Friday, 12 December 2014

Mutants; Save the Green Planet!; Bullet Ballet; Mud; Before Dawn; Lucky Number Slevin


The French take on zombies that isn’t the Horde, Mutants is going for a more cerebral take on the horror sub-genre.
Focusing more on the characters, particularly how … deals with the slow deterioration of her partner … as he turns into one of the undead after receiving a gunshot wound.

Rather than city survival, they are out in the country, in the mountains during winter. After dealings with a tolled up policewoman go sour, the couple shelter in a massive abandoned hospital in the middle of nowhere.

A paramedic, she tries various medical tactics to delay or reverse the zombiefication process, meaning we are treated to extended sequences of body horror which feature the usual tropes – ‘my hair comes out in my hands!’ ‘I can pull my teeth out!’, but to be fair the makeup work is pretty  decent, and … does end up looking like a pretty bestial, ruined version of himself for the inevitable conclusion as a group of zombies smash their way in and he fights them due to some deep remnants of emotion for his pregnant wife.
There are a group of ragtag survivors who crash the place at some point, some of them nasty and they mainly serve as an excuse to have people who you’re happy to see meet a grisly end.

In all the film isn’t particularly amazing but in terms of the glut of zombie films out there these days it’s a pretty solid entry.

Save the Green Planet!

An oddball Korean thriller focusing on conspiracy theories, featuring kidnap and torture.
It’s far from torture porn as the main role of a conspiracy nut is both sympathetic lead and antagonist, and the focus is on the characters rather than any torture taking place, but the story is all over the place and it’s hard not to feel a little bit lost, despite the essential elements making sense on paper.
An industrialist is kidnapped and tortured by a young man who believes he’s an alien. The young man’s mother was killed during a demonstration while working at one of the industrialist’s plants, we find out later. A detective investigates the disappearance, realises what’s going on, and rescues the industrialist only for a bit of cat and mouse until a big showdown. The young man is killed and it turns out the industrialist was an alien all along, the end.

It’s hard to like the film that much, it’s not one to bear repeat viewing but there are enough good moments here not to regret watching it.

Bullet Ballet

Shinya Tsukamoto is brilliant at presenting obsession on screen, whether it’s the protagonists from Tetsuo and Tetsuo 2 trying to become mechanized versions of themselves, or here, advert director Goda desperate to obtain a chief special handgun after the suicide of his long-term girlfriend.
He’s already had a run-in with a gang of youths before the film starts, a young woman pretending to be about to fall on Tokyo subway tracks used as a lure to open up would-be helpers to a mugging, and in the scuffle she bites Goda’s hand.
Goda and this gang have a number of run-ins throughout the film.

Tsukamoto’s filming of Tokyo’s seedy underbelly is viscerally evocative, the black and white photography helping to illuminate the stark contrasts in harsh night lighting and shadow, with leaking pipes, exposed wiring and grime silting up the choked back alleys all contributing to an air of menace.


Celebrated for his performance as a self-deluded guy in hiding on an island in the bayou while trying to get a boat down from a tree, Matthew McConaughey is good, as are the boys who find him when they go looking for said boat, but ultimately I was curiously unmoved by the film.
Fairly good as coming of age dramas go, with much made of ways of life coming to an end, but there’s something missing that I can’t quite put my finger on.

Before Dawn

A decent low budget zombie about a couple on holiday in the country when a zombie outbreak happens. The woman is bitten, the man locks her in the cellar when she turns, then has to deal with an oddball survivor, seeking refuge at their holiday cottage.
Slowly over the course of the first half, we learn that the couple is married with children; that their marriage is nearly over due to the husband’s infidelity; that this holiday is meant to be an attempt to save it.

The film makes good use of its limited sets – the cottage with a garage, a small expanse of countryside surrounding it. The size of the cottage and its rooms contribute to the claustrophobia and isolation which help ratchet up the tension caused by the unknown – just what is happening out there?
While low budget zombie flicks are ten a penny these days, Before Dawn is executed well, with genuinely affecting scenes – the husband taking a call from his kids’ gran as their house is overwhelmed, the slow build-up, drip feeding information which leaves the audience to deduce the couple’s relationship and history, the flailing, desperate fight in the cramped garage around a land rover.

Happily the film remains decent through to the bleak ending, something of a wonder as the film was written, directed, and cast with Emmerdale cast and crew.

Lucky Number Slevin

Slick but partly empty, Slevin’s little identity tale of two criminal empires at war, residing in skyscrapers on opposite sides of the street, both visited by a bumbling young man, new in town, embroiled in the intrigue due to a case of mistaken identity…
Performances are okay, Josh Hartnett is good at portraying the two sides of his character, and the wrench in the tonal shift of the film doesn’t seem to be his fault. Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley are both fine as the two mob bosses at war, though neither would be accused of giving their best performance here, and Bruce Willis hands in the usual quiet tough guy in his few scenes.
The whole thing chugs along at a decent pace as Hartnett is thrown around the city by the mess he gets caught up in, assisted by Lucy Liu’s impossibly peppy neighbour, but there’s nothing here to fix it firmly in the memory.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Grace; Young Thugs 2: Nostalgia; Seven Psycopaths; Kings of Summer; Night of the Creeps; Taffin



Low budget horror about a woman whose baby dies. She manages to bring it back to life through sheer willpower, but it comes back…wrong.

Grace is diverting and better than the worst that the horror genre has to offer, but like the sepia tones the majority of the film is shot in, it will ultimately fade from the mind like a dream.

Young Thugs 2: Nostalgia

Advertised as the favourite of Takashi Miike’s own films, there is no doubt some aspect of autobiography in this adaptation of Riichi Nakaba’s own autobiography.

Riichi is a bit of a delinquent, frequently getting into fights with a local gang, but compared to his layabout father he’s an angel. He hits his wife, steals, turns up drunk and brings other women home, to the dismay of his father who lives with the family.
Riichi goes a little off the rails, developing a crush on a kindly young teacher only for things to backfire once he learns of her boyfriend.
Eventually the gangs come together to do something for the community.

It’s enjoyable enough and presents a different side of Japan from the ultra-polite world of status anxiety and rigid tradition, but it’s not Miike’s best, with the Dead or Alive trilogy – in particular the second film Dead Birds offering a good mix of rowdy behaviour and heartfelt nostalgia.

Seven Psychopaths

Colin Farrell evidently plays a version of writer/director Martin McDonagh, stuck in LA with writer’s block trying to complete his screenplay called Seven Psycopaths.

Sam Rockwell is brilliant as his best friend, full of manic energy and bad ideas; Christopher Walken is as great as ever; Woody Harrelson takes a break from more recent heavyweight roles to play an eccentric mob boss. Tom Waits crops up as a psychopath.

McDonagh and Farrell’s previous collaboration was In Bruges, and like that film Seven Psycopaths is funny, knowing, a little violent and features great performances. The plot and setting here make the film a little less unique, as knowing ‘film within a film’ type stuff and screenwriters getting mixed up in craziness in LA isn’t unknown, but the writing helps keep this one step ahead. Not groundbreaking but great fun.

Kings of Summer

Beautifully shot, brilliant use of location and slow-motion photography and a great cast veering between natural delivery and knowing wisecracks as they navigate the awkward time between being children and adults.

The plot involves some boys fed up with their home life, who upon discovering an idyllic clearing, decide to run away and build a house.

There’s a lot that could be said about the film but ultimately it would be pointless, regardless of what you think of the synopsis this is a fantastic film and deserves a wide audience.

Night of the Creeps

Back in 1959 dwarves in pretty frightening rubber alien suits are fighting about some sort of weapon that’s jettisoned over Earth.
A mad axe man is on the loose and kills a pair of teens out for a canoodle in their convertible.
Flash forward to 1986 - our heroes are two dorks, though in this case they’re just fairly normal, and not jocks. One is the funny guy who’s on crutches, the other is a big-eyed guy who moons after a college beauty, who’s already ‘going with’ the head of a jock frat house. Big eyes thinks being in the frat will impress the babe, despite the advice of his friend, and as a dare they’re told to steal a corpse from the college. They chicken out but not before thawing out a corpse in cold storage – the mad axe man’s victim! Who is infested with alien zombifying slugs!
Said slugs are then loose, people get zombied up, a cop whose ex was the other ax man’s victim is haunted by what he did back in ’59, bad things happen at the beauty’s sorority house etc.

All in all Creeps is a pretty shonky horror film which flouts its 80s setting with pride – the fashion on display will make you weep. Silent and mustachioed be-mulleted dudes in pastels make up the zombie horde of the finale which involves lots of shotgun and flamethrower action in a sorority house, as well as the first use of lawnmower vs. zombie? There are nice moments of a 26-years-dead axe murderer coming back to ‘life’, a zombie dog and cat and just the most hideous clothes.

Dumb fun.


In a sleepy, coastal Irish town, Pierce Brosnan’s Taffin is an inexplicably tanned debt collector and intellectual who gets mixed up in a plot by land developers that escalates from threats and beatings to arson and murder.
This being the 80s, Taffin gets mixed up with a gorgeous model type who happened to be working as a barmaid in a snooker hall run by a cockney, whose hair is nearly as tall as she is. As an 80s action movie, there is the obligatory strip club scene, though the small town Irish twist is that Father Ted is the enthusiastic compere (happily Father Todd Unctious is Taffin best mate and partner in shenanigans).
With the odd fight, explosion and shooting, Taffin is still fairly low key but any generic moments are glossed over by Brosnan’s undeniable charm.

Made newly popular by Adam Buxton and Joe Cornish in their 6 music radio show, there is a particular scene of Brosnan over-acting that is worth watching the film for, but once you’ll have you’ll realise that Taffin holds its own as a fairly decent entry into the Man Pushed Too Far In The 80s genre.