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.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Sea Fever (2020)

Director: Neasa Hardiman
Notable Cast: Hermione Corfield, Dougray Scott, Connie Nielsen, Jack Hickey, Dag Malmberg, Ardalan Esmaili, Olwen Fourere, Elie Bouakaze

In a time where most of the world is quarantined due to a massive pandemic, releasing a film about infections, quarantines, death, and the mental anguish of all the above is one hell of a flex. Watching Sea Fever is a harrowing experience that hits very close to home and certainly plays on the anxieties of the current state of affairs. Isn’t that the appeal of horror cinema though? Working through social and personal fears in a “safe” medium from the comfort of your home or communal theater in a slightly heightened narrative format? It’s definitely the main appeal for me. This is why, while Sea Fever seems almost too perfectly timed, it’s release is only fitting.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Hunt (2020)

Directed by: Craig Zobel
Notable cast: Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank, Ike Barinholtz, Ethan Suplee, Emma Roberts

The Most Dangerous Game, as a genre archetype has always been used as a metaphor for class divide as long as the story has existed. The bored rich hunting a downtrodden, but clever, human being makes for extremely compelling bones to any story. This has found great success in films as diverse as Surviving The Game, featuring an unforgettable Ice T performance and hairdo, to the generic but fun 90s Van Damme actioner Hard Target, to the insane and cartoonish John Leguizamo vehicle The Pest. There is something inherently compelling about the idea of hunting a thinking person, which I believe relates to motivation. Michael Meyers is scary because you never understand the motivation, the rich hunting the poor out of boredom? That’s scary because it’s so mundane. We’ve all been bored, and we’ve all imagined what we’d do with infinite resources, so there is something inherently dark about coming to the “hunting human beings” conclusion.

Bloodshot (2020)

Director: David S.F. Wilson
Notable Cast: Vin Diesel, Eiza Gonzalez, Guy Pearce, Lamorne Morris, Toby Kebbell, Sam Heughan, Johannes Haukur Johannesson, Alex Hernandez, Talulah Riley, Siddharth Dhananjay

The fact that Vin Diesel is the main draw for me is not something I regularly admit. However, I have had to come to terms with it over the last few years as he continually unleashes A-budget B-films in between Fast & Furious sequels. The results of these weird genre films is wildly hit or miss. Not just hit or miss in terms of good and bad, but some hit every level between. Babylon AD is trash, but Riddick is badass. XXX: The Return of Xander Cage is batshit insane wink-wink, but The Last Witch Hunter is…well, also batshit insane just not wink-wink. Regardless, I’m a sucker for whatever wild shit he’s throwing down and his latest, Bloodshot – based on the Valiant comic book, is just one more for the books. The problem with this latest one is that, despite some valiant efforts to give Vin Diesel fans all of the Vin Diesel-isms they want, it’s a film that parallels the character arc of its hero. It lacks a real identity and it’s desperately trying to find one.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Hitch Hike to Hell (1977/1983)

Director: Irvin Berwick
Notable Cast: Robert Gribbin, Russell Johnson, John Harmon, Randy Echols, Dorothy Bennett, Mary Ellen Christie

Going into a film named Hitch Hike to Hell is certainly a gamble. Knowing it’s an incredibly low budget 70s schlock exploitation film only makes those feelings of a gamble more intense. However, if there is one thing that we have found is that if Arrow Video is releasing the film, then there is probably some key reason for it. While the quality of Hitch Hike to Hell is, well, it’s shifty at best, there is something of an intriguing element to its approach that makes one understand why Arrow Video would want to give this the pristine Blu Ray treatment. On the surface, this film is fairly awkward. The low budget and the obvious amateurish elements of the writing and performances make for a film that’s a relative chore to sit through, but there are things to discuss in the film – even if the execution leaves most of those thin too.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Red Peony Gambler 6: Oryu's Return (1970)

Director: Tai Kato
Notable Cast: Junko Fuji, Bunta Sugawara, Tomisaburo Wakayama, Kanjuro Arashi, Toru Abe, Bin Amatsu, Mikiko Asamatsu, Shogo Egami

One of the more effective tactics that have become part of the formula of the Red Peony Gambler franchise is how the writing is structured. Each entry slowly builds its story, adding in seemingly random characters or plots, and then ties them in for the third act. While the second film in the franchise, Gambler’s Obligation, did it with the most impact, it has become a tactic that I enjoy seeing unfold time and time again. The sixth entry of the series, under the subtitle Oryu’s Return, sees the franchise once again double down on this structure and writing. Unlike some of its predecessors, the results are a bit more mixed than expected, but Red Peony Gambler 6 is still a film that pays off wildly in its third act.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Sadako (2019)

Director: Hideo Nakata
Notable Cast: Elaiza Ikeda, Himeka Himejima, Hiroya Shimizu, Ren Kiriyama, Rie Tomosaka, Takashi Tsukamoto

In terms of franchises, the Ring franchise still might now be the wildest – despite intensive efforts to continually reboot it in some wild ways. It’s a weird one, often perplexing at times, but not necessarily the strangest one I’ve seen. After a relatively successful reboot in Japan of the series with Sadako 3D and Sadako 3D 2, the franchise took a wild swing with the entertaining Sadako Vs Kayako which serves as more of a “fan service” film rather than a true part of the original or the reboot franchise. It’s not that surprising then that the latest film, under the rather confusing title Sadako, also serves as something of a soft reboot. It’s a film that attempts to go back to the original’s tone and feeling with a few new themes thrown in as it strips back the wild aspects of the newer films for something a bit more traditional. This leaves Sadako feeling a bit anemic in its narrative, repetitive and unmemorable as it runs through many of the tropes, but disregards many of the other elements that made Sadako and her films horror classics.

The big reason that fans should be intrigued about Sadako is that it marks a return to the franchise by its directorial creator, Hideo Nakata since the disastrous The Ring Two. Dabbling on and off in horror for the last 20+ years, his track record can be hit or miss, but his return does perk a lot of interest. Perhaps it shouldn’t be so shocking that the film is more akin to the original run of Japanese films (including his own Ring and Ring 2 entries) in tone. It’s a shift that certainly sounds tempting on paper – being a loose reboot that only hints at being part of the same universe as previous films. Still, the execution of its ideas seems thin at best and leaves so much to be desired.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Brahms: The Boy II (2020)

Director: William Brent Bell
Notable Cast: Katie Holmes, Owain Yeoman, Christopher Convery, Ralph Ineson, Anjali Jay

The Boy became something of a surprise success. It did some bank in the box office, compared to its budget, and generated quite the word of mouth, particularly from its finale. However, it was a film that existed too firmly in a generic blue print for most of its run time. In my opinion, even its fantastic third act couldn’t quite lift it above being a mediocre horror film. The shock of this recently released sequel wasn’t that it existed, the original was a hit, but that it took four years for it to finally come out in theaters.

The big question of the sequel is how does one follow up the first film’s reveal and still maintain the concept without diverting the idea and tone in drastic ways? If you were to judge by what Brahms: The Boy II is delivering to its audiences, you can’t. Where the first film generated a lot of fun moments with some decent performances and slick production, Brahms fails to generate, well, anything. It’s a snoozer that meanders through its formula with such a wooden sense of purpose, one would be surprised that everyone working on the film wasn’t a puppet.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Possum (2018)

Director: Matthew Holness
Notable Cast: Sean Harris, Alun Armstrong, Simon Bubb, Andy Blithe

This 2018 English psychological horror piece is all at once confusing and terrifying, unsettling and harrowing, and vague; until it’s suddenly not. I spent the majority of this film bathed in curious resentment for the harrowing and nonlinear narratives, only to be ripped into blinding clarity in a resolution that is as uncomfortable as the rest of the film.

Director Matthew Holness makes his feature film debut in this darkly gripping story about trauma, mental illness, and freaking terrifying puppets. Prior to Possum, he had written and directed many pieces for TV, but this film seems like a stark departure from what one would generally consider “tv” type entertainment. One can only hope that we see more of his work in the future, as anyone who watches Possum, will attest that it is a novel approach to storytelling, regardless of their preference for the subject matter.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Guns Akimbo (2020)

Directed by: Jason Lei Howden
Notable cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Samara Weaving, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Ned Dennehey

Occasionally a film asks a question, a question that frightens you, cuts you to your core. Something that rattles your very humanity.  Guns Akimbo, the new film by Deathgasm writer/director Jason Lei Howden, is brave enough to ask such a question. What if you woke up with pistols bolted to your hands? Truly, haunting.

If the above thought didn’t make it immediately apparent, we are diving into true grindhouse cinema. After the Tarantino/Rodriguez double-feature Grindhouse, a whole generation was exposed to the concept, sort of. For specificities’ sake, a grindhouse theater was a cheap theater that played, usually as double features, low-budget action, horror, and exploitation films. Exploitation, as a genre, is any film that exploits some popular thing, movement, or person and makes a low-budget (usually) horror or action movie out of it. Women-in-prison, nunsploitation, and nazi-sploitation are all prime examples of exploitation sub-genres. They also tended to be crassly sexual and gory, basically the “gutter punk” of the cinematic world... and like all counterculture movements, the quality varies wildly. A quick litmus test for you: if what I just said sounds cool to you, you’re right and it’s probably for you. If what I said sounds repulsive? You’re right, and it’s probably not for you. Casting the brief aside aside now, let’s talk about Guns Akimbo.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Witch: Subversion (2020)

Director: Park Hoon-jung
Notable Cast: Kim Da-mi, Jo Min-su, Choi Woo-shik, Park Hee-soon, Go Min-si, Choi Jung-woo, Oh Mi-hee, Daeun, Kim Byeong-ok

At this point, it might be safe to say that after Parasite swept its Oscar categories that we will – at least for a short time – be living in a post-Parasite world. A world where South Korean cinema will finally be getting some attention from more casual cinephiles and where the mainstream will keep a meandering eye on the big films from the SK industry. For our writers here at Blood Brothers and thus, our readers too, it’s an exciting time to see all of the new fans discover just how wild and awesome SK cinema has been for quite some time. Even films like The Witch: Subversion or The Witch Part 1: Subversion if you go by the original English title for the film, showcases just how dark and twisty the films can be. It’s a film with a ton of heart and mainstream appeal but does not hesitate to take its concept into the incredibly dark and violent recesses of its own psyche – particularly in a brutal and shocking third act. It’s a film that takes such a solid and impressively genre-favored turn that even its mundane narrative of the first two acts is saved. Yes, it’s a twist like this that makes me very excited for new people to discover SK cinema in more depth.

Ne Zha (2019) [Blu Ray]

One of the big surprises of the last year in theaters was Ne Zha, China’s big blockbuster animated film, which came out to some serious money in theaters. Not only did it make a massive splash overseas, but it ended up garnering quite the theatrical run in the US too. The main reason for its success is how confident and well-executed it is as a film. Ne Zha is a wild, colorful, and full immersive animated experience, brimming with family-style humor and yet slathered in traditional Chinese fantasy and littered with incredibly well-executed action set pieces. If you want more, please feel free to read through my full review of the film from last here HERE.

The purpose of this update is not to necessarily rehash the quality of the film, but to let our readers know that it’s now available to own. Ne Zha is available on multiple formats via Well Go USA. Each of the releases is focused solely on the film itself and it features both dubbed and subbed versions of the film for those who want the choice (subbed is my preferred method, but people love them dubs). For those looking for a slew of special features, then this isn’t necessarily the release for that – but the film itself is easily worth the purchase. Considering the visual style of the film, the higher the resolution than the higher the recommendation. The visual and audio focused cinephile will not complain about the quality that is on display here. This is one that is getting the UHD 4K quality release too – which includes the superior artwork anyway in my opinion.

Although Ne Zha doesn’t feature a lot of extras, the quality of the releases are fantastic. The film is worth checking out just to see the beginning of an obvious new age of Chinese animation (and its own franchise) so it comes highly recommended.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

Sunday, March 1, 2020

The Invisible Man (2020)

Directed by: Leigh Whannell
Notable cast: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Aldis Hodge

Universal has been trying to modernize its classic monster lineup non-stop for two decades. They started strong, with The Mummy in 1999 and most recently ended very weakly, with 2017’s The Mummy. The weaker efforts in the interim have had a single consistent problem, which is that they were forward-looking, so focused on making their own Avengers that they forgot to make a single decent stand-alone film. The Invisible Man, conversely, is an exceptionally small story with a humble budget given to the rapidly emerging powerhouse duo of producer Jason Blum and writer/director Leigh Whannell, teaming here for the third time (after 2015’s Insidious Chapter 3, and the criminally underseen Upgrade from 2018).

One Missed Call Trilogy (2003-2006)


Director: Takashi Miike
Notable Cast: Ko Shibasaki, Shinichi Tsutsumi, Kazue Fukiishi, Yutaka Matsushige, Goro Kishtani, Renji Ishibashi

Miike is one of those directors that truly can direct damn near anything and make it his own and, weirdly enough, make it great. The first – and original – One Missed Call is a prime example of that talent. While many of its ilk in the J-horror boom of the early 00s focused on a fear of technology creeping into the realms of the spiritual world, One Missed Call might feature one of the silliest concepts. A ghost who uses your cell phone to call you from the near future from the period where it kills you? It’s borderline asinine. Yet, watching this film is something of a suffocating and incredibly creepy experience. Miike uses the concept to run with his usual themes of outsider feelings and the unusual existing in the ‘real’ world and the combination proves to be downright effective.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Sonic the Hedgehog (2020)

Directed by: Jeff Fowler
Notable cast: Ben Schwartz, Jim Carrey, James Marsden, Tika Sumpter

Of all the video games in the world to adapt, Sonic The Hedgehog seems like a particularly tough nut to crack. Much like with the early 90s Super Mario Brothers, Paramount had a fairly abstract concept to work with. Sonic was designed to be the antithesis of Mario in every way, fast, edgy and full of that ephemeral nineties “’tude.” They went with the CG-character-human-sidekick-road-trip-movie, and while, admittedly, on its head it’s the most boring possible choice, doing something so generic but reasonably well ends up making a solidly average film. And compared to most other video game film adaptations? A mediocre film is practically Citizen Kane.

Now, before we get into the review proper, it is worth noting the very odd path that this movie took to the big screen, more specifically how its release was delayed for months to bring Sonic’s design more in line with fan expectations. I personally find this to be an exceptionally dangerous precedent for several reasons, chiefly by choking the singular artistic vision in the name of chasing the approval of an audience that, by and large, has proven to have no idea what they want… admittedly, seems to be a good change. The original design did have an uncanny valley issue, especially in his human teeth, and the more game/cartoon-like creature we’re provided here is a marked improvement.

Friday, February 14, 2020

First Love (2019)

Director: Takashi Miike
Notable Cast: Masataka Kubota, Nao Omori, Shota Sometani, Sakurako Konishi, Becky

As far as we’re concerned here at Blood Brothers, it’s a good day when you get to see a new Takashi Miike film and since the auteur rebel filmmaker pumps out an average of two films per year, that makes for a lot of good days. His latest, First Love, is sure to appease both his longtime and newer fans. The iconic director has a knack for making all kinds of films, kid’s movies to horror and period dramas to live-action anime adaptions, so you can never truly be sure what you’re going to get. With First Love though, Miike leans back to his roots and crafts a quirky and violent yakuza film similar to his output of the mid and late 90s. Like those films, this one has the blissfully dark humor, violence, soul, and wild spins that people associate with his material. After a few questionable films in the last few years like Laplace’s Witch and TerraFormars, it’s a welcome return to classic form.