Sunday, May 31, 2020

Vivarium (2020)

Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Notable Cast: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris, Senana Jennings, Eanna Hardwicke

It’s not very often that a film hits home in such an unnerving way that it’s hard to shake. As a reviewer dedicated to cult cinema, particularly of the genre kind, it’s easy to think ‘well, been there, seen that’ to even the strangest corners of the cinematic world. Occasionally a film strikes out in an unexpected way. Vivarium is a film that has systematically flown under the radar in my sphere and it wasn’t until I saw it in a Redbox rental unit that I just randomly grabbed it for the night. Two days later and the film just writhes under my skin. It’s an odd film, yes, never quite embracing any one particular genre in full and never actively moving away from its Twilight Zone inspired roots, but Vivarium is a film seething with symbolism and empowered by its intimate and often emotionally raucous message.

Due to its high brow concept, Vivarium is a film that can be a little problematic to review without spoiling its many, many strange reveals. Thus, in the spirit of being spoiler free, this review may read a little vague. Hopefully the praise that I am about to lay onto the film still seeps through.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Debt Collectors (2020)

Director: Jesse V. Johnson
Notable Cast: Scott Adkins, Louis Mandylor, Ski Carr, Vladimir Kulich, Charity Collins, Mayling Ng

As both a huge fan of director Jesse V. Johnson and action icon Scott Adkins, I’m always down to partake when either of them release a new film. Put them together and I’m throwing my wallet into their hands. However, when it was announced the two would be re-teaming up for a sequel to The Debt Collector, called Debt Collectors, I was a bit perplexed. You see, if you’ve seen the first film, you know that it definitively ends the story of our two makeshift anti-heroes, French and Sue. There wasn’t a lot of room for a sequel. Yet, here we are with the bickering banter of our two favorite collection agents in this – and I only assume – first sequel to the surprise action hit. While Debt Collectors isn’t quite the pleasantly humorous surprise of the first, it’s still a rock ‘em, sock ‘em slab of entertainment that delivers on all of the expected elements of the first film. It’s impeccably charming, loaded with the usual action awesomeness from the directing and star duo, and gives the fans what they want from a sequel.

Seven months after the events of The Debt Collector, Sue – once again played with the charming trashiness of Louis Mandylor, finds French bouncing at the local bar. A bar that was, more or less, used as a comedic set piece in the first film. French, played by my pick for Batman Scott Adkins (how many letters do I have to write to Warner Bros. to get that to happen?,) is having a rough go of it and Sue gives him the opportunity to get back into the debt collecting game for one last round. Three collections. Two days. $70,000.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Monstrum (2020)

Director: Huh Jong-ho

Notable Cast: Kim Myung-min, Kim In-kwon, Lee Hye-ri, Choi Woo-shik, Lee Kyung-young, Park Hee-soon, Park Sung-woong, Lee Do-gyeong, Lee Kyu-bok, Kim Jung-hui, Kim Kang-il, Cho Won-hee, Yun Hui-su, Han So-yeong

It wasn’t that long ago that I was joking with my friend that the only great horror films South Korea could produce were ones of the thriller variety, but boy oh boy could they deliver on that front. Naturally, as soon as I made that claim both Train to Busan and The Wailing dropped in the US and completely made my joke a joke. It’s not that the industry in SK wasn’t making decent horror films, it’s just that there weren’t a lot of truly memorable and distinctive horror films. However, as the Korean Wave only continues to gather steam in a variety of artistic endeavors there is now an excitement to their horror material that I never quite had before. Combine that with my love of giant monster movies and I can tell you that I was rather ecstatic to jump into Monstrum.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Verotika (2020)

Directed by: Glenn Danzig
Notable cast: Ashley Wisdom, Rachael Alig, Alice Tate, Kayden Koss

Verotika, may I never again have to write so much about so little, is based on Danzig’s own comic series, Verotik (violent/erotic. Get it?) Glenn Danzig brings us an erotic horror anthology that offers nothing erotic and nothing horrific save for the attempts at eroticism. Frankly, I have no particular way to even fault it as an anthology in concept, but I would really, really like to. I can, however, make fun of their attempt at a host character Morella (I believe she is from the comic but, I have never read it and am not inclined to put forth the effort to research it) and their attempts at a “Cryptkeeper, but a hot girl” kind of thing. She has a few bits of dialogue of which nothing is clever, funny, or involving a morbid pun, and her portions are rarely even pertinent to the segment she’s hosting. This is just the start to this anthology.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Blood Quantum (2020)

Director: Jeff Barnaby
Notable Cast: Michael Greyeyes, Elle-Maija Tailfeathers, Forrest Goodluck, Kiowa Gordon, Olivia Scriven, Stonehorse Lone Goeman, Brandon Oakes, William Belleau, Devery Jacobs, Gary Farmer, Felicia Shulman

Although the entirety of the zombie subgenre of horror has become, for lack of a more sincere analogy, like a horde of thoughtless and all-consuming undead. It’s overwhelming if you try to take them on all at once and repetitively tiring if you try to peg them one by one. It’s to the point that I often don’t watch them unless there is some kind of angle that really intrigues me. It’s a far cry from my zombie hungry youth powered on childhood memories of Romero’s Dead films and the wild inhibitions of the Return of the Living Dead franchise. Fortunately, there are some films that not only have taken a unique lens to the zombie genre but ones that are succeeding at it too. Enter in Blood Quantum, the latest Shudder exclusive to hit the illustrious horror streaming service. Taking a few pages from the book on ‘how to make a successful Walking Dead plotline,’ Blood Quantum is a far more intriguing film because of its foundational angle and execution than it is once it starts hitting the more traditional genre beats.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Samurai Marathon (2020)

Director: Bernard Rose
Notable Cast: Takeru Satoh, Nana Komatsu, Mirai Moriyama, Shota Sometani, Munetaka Aoki, Ryu Kohata, Yuta Koseki, Motoki Fukami, Shinsuke Kato, Joey Iwanaga

As soon as Samurai Marathon came to my attention, it was a film that immediately went onto the ‘must see’ list. Between the concept, the direction of Candyman helmer Bernard Rose, and a role for Takeru Satoh of Rurouni Kenshin fame, this film was of substantial interest. After knowing that information, I blocked myself from watching any trailers or learning anything more about the film. I had seen enough. It was probably a mistake to do such a thing. My expectations were not in line with what the film was and my initial watch was, to put it lightly, perplexing. I assumed that ‘marathon’ was more of a symbolic word. Nope. This is a ‘based on a true story’ film where a bunch of samurai volunteer to race cross country for the entire second half of the film. The title, which was originally Samurai Marathon 1855, was fuckin’ literal. I was not prepared for it.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Extraction (2020)

Director: Sam Hargrave
Notable Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Rudhraksh Jaiswal, Randeep Hooda, Golshifteh Farahani, David Harbour, Priyanshu Painyuli, Sam Hargrave

It’s become quite apparent over the last few years that we are, in fact, living in a post-John Wick world. At least when it comes to action cinema. This is something that I have discussed briefly in a few other reviews, but with Extraction, it truly comes out like a shotgun blast. Now, technically speaking, director Sam Hargrave has worked with the 87Eleven team before in some regard so the John Wick connection can be somewhat apparent, but Hargrave has been working as a stuntman and coordinator for years. If that’s not known beforehand, all you have to do is watch Extraction once to know that it’s directed by a stuntman. Not only are the stunts, coordination, and choreography exceedingly fantastic, but the film uses action as a truly dynamic storytelling tool. The combination proves to be a structurally sound foundation for the rest of the film.