Archive for the Foreign Category

Netflix presents ‘Lucid Dream’: Are we really-really awake this time?

Posted in Action, drama, Fantasy, Foreign, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 16, 2017 by aliciamovie

Lucid-dream

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Kim Joon-Sung
Studio: Rod Pictures
MPAA Rating: N/A
Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10

An investigative journalist will stop at nothing to find his son, who was kidnapped three years ago!

South Korean cinema is experiencing another upswing in popularity, and in more than just their Horror department, which is good, because them wacky Koreans can give even the Chinese a run for their money in terms of grand story, amazingly emotional characters, and great use of both practical and special effects. Lucid Dream is a fine example of all of these things together in a movie that could easily be billed as a contender for Nolan’s Inception. The plot concept of wheels within wheels within yet more wheels has long actually been a Korean film mainstay, and so is right up this movies alley.

So the film begins with a kind of fly-by explanation of our main character, Dae-Ho (Go Soo), putting out some kind of giant journalist expose on corruption in business conglomerates, and as a result, a bunch of prominent and powerful men go to jail and vow revenge. We see a loving Dae-Ho with his son, poor apparently anemic child but who still lives to have fun, and despite the very real threats from without and within, they both decide to go to an amusement park together. And almost inevitably, its there at the amusement park that the poor boy gets snatched and ineffectual Daddy Dae-Ho can’t seem to do a thing about it.

Fast forward a bit and its now been approximately three years since the kidnapping, apparently Dae-Ho’s been filling his time with who-knows-what while desperately searching for his son, and he comes across this idea of using his medical technician friends lucid dreaming technology to plumb his own memory for clues. This tech has already been used before and had some serious consequences, condemning the guy called This Man or Kwon Yong-hyun (Park Yu-chun from the K-Pop band JYJ) to a wheelchair in real life but allowing him to all but be The Oracle when it comes to the lucid dreaming stuffs. And yes, kind of roundaboutly, but Dae-Ho does manage to ferret out some clues from his own memories, enough to send him on a new direction at least.

The police detective in charge of the case, Song Bang-seop (Kyoung-gu Sul), has been Dae-Ho’s friend this entire time and has never said one word about the guy being crazy or giving up the search. Detective Song’s own daughter is sickly too, so he has some inkling as to what it means to be desperate with no options left he can see. So, Song doesn’t bat an eyelash as Dae-Ho proceeds to tell him about lucid dreaming hunting, and how he thinks the next places to investigate would be the mobsters whom he crossed with his investigative reporting, who have children with issues similar to Dae-Ho’s own son and are therefore compatible for, you guessed it, rare blood transfusions and the like. It all seems perfectly plausible, but we have to remember the wheels within wheels within yet more wheels, so while this particular lead may not pan out directly, it does point to a new and perhaps entirely unexpected direction for Dae-Ho’s search.

Who did the actual kidnapping of Dae-Ho’s son and why, whether or not the boy is still alive and if so where has he been all this time, and how the lucid dreaming world actually manages to tie into all of it, is surprisingly fairly good and at least possible inside this world. Yes the circular plot has a tendency to recycle some key points, but the visuals and the enthusiasm for which the actors toss themselves into their parts give the film a nice breathless boost.

Dive deep into ‘Lucid Dream’ on Netflix now!

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Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Longer-Length Horror Shorts

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 28, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

For those Horror directors and writers who’ve had a shade bit more experience, or who need longer than fifteen minutes to tell their stories of terror and woe, we have a series of Horror shorts to shock and terrify. From the familiar twisted into something new, to ancient powers of the macabre, sit still for these longer shorts and let yourself be carried off into a whole new darkness!

‘Creatures of Whitechapel’

Country: UK

Director: Jonathan Martin

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Spoilers will cut you down!

It’s the dark cold heart of London, and a killer stalks the alleyways of Whitechapel, hunting down the Ladies of the Night. But it turns out, that killer is actually a her-self too, and she has a Master she’s working for. What could “Jacqueline the Ripper” possibly need with those body parts she stole? Dr. Frankenstein needs a heart for his latest creation, poor thing; the eternal quest of man to make a thing with his own two hands, simply so he can boink it. He needs other parts too, and that’s why he sent the Lady Igor out in an opera cape and top hat with a scalpel blade, never imagining that she would find some kind of redemption in the arms of Mary Kelly. Nevertheless, Master needs a heart (and still doesn’t see the irony in that statement), so he can bring his lady love to life and hopefully responsive movement. Even Dr. Praetoris, Frankie’s fellow scientist, rival and skeptic, doesn’t quite seem to understand that women monsters stick together, through death and beyond!

When done well, Horror mashups are a terrific thing to behold, and Creatures of Whitechapel has certainly done that! The storyline rather reminds me of the awesomeness that was Penny Dreadful, well remembered and always missed, with scenes and sets inspired by From Hell and Victor Frankenstein, original musical scores that won awards and put me in the mind of Sweeney Todd, this particular short makes my little black heart so happy. We women really should get more gender-bent roles in the Horror world, that opens up all kinds of amazing intertwining possibilities!

‘The Madame in Black’

Country: Sweden

Director: Jarno Lee Vinsencius

Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Drawn from a Swedish legend in which a Countess was burned for witchery that purportedly killed her husband and children, which was of course turned into a mirror game for generations to come, very like the American legend of Bloody Mary, The Madame in Black also appears to be a parlor game for young adults who really should be more leery. Our siblings in the short played the game when they were very young and apparently the Madame makes no distinctions about what age she continues to haunt a person. Emma convinces Alex, while they’re hanging out drinking with their significant others, to say the words before the mirror again, and next thing you know, a scary Lady draped in all black is terrorizing everyone!

The story of course puts me in the mind of the movie The Woman In Black, and the atmosphere surrounding the short is very reminiscent of The Conjuring. The “gotcha!” scares are fairly good, and the makeup job for the Madame (when she is fully shown) is pretty darned terrifying, if a little predictable. While I agree it’s important to have background story to whatever game you want to play inside your Horror movie, a little too much time is spent on the brother-sister and their friends dynamic, which could be easily achieved with some flash scenes, and leave more time for the admittedly-good jump scares and hauntings of the Madame in Black.

‘Elegy’

Country: USA

Director: CJ Gardella

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

All around is the cycle of life and death, and nature reflects that in its simplicity and savagery. A brick house out near a swamp teeming with animal life that devours each-other endlessly holds many secrets, where the lines between being alive and being dead, or even undead, blur and become indistinct. A man and a woman walk the lonely halls of the house, attempting to not antagonize each-other, but rather understand the mysteries of the dead and the dying, and even returning back to a kind of existence. A strange kind of harmony exists, with the insects and those who feed off of death, and that which withers finds a kind of quiet beauty in its preservation.

The entire short, especially the animal scenes of hunting, killing, and decaying, really reminded me of the Lars Von Trier film Antichrist, and that was an incredibly odd one. The animals and insects caught on film mid-snap are certainly wonderful to look at, and the truly great thing about this short is the creepy between-life-and-death atmosphere the filmmakers manage to convey. In a short fraught with unique imagery, where none of the characters actually speak, one can only expect some confusion about what the short is attempting to convey in the depths of Horror. I’m still not entirely sure, but I wager it was some kind of descent into madness to study the whole process of death, and perhaps, how love never actually dies.

‘Others Like You’

Country: Italy

Director: Eugenio Villani

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

When does an obsession go too far, and land one in the depths of sheer Horror? Ester wants a child so badly, she’s been binging a series of one-night-stands to get herself pregnant, but somehow never manages to carry a baby to full term and birth. Especially after seeing the female Doctor for a pregnancy test, and showing off that what I assume is a hysterectomy scar all across her abdomen. Doc Greta herself is a scarred survivor and no longer able to have children either, yet she still manages to “mother” a group of hidden monsters, creatures of the old world and old ways, where the sacrificial math of one life for one life is perfectly valid. Ester’s looking for her missing kitten, and though it’s rather unfair of Greta to say Ester can’t even look after a kitten much less a baby, luring Ester to a place of dark birth magic doesn’t seem like the kindest lesson.

Another short that happens to be well-shot but whose storyline is near-inexplicable, Others Like You peels back the layers of women’s Horror, that deep desperate pain and emptiness of childlessness. Very much like the movie Grace with its eternal question of, ‘How far would you go for your children?’, the short adds its own dark European magickal twist that may send even the strongest advocates of The Handmaids Tale running away in disgust!

Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Short-Length Horror Shorts

Posted in comedy, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Romance, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Horror lives on in our hearts all year ‘round, and all across the world too. The fears we share cross all manner of cultural and gender lines, creating a fandom unique to any other. Because if we unite and share our fears, through glorious films and shorts, perhaps some of those fears will be lessened in shared fandom.

‘Last Resort’

Country: USA

Director: David Schneiderman

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What couple thinks it’s a good idea to take a Horror vacation, when one half of the couple isn’t into Horror? Apparently these people do, and in the role reversal of the common, the female in this relationship is the Horrorphile and her boyfriend the reluctant tagalong. Mel the girlfriend wants the immersive Horror weekend promised in the Horror Haven brochure, which includes bloodstains in the shower, a purportedly dead body in the closet, and a cannibal wine host who likes to dance while ranting and isn’t too smart about where he leaves his tools. Oh, and don’t forget the singularly unhelpful delivery guy who keeps getting lost.

A campy little romp that pokes fun at “experience” camps and Horror in general, Last Resort reminds us that no matter how clever you think you’re being, the universe is still laughing at you. And inside the Horror universe, it’s a damned cackle.

‘Black Ring’

Country: Turkey

Director: Hasan Can Dagli

Review Rating: 9 out of 10

What looks like a professional photography setup in a rundown Turkish castle turns out to hide something far more sinister. Considering the men doing the initial setup look like European gangsters, one would think the chosen who participate in the lottery from hell would be more leery about being handed a black disc. But alas, these bright young beautiful things are here for their shot at fame, and for many of them, it is their very last shot. The shock value the artist and his audience are hunting seems almost gorgeous in the grotesquerie, and reminds a great many of us just how jaded we really are. You really can make art out of someone’s death, but how could you possibly top that?

This short was incredible, and I’ve seen a freaking ton of Horror shorts. To be able to do an entire art-house Horror piece, as a short film no less, where not a single character speaks, is even more mind-blowing. The images and ideas brought across come both starkly dark and breathtakingly bloody, mixing styles like an astounding master painter on the movie screen. Seriously, Director Dagli needs to get on making feature-length Horror movies, and right now.

‘A Fathers Day’

Country: UK

Director: Mat Johns

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What Daddy doesn’t want to protect his little girl from the Horrors of the world? Well, what happens when both you and your daughter are already zombies, does the protecting stop once you’ve died? Of course it doesn’t! You still want to protect your drooling, growling baby, and provide fresh-ish entrails for her, and push her on the merry-go-round while she twitches. And when the human survivors take aim at your zombie daughter, when she goes to protect you, is the proudest moment any Daddy, dead or alive or anything in between, can experience!

A wonderful little short done in the sympathetic style of the movie Warm Bodies, A Father’s Day reminds us that the love of a parent for their child transcends all preconceived boundaries, and that includes even death.

‘The Gift of the Woods’

Country: USA

Director: Kris Theorin

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Everyone knows the woods are lovely, dark and deep, but also, that they’re full of ancient creatures, some of whom are monsters. The little girl in the short is an innocent, wanting nothing more than to skip along in the woods and enjoy the bug and plant life, when she happens upon a stump with a dolly on it. The dolly itself is unusual, more like a voodoo doll than anything else, with a bloody paw-print adorning its stomach. And of course when the girl takes the dolly off the stump, it wakes the creature who made the dolly, wanting it back!

Some say even monsters have nightmares. Some monsters even need a teddy, or a dolly, to sleep with to keep their own dream-monsters away. That thought basically sums up the end of this wonderful and sadly far too short Horror cartoon short. Don’t steal another nightmares’ teddy, and if you do, give it back before the sun sets!

‘Hope’

Country: Norway

Director: Adam A. Losurdo

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

So the zombie apocalypse has come and gone, and the world remains pretty much the same, with one or two tiny exceptions – the shuffling zombies still around. They don’t eat brains, they just kind of die and shuffle along, to be abused and ridiculed by the still-living. Here we have Carl, our zombie forever dressed like a soda jerk, completely without hope as he, you guessed it, shuffles along. Carl gets harassed by young girls on bikes, has his shoes stolen, gets his dumb self buried by the meanie living (not buried alive, reburied dead I guess), only to be rescued by a female zombie inevitably named Hope, and instant attraction. After a whirlwind romance, Hope is inevitably killed and that’s when poor Carl finally becomes the killer zombie he was meant to be.

The short is a fun little turnaround on who the real monsters are – the zombie who doesn’t even eat brains and never did no-one any harm, or the still-alive folk who keep bedeviling him. Everyone has a breaking point, even zombies apparently. After all, how would you react if the love of your unlife was slain (again!) in front of you?

San Diego Asian Film Festival presents ‘Train to Busan’: Grab your baseball bat!

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Sang-ho Yeon

Studio: Next Entertainment World

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

A South Korean train ride takes a deadly turn when a zombie apocalypse breaks out!

Yes, it’s Korean and therefore subtitled and, yes, it’s another zombie movie. Those things being said, Train to Busan is a terrific throwback to the original Romero-style zombie movies, where it’s half about the scary zombies and half about the potentially worse stuff we humans do to each-other during the zombie apocalypse. I can never remember the actual character names in many of these Korean flicks, so they get designations and you’ll just have to live with it – onward we go!

So Big Daddy (Gong Yoo) is a businessman, your typical Korean male who has little time and patience for his ex-wife’s shenanigans or his Daughter’s need to be with him, while he negotiates business deals on his cellphone all day long. It’s finally Big Daddy’s chore to take his sad little Daughter on the early-morning train to go see her mother, especially after missing what was meant to be her live singing performance at school and all. And this ill-fated train ride is where it all begins.

On the train itself, Big Daddy is still on his phone and mostly ignoring Daughter (Kim Su-An), while she attempts to familiarize herself with the other passengers. Here we meet Boxer (Ma Dong-Seok), the strapping muscle-bound train-goer with his very-pregnant wife, whom I’ve aptly dubbed MomtoBe (Jung Yu-Mi), and other everyday passengers as we go along – the Elderly Sisters (Ye Soo-Jung and Park Myung-Sin), two aged women taking a train ride together; the Baseball Team and their Cheerleader squad; the older gentleman who is anything but, that I designated NastyMan (Kim Eui-Sung); and of course, the Homeless Guy (Choi Gwi-hwa), who knew about everything going on before anyone else did.

Technically this first train Big Daddy and Daughter are on isn’t going to Busan, they just kind of end up getting thrust in that direction. The first train is where the outbreak begins, at least as far as train rides go, and these are virus-class zombies – get bit, you turn in just a few minutes; black veins on the face and white-blue death eyes are the main indicators; running and shrieking and attacking anything that moves, as the survivors eventually figure out, is the SOP here. Homeless Guy hopped onto this first train and as he sits muttering to himself about how they’re all dead, one thing leads to another and suddenly, everywhere, zombies!

Big Daddy thinks he can just call in favors to get himself and Daughter rescued, even as they try to switch trains in a station after several near-misses, and it just doesn’t work out in the end, so they have to board yet another train, this one being the one officially (eventually) heading for Busan. Here we meet NastyMan, the asshole who will not be denied, who incites everyone panicking into barricading themselves against the rescue attempt Big Daddy and Boxer have to go and make. Daughter and MomtoBe mistakenly end up stuffed in a bathroom and to get to them, Boxer and Big Daddy and the one remaining Baseball Boy (Choi Woo-shik) who wasn’t turned have to guard their arms and arm themselves with baseball bats and go through like 4 cars full of zombies, twice. (As in, go through 4 cars to get there, rescue everyone, and come all the way back.) Even after watching one of the Elderly Sisters sacrifice herself, NastyMan is doing everything he can to insist people not let the rescuers back in this one uninfected car, and that means he doesn’t see the other Elderly Sister go to open the other door to the zombies until its almost too late!

We’re whittling down the survivors on the way to Busan, and even the Conductor is starting to have his doubts about safety once there. A blocked train at a pull-in station forces our survivors to try and switch trains, but the trains are still running and crashing into each-other without Conductors and hordes of mad zombies are exploding out of broken windows to come get you! Will any of our survivors make it to Busan?

I don’t want to give away the ending, but believe me, it is heart-wrenching. Enough story snippets have been tossed in among the zombie carnage to make Train To Busan much more than just a brain-eating fest of a movie, and I thought it was excellent. Right down to NastyMan finally getting a well-deserved comeuppance, damn it.

Grab your baseball bat to watch Train To Busan right now on Netflix!

‘Cosplay Melee’ Premiere: Swing for the Fences!

Posted in Action, Anime, Cartoon, comedy, Comics, drama, Fantasy, Foreign, Historical, horror, Movies, Musical, Romance, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

So the SyFy channel is taking another stab at the fandom with the mostest, the cosplayers! You know, those insane peoples who like to make their own, often movable, skit-able, even stage and screen-ready costumes, to bring their favorite fandoms to life! One can’t even say it’s a kids or younglings game anymore, in the premiere episode one of the contestants was over 40. This is a fandom that people of all ages, genders, colors and backgrounds love, and is generally acknowledged by true cosplayers as all-inclusive, meaning no-one should ever be excluded or discouraged from cosplaying, for really any reason. (The so-called Ambassadress of Cosplay, Yaya Han, got herself some disapproval after she claimed on the short-lived SyFy show Heroes of Cosplay that cosplaying isn’t necessarily for people with larger body types. And that was the nice way of re-wording what she said.)

Cosplay is officially a full-fledged fandom these days, rather than any kind of hobby. And it would have to be, considering cosplay can now cost you would not believe how much money, often to make a single costume replication absolutely spot-on perfect, and yet still be able to wander around conventions wearing it the entire time, of course posing for multiple pictures too. Cosplayers rarely get paid (I wanted to say never but times are changing and cosplayers are being hired to advertise video games and such now), and the making of these fan-atical costumes require a ton of work, time, and energy. I think everyone should try it, but honestly not everyone can do a good Cosplay. If we’re gonna have a game show based around the ability to Cosplay, it had better be good, better, best, a passion, an obsession, a love that is almost scary. And that’s actually what this new show seems to be presenting, thank goodness.

We have a host who is also a judge, Yvette Nicole Brown, of Community fame and apparently a huge fangirl of all things geeky; LeeAnna Vamp, named as one of the “Best Comic-Con Cosplayers of All Time” and nerdy fashion model, fan-atic, and all-around jane of all things geekery; and Christian Beckman, builder, costume designer, creator, President of Quantum Creation FX, Inc., his creations have adorned movies like Tron: Legacy, Men In Black 3, and Ender’s Game, just to name a few. Basically, we have the “everyman, I love everything” Judge (Brown), the “make it pretty” Judge (Vamp), and the “make it work” Judge (Beckman); that totally works for me.

Four contestant cosplayers come in to the lab, very similar to the one they have for Face Off, they get given the theme for this contest, and then they go by rounds to get to this weeks winner. The pilot episode theme is Space Opera, and the opening challenge is to begin from the head down, with a helmet or headgear for your original character from whatever fandom you’ve chosen. On to our contestants!

Fred, the eldest at some 40+, loves him some SciFi, and of course the gateway drug to that world was inevitably Star Trek, so guess which space opera he picked for his character. Xavier is the tall and very quiet black guy, the huge Star Wars fan who’s already made a fan-film from the ‘verse and making that armor was what got him into cosplaying in the first place, so his characters theme is chosen too. Grace is a cop in real life, somehow even with that incomprehensibly long red hair, so she chooses a bounty hunter character in the Guardians of the Galaxy universe, where badass women abound, as it should be. And finally, Alicia of the mermaid hair is mildly uncomfortable in this genre, so she chooses the world of Chronicles of Riddick for her character, with their Necromonger armor as inspiration.

The first round concludes and while I didn’t agree with the judges’ elimination choice (as often happens on these kinds of SyFy shows), I stuck around to see what the remaining contestants would come up with and who would win the $10,000 prize. Round two consisted of mechanical parts being presented to the players, that they had to make some sort of flying jet-pack doohickey with as part of their characters’ costume. Hot glue, flying craft foam and mayhem ensue.

In the end, the quiet Star Wars fan who was bullied as a child took home the win, as his costume was the most cohesive and easily read as being from the Star Wars universe. The judges were all kind and helpful and reluctant to choose one over another and thereby eliminate anyone, but I felt that’s simply because they wanted to encourage the players to continue doing what they love, cosplay, and not play up any lack on their part that caused the loss of the contest.

So far it’s a fairly standard SyFy contest show, in the vein of Face Off and the like, that you could actually learn cosplay techniques from if you pay attention. Not everyone has access to giant portable heaters and hot glue guns and craft foam with designations like they came from an aircraft carrier, but the show is making sure to name at least some of the things they’re using, and sometimes suggesting cheaper alternatives. It’s a fun little show and worth giving a try at least once.

Celebrate all the fandoms and fan-atics with Cosplay Melee on the SyFy channel, Tuesdays @ 10/9c!

Spotlight on Latino Horror presents Ataud Blanco El Juego Diabolico (White Coffin)

Posted in Action, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 12, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Director: Daniel de la Vega

Studio: Del Toro Films

Review Rating: 6.5 out of 10

In the simplest of terms, it is another “save my child at any cost” movie, with a mysterious ritual of sacrifice and some ghostly vengeance tossed in for good measure. The premise, of a mother desperate to save her daughter from some kind of ritual sacrifice, is a good start, but is itself sacrificed for action and driving scenes. The explanatory paragraph for the movie gives very little away, so sadly I’m going to have to spoil a good deal of the plot as we plow ahead.

Spoilers come from all kinds of coffins!

So Virginia (Julieta Cardinali) appears to have up and absconded with her daughter Rebecca, without the consent of her apparently-ex-husband, and the two of them are driving along out in the middle of nowheresville when they inevitably experience a flat tire. This is where we meet the creepy stranger who was never named in the film (but whose name according to IMDB is Mason) for the first time, he comes striding out of the desert landscape like a mirage to help with the flat tire, I dubbed him the Goad for how he has a tendency to further the plot. After the tire is fixed, Virginia and her daughter take lunch at some roadside diner and there, inevitably, Rebecca (Fiorela Duranda) goes missing.

Another woman in the same roadside diner, who appears to be a schoolteacher with a bunch of elementary school kids on a field trip, she has a student go missing and so she’s running around near Virginia, calling for her wayward child too. Here things begin to get weird and ill-defined, a tilted journey through darkness that seems to indicate a confusing death and rebirth of sorts for poor Virginia. And indeed, when she comes back to the light Mr. Goad (Rafael Ferro) has shown back up and is breathlessly explaining that yes, Virginia is now dead but, being given a temporary reprieve back to the land of the living, she has one chance to go save her daughter: find the white coffin.

But nothing is ever that simple, and Virginia has to go through several hoops in order to find that damnable coffin and stop the ritual sacrifice of her daughter. First is the barn where the actual white coffin is located, but of course the place is guarded by a hammerhead wannabe, and yet another desperate woman, Angela (Elenora Wexler), wanting to claim the coffin to rescue her own child. After the tussle with the weaponized carpenter and the subsequent fight with Angela herself, Angela lets slip that she was apparently the one who killed Virginia, so she might get the white coffin first. And at least in this first round, Angela is in the lead, with Virginia attempting to keep up with her for the net task.

Next to be retrieved according to Mr. Goad is the map, very much on the mind of the priest in the Trinity church. And since Mr. Goad has rather forcibly reminded Virginia that she’s already dead and her time is running out and to be absolutely ruthless to get what she wants, well, nothing so small as a priests refusal is going to stop her now.

Some fighting and confrontation and driving later, the last task is to discover the place where the ritual itself is going to be held, and to get the white coffin there by means fair or foul, whatever it takes. The teachers been dealt with, the rival mom is down and now its up to Virginia to do this last, unthinkable, act, to save her child.

Except Virginia doesn’t actually manage to save her child, nor is she really able to save herself, when all is said and done. The background characters that we’ve been noticing around Virginia as she makes her way from place to place, they’ve come to participate in the ritual of child sacrifice and the ascension of the new Chosen, that poor apparently brainwashed and tattooed little girl, Rebecca. As the occupied white coffin burns the backgrounders chant these odd ritual phrases, and the magic that animated Virginia slips away, leaving us to wonder, did the cycle begin anew?

The trouble is simply that there isn’t enough of anything. Had there been more of a supernatural feel to the ritual plot, or more explanation of what the ritual was meant to accomplish, where the necromancy that animated Virginia came from, or how Mr. Goad or any of the backgrounders made their choices in the first place, or what the hell was up with that white coffin, the film could have been more enjoyable. The washed-out look of the film is fine, intending to impart a kind of Texas Chainsaw Massacre feel I’m guessing. For unknown reasons the film is only an hour and a half long; I’d really like to see an extended version or a full background story script to read at least.

Dig up Ataud Blanco (White Coffin) on Netflix!

‘Sadako vs. Kayako’: Now there’s a twist we didn’t see coming

Posted in Action, Foreign, horror, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 17, 2017 by aliciamovie

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Reviewed by Alicia Glass

Spoilers haunt your everything!

Most of us of the Horror fan world are aware of the huge J-Horror craze that went out years back, the triple threat of the films Ringu, Ju-On, and The Eye had everyone talking. And if there’s one thing the U.S. does well, or at least a lot of, is remakes. The Americanized The Ring, The Grudge and the controversial The Eye, spawned a new generation of Horror remakes, often touted as nothing other than huge epic American loving tributes, riiight, to some wildly popular Asian film. This actually turned out to be unfortunate for the American Horror market, as the remake has literally been done to death now, and many of us are heartily sick of it. Horror is the one place in the movie-making world with literally no boundaries – fear is, after all, one of the most basic human instincts. So imagine my surprise when Sadako vs. Kayako turns out to be the exact same thing, but from the opposite direction – an Asian version of the highly notable hugely popular American mashup film Freddy vs. Jason.

Generally from mashup films, at least from American ones, you can expect a certain zany feel and some comedy somewhere, and SvK struggles with that concept, because there’s never been a thing funny about either of their origin stories or subsequent films. There are a few wacky moments, mostly from the flippant priest Keizo, but of comedy there can be easily said none. But that’s not what made Ringu and Ju-On great, right?

So what do we know? The Professor in the movie, Morishige (Masahiro Komoto), teaching an urban legends class (how many of them did you know?) reminds us briefly of the origins of Kayako (Runa Endo), the rage house, a cursed house with the cat child and the contortionist ghost his mother, with her ever-creepy iconic door-closing moan, yes them. But he prefers to focus rather on the story of Sadako (Elly Nanami) and the cursed video tape, hell, he even wrote an entire book on the subject and blatantly entices students to purchase and read it during his lecture. Sadako and the cursed video, she comes from the well and shadow walks out of your television to execute those who don’t do her bidding in two days’ time, often in the most horrific way unimaginable.

Okay, so we’ve introduced the wise character who knows all about one of our opponents, now what? This seemingly-random mess begins with college student Natsumi (Aimi Satsukawa) asking her friend Yuri (Mizuki Yamamoto) for help with transferring her parents old wedding VCR tape to a DVD. No-one uses VCR players anymore, so they have to go to a used shop to find a deck, and sure enough, an unlabeled tattered older video sits in it already.

Meanwhile elsewhere, Suzuka (Tina Tamashiro) is silent because her family had to move recently and the house across the way, well damnit, it’s all condemned and boarded up and calls to Suzuka in the creepiest way. These moron children, wanting to rag on the runt of the group who somehow insulted their leader, send him in to the condemned house with a backpack full of rocks, and I bet you can guess how that turned out. Actually, wait. I guess we could say we found one, rather unintentional it seems, moment of humor in Sadako vs. Kayako – the small boy, insulted and put upon, trembling with borrowed rage from the cursed house, as he unerringly lobs a rock into the center of the forehead of the leader – POW.

This is kind of fast but we need to pick up the pace if we want to have origin story, current bloodshed and Sadako and Kayako duking it out in here somewhere too. Only Natsumi ended up watching the cursed video, Yuri was watching her phone, okay, sure. This becomes important later, because her voluntary sacrifice is supposed to give her more power or purity of purpose or something, I’m guessing. So Natsumis on the clock, now we’ve infected the Professor, he wants to send the girls to a Japanese onmyouji, or exorcist priest, to see if she can get the ghost now haunting Natsumi out. This is something I failed to understand, since I never thought Sadako ever tried to eat another person, Kayako did that – cursed video woman would literally frighten you to death and that was all. (However, the latest Americanized version of the Ring legacy, Rings, does address this very issue, so maybe that’s another tribute.) Doesn’t matter, onward we go!

The exorcism scene is one of the better ones of the movie, and it does get darkly wacky when Sadako rises in Natsumis body and proceeds to just wreak bloody fucking havoc with her own two bare hands. After the execution of the poor exorcist too, we’re introduced to mischievous priest Keizo (Masanobu Ando) and his little blind red assistant Tamao (Mai Kikuchi), who, for all his saucy attitude, rather reminded me of Constantine from the TV show. This is another bastardized American tribute kind of thing, because for all his bluster, just like Constantine, Keizo is still a completely competent priest and quite capable of performing exorcisms and planning to trap ghosts, all the while ready with a quick quip that makes you feel about five for asking such a question. And with the help of little red blinding hood there, Keizo hatches a daring plan – pit Sadako and Kayako against each-other in the ultimate ghost-off that will hopefully cancel out all the curses being lobbed everywhere.

This plan, too, is a very American thing to do; I can’t help thinking that Asian spirit folklore honestly wouldn’t have room for this sort of out-of-the-box thinking. And hey, it turns out that out behind the Grudge house is a disused well, what a coincidence, which Keizo and pals prepare for use as a last resort trap, just in case. Here I get to remind us the audience that Freddy vs. Jason did the same exact thing, learn the baddies origin stories and attempt to use the environment against them, and that didn’t turn out particularly stellar for them, either.

So we’ve come down to the wire and the attempt to trap a pair of ghosts that have long-spanning legacies and a string of movies to attest to this. Suzuka and Yuri will enter the Grudge house and play the cursed tape inside, thereby squaring and sharing the curses between both of them, in the hopes that when the two baddest wraith mommas come for their collective prizes, they’ll be too preoccupied fighting each-other to care much about their prey escaping. But it’s not working and Keizo proceeds to announce very calmly that one of them needs to sacrifice herself so Sadako and Kayako can merge together in her inhabited body. Think about that for a moment – these killing spirits, these onryo yurei, are going to slam together, mix their incredible power, and then eat and inhabit her living body. ‘Oh shit,’ doesn’t even begin to cover it.

This brand new entity, the utter twist of Sadako and Kayako merging, is now apparently called Sadakaya and for the most part (to me anyway) Kayako looks the most dominant in the equation. That iconic noise and the contortions, plus the prehensile hair Sadako is noted for, proceed to flat dominate Keizo and his magic, and even the blessed and sealed well can’t stop Sadakaya (also Mizuki Yamamoto) now. Everyone’s dead, or about to be disappeared-dead like they do in Ju-On, the cursed women have merged and have a brand new young body to inhabit and wreak havoc with, and a new generation of fear can be born. There’s even an easter egg way at the end of the credits, much in the style of the severed Freddy-head wink, so make of that what you will.

For something that began life as an April Fool’s joke, the fan response to Sadako vs. Kayako has been as encouraging as possible. It’s hard to do the enduring legacy of both movies justice in one mashup film, but I think director Koji Shiraishi made a fine attempt. Did he succeed? Only you can tell me if Sadakaya is the ultimate curse.

You can twist in the mashup of Sadako vs. Kayako on Shudder.com right now!