombie Ed and the festival that they do put on overlooked gems such as this.

The final film was the 2013 film ‘I Survived a Zombie Holocaust’ and considering the countries previous efforts expectations were high for this zombie comedy and it didn’t disappoint which saw a young runner on the set of a zombie film get more than his jobs worth when genuine zombies crash the set.

After over 12 hours of zombie mayhem, the crowd shuffled out back into the night, reverently discussing the movies, costumes and fantastic time that they had at what is undoubtedly the UK’s premier zombie film festival. Same time next year.

To learn more about the festival, visits the Terror4Fun website and add Zombie Ed on Twitter - https://twitter.com/ZombieEdUK

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