HELLABRATION DELUXE! Thirty-One Days of SHOCKTOBER: Day Thirty – 10/30/18

10/30 – 2016: DON’T BREATHE/TRAIN TO BUSAN

And yet again, I came upon a year where it was too hard to decide which films to feature, and it got narrowed down to two: a home invasion thriller that upends the premise of a classic chiller from the Sixties, and a zombie action drama unlike anything audiences had seen before.

If you’re old enough to remember (as I do) the Terence Young-directed thriller from 1967, WAIT UNTIL DARK, the best screen adaptation of Frederick Knott’s smash play there will ever be, you’ll recall Audrey Hepburn as the “champion blind lady”, who manages to get the goods on three crooks trying to outsmart her, including a terrifyingly good Alan Arkin.  FEDE ALVAREZ, who totally retooled Sam Raimi’s EVIL DEAD in a gore-drenched remake in 2013, got the brilliant idea of taking that scenario and flipping it around. The result? The cracklingly good ‘home invasion’ flick, DON’T BREATHE…which literally describes what you’ll find yourself doing through the second and third acts of his DEAD follow-up.

Once again tapping the talents of his muse/leading lady JANE LEVY, and adding DYLAN MINNETTE and DANIEL ZOVATO into the mix, the three of them play juvenile burglars out to make one last big score. Zovato’s “Money”, the wannabe-badass of the group hits upon a plan. Rumor has it that there’s an old, blind Iraq war vet who lives alone, and has a shitload of cash stashed somewhere in his house.

Old. Blind. Isolated. Rich. Easy pickins, right?

Except, of course, if the man in question happens to be STEPHEN LANG (AVATAR, BAND OF THE HAND, LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN), who usually plays ‘not-fuck-with-able’ sighted characters on his worst days. So is the man he plays here going to be an easy target? Not on your life.

I won’t disclose how they find out, but the three thieves soon learn they’ve got their hands full. And worst of all, they’re on the Blind Man’s turf. Where they know next to nothing about his house, he has that blind person’s super-heightened senses of everything that’s around him, especially sound. And that’s where the title comes in.  BREATHE is a mindfuck all the way around. The “bad guys” turn out to be so much less dangerous than their intended ‘victim’, and even though they were up to no good, you end up rooting for them to be able to get the hell out of the predicament they made for themselves.

But much like the script that Alvarez crafted with writing/producing partner RODO SAYAGUES, you never have any idea of what’s coming next, and the twists and turns will keep you on the edge of your sofa, all the way up to the gasp-inducing finale.  I didn’t care much for Alvarez’s take on the Raimi film, to be completely honest, but DON’T BREATHE won me over immediately. I don’t doubt that if you love a good, solid thriller, the same will happen for you with this one.

As for our other feature…

Like many people, I gave up on THE WALKING DEAD at about Season Six. Or was it Seven? No matter. By the time Negan was finally introduced after what seemed like a lifetime’s worth of speculation, I was pretty much “zombie’d-out”. With multiple TV series devoted to them (including FEAR THE WALKING DEAD), I just didn’t feel like anything new could be done with the sub-genre. Or at least, no one was trying very hard to.

And then, along comes TRAIN TO BUSAN.

This pulse-pounding thriller from Korean director SANG-HO YEON, took what appears to be a simple enough premise – transferring the scenario of Romero’s DAWN OF THE DEAD from a shopping mall to a commuter train – and, using the tried-and-true conceit of character investment by the audience, turns his film into a grueling, 90-minute terror ride that fans have taken again and again since its initial release. (It was one of the biggest box-office smashes in Korea that year, and for good reason!)

Work-obsessed businessman Seok-woo (YOO GONG) is taking his daughter, Soo-an (SU-AN KIM) to be with her mother, from whom he is estranged. But what seems like the beginning of a downer of a family drama, takes a sharp left turn, as father and daughter board the train leaving Seoul and bound for Busan, just as a mysterious zombie virus descends upon the city, transforming those affected by it into speedy, groveling flesh-munchers, infecting any and everyone who happens to get bitten.

The terror grows with the size of the undead hordes, and the chances for survival shrink faster than the Seoul skyline in the distance. As the struggle begins, a beefy laborer, Sang-hwa (the scene-stealing DONG-SEOK MA) who starts out having an antagonistic relationship with Seok-woo, soon joins forces with him as a badly-needed ally, as he tries to keep himself and his daughter alive, while also still trying to fulfill his promise to Soo-an to get her to Busan to see her mother.

 

As I often like to say, “Terror needs no translation”, and that definitely applies here. Director Yeon, working from the script he wrote with JOO-SUK PARK, knows his way around an action sequence, and manages to blow the audience away with several suspenseful setpieces, involving situations that have never been presented before the way they are here, even in top-notch zombie thrillers like 28 DAYS LATER and WORLD WAR Z (which TRAIN shares some similarities with.)

International filmmakers are ‘bringing it’ with their takes on the zombie genre, with everything from BUSAN, to the recent Chinese productions of ZOMBIOLOGY and LOST IN APOCALYPSE. I wish George Romero were still here to see this, and to remark on it in his own unique way…

POST-MORTEM SCRYPT: 2016 bounced crazily between sci-fi/horror, the supernatural and man-made monsters with such offerings as 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE, THE CONJURING 2, SPLIT, THE WAILING, RAW, THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE, UNDER THE SHADOW and the excellent THE GIRL WITH ALL THE GIFTS.


Posted by Samuel Glass

1 comment

Another great entry and great commentary on two amazing movies. We really were spoilt for choice when it came to horror films in this year, weren’t we?

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