The Lost and the Plunderers: Review for The Walking Dead 810 by R.C. Murphy
Before you mosey down this road, just know there’s episode spoilers ahead.
Is now the appropriate time to say that Rick Grimes is literally the worst character to ever be propped up as the hero of a show? His actions alone make Rick a villain, not even a decent one at that because he wastes so many opportunities to better his people and delves into the tiresome lone-wolf terrorist mentality. Dude has a family relying on him, but they’re some of the last he considers. For Pete’s sake, he just buried his kid, then turns around to do some astounding gymnastics. The mental kind, that is. How else could he listen to Carl’s final plea, then have the gall to ask a likewise grieving Michonne what the dying boy meant by begging for peace between the communities? Carl had this entire dream for their people, for all people, which he confessed during a painful, slow death. That still isn’t enough to convince Rick to move on. No, no. He wastes precious time finding guns, which don’t exist anymore, and then boasts about his plans to Negan in the same breath as he uses to absolve the Saviors of Carl’s death.
Negan’s right, folks. Rick Grimes is the sole reason his son perished. But not simply because Rick wasn’t there that one day, but because Rick hasn’t been there for his son since the prison. Not since Carl killed Lori after Judith’s difficult birth. One could make an argument for Rick never really being there for Carl at all—since the day he arrived at the quarry, Rick’s schemed and fought for power within their group, and any other community they come across. Sure, there’s bursts of paternal activity, but Rick has the focus of a child. Without someone or something to force him to focus within his family, he’ll seek other forms of excitement. Rick’s loyalty is to Rick, yet he demands everyone around him be willing to die for his personal morals without question. Carl dies chasing someone else’s moral code, Siddiq’s, and it’s a rock in Rick’s throat that he can’t use this as an excuse to nuke the Saviors and piss on their graves.
Sounds like a real hero, huh?
The Saviors are in a slightly better position now that they’ve reclaimed Sanctuary from the dead. Time has come to get their house back in order, and Negan wastes no time dispersing his lieutenants to the communities—except Hilltop, which will require a significant show of force to bring to heel. With so much in the air, one man feels it’s his time to shine. Simon demands they make examples of everyone who went against them, starting with the Scavengers. For a hot second, I thought Negan would pop a new hole in Simon’s head and go on with his afternoon. No such luck. Simon doesn’t get his massacre order, just a command to stick to their typical M.O. to reaffirm relations between the communities. Since all the men on this show are so predictable, it’s no surprise when Simon takes offense to Jadis’ stoicism, ordering his men to wipe out the Scavengers. The best part? Simon thinks he can hide it. Boy, that’s not going to be a pretty scene when Negan hears the truth.
Alone for the first time in a long time, Jadis finally lets the gag slip. She’s not some enigmatic, alien-like leader. Art is in her blood, and that love for art made her look at the apocalypse as the best way to art harder, turning the entire landfill into a museum populated by the kind of people she thought should populate her new world. Sure it meant completely changing her dialect pattern, but artists are weird, y’all. I fully believe someone out there might go, “Zombies, huh? Time to become a weird, monosyllabic cult leader who fancies cats.” Whatever works to keep oneself one step ahead of the undead, right?
We can’t talk about the Scavenger’s demise without addressing the meat grinder scene. Okay, I know it’s an industrial grinder, but a whole load of ground people comes out at the end, so my statement stands. Not that I want it to, because I’m fully, totally off ground meat for at least a year. Not only is the gore too much to handle with a snack in-hand, but the acting from Pollyanna McIntosh during Jadis’ final goodbyes is astounding, heartbreaking. And frustrating. If she can put out that kind of performance, why aren’t they using this character better?
On the week of International Women’s Day, we have yet another example of Rick’s machinations leading to undue turmoil within the women-led Oceanside community. Last episode, Enid shot Natania. This episode, they deal with the fallout from that murder. A murder Enid insists she was forced to commit. But, uh, no one told her to go harass these women again. For what? They don’t have the weaponry needed to fight Negan’s army. Enid and Aaron barge into this community with nothing to bargain with, blood on their hands, and the bold demand that these women become cannon fodder in an ego war between Rick and whoever’s in his way this week. To add insult to injury, after Cyndie spares their lives, Aaron plans to subvert Oceanside’s commanders by manipulating fringe members, convincing them to join the fight. Leave these women alone, already. They’ve done nothing to anyone, but over and over again they are forced to sacrifice their well-being to meet men’s demands. This isn’t entertainment anymore. It’s watching some dude’s ego waft around on screen with a soundtrack and occasional explosion.
The war continues despite Carl’s plea. I fully believe Negan would’ve at least signed a temporary cease-fire in the kid’s honor. JDM twisted that knife all over again with Negan’s sincere condolences to Rick. Then Rick blew it off and I found a whole new flavor of hate for the character. So cool that I’m learning new things about myself when it comes to this show eight years down the road, huh? Too bad it’s only confirming that if the main character died, it’d improve my opinion of the show a thousand-fold.
As if this week wasn’t busy enough, what with everyone rushing to see Black Panther approximately a dozen times before Saturday, we’ve still got a trio of zombie shows making their way back to the airwaves starting Sunday, February 25th.
Speaking of Black Panther, there’s a new Walking Dead season eight mid-season premiere trailer rolling before the feature film. By the way, the movie includes TWD star Danai Gurira in one of her fiercest performances to date, so don’t miss it. There are also trailers with about half a dozen other TWD alumni in them right now. I went to see a super hero movie and still had a chance to enjoy footage showcasing some of my favorite zombie-killers. Wins all around.
Here’s the latest trailer to help you wrap your head around saying goodbye to a certain young character:
The Walking Dead returns to AMC this upcoming Sunday at 9 PM.
Opting to go head-to-head with TWD, Ash vs Evil Dead‘s third season hits STARZ on Sunday at 9 PM. This season we’re learning about Ash the Family Man and what lengths he’ll go to in order to protect the family he kinda-sorta didn’t know he had. Evil finds a new target, Brandy, Ash’s daughter, and it’s determined to get to his offspring no matter what. It’ll take some cryptic warnings from Ruby, the reformation of the Ghost Beaters, and a lot of weird supernatural stuff to save everyone from a bigger, badder threat than ever before.
Season three looks like a heck of a ride, doesn’t it?
While still basking in the glow from some of our favorites returning to TV, don’t forget to tune into The CW on Monday, February 26th for the season four premiere of iZombie at 9 PM. Everything’s changed after zombies were revealed to the general public. New Seattle is walled up, but humans still scramble to get inside in order to save themselves from mortality. Zombie life is big business. But as we all know, embracing capitalism with both arms eventually rots society from the inside out. Will it happen quicker in this New Seattle thanks to the ruthless nature of some zombies? Not if Liv and her team can help it.
Something’s foamy in Chicago. With all the damage done to Mother Earth in the name of eradicating the zombie problem, she’s finally fighting back. A thick, toxic foam spreads from Lake Michigan across the city. Some sections are easily ten feet deep. On the outskirts, scant few buildings peek through the foam, blessed oases to recover from exposure to toxins. If only Doc and Murphy stumbled into one of those places, with 10k and Sarge following later. Instead, they’re reunited with Trouble One and Trouble Two, plus an odd yet competent barber who may have a few things to hide. Could it be the Tiny, the silent and heavily armed man upstairs? Or perhaps the carefully placed zombie pit under the barber’s chair? The list of what’s wrong with Sal the barber is long. Which is why Sketchy and Skeezy opt to swindle everyone instead of explaining how dead they all are once Sal hatches his great plan.
Nefarious duos are the honored guests in the episode. There’s our old friends, Sal and Tiny, then in stumbles two dudes who were nowhere near the radar for a surprise comeback, Dale and Roy—you’ll remember them as the saps who let Skeezy bite them during their “The Murphy” scam. Dale and Roy get the drop on everyone by pure chance, stumbling in from the foam shortly after a vomit-slick brawl. If there’s one thing to love about the Sketchy and Skeezy episodes, it’s the insane fight sequences. This one takes the prize for best so far, in my opinion. Cornered by the new pair, the mentally agile hucksters spring their plan. Skeezy’s been bitten by a mummified tanning bed zombie—or so he says. Obviously he can’t stay, so everyone votes, with the new pair breaking the tie. Sketchy opens up about his feelings for his friend before Skeezy is tossed into the foam to fend for himself. Dale and Roy move on with their own scheme, and with a little coaching from Skeezy opt to lock everyone in the basement. With the zombies they don’t know about. In no time at all, the bad guys are taken care of. Skeezy rejoins them, alive and well, and ready to take over the barber shop. The guys are finally settling down to earn a respectable living ripping people off from their own building. Good for them.
Where’s their fearless leader who should’ve kept them out of the mess? Lost in the foam, chasing phantoms and whacking Zs. Roberta can’t make heads or tails of Chicago’s crowded streets. Where there’s not foam, there’s zombies or abandoned vehicles blocking the way, further confusing the woman who’s been discombobulated since waking in Zona. At last she finds someone wearing a hazmat suit. They spot her and run, away from her or toward somewhere safe? Roberta plays chase with the speedy stranger until her body shuts down from exposure to the foam. Somehow she still makes it outside the toxic zone. The stranger? Doubtful he helped much. Turns out it’s Harold Teller, the man who set her on this path. Uh, one problem, he’s dead-dead, not undead. Whatever drives Roberta’s subconscious right now is powerful enough to create a fully-fleshed phantom, but is it compelling enough for fans to see this nameless mission through to season’s end? I don’t know. This seemingly aimless quest for something existing only in her mind isn’t occupying screen time nearly as much as the interpersonal problems in the main group, yet neither are pushing the plot forward with any urgency anymore.
The Damned: Review for The Walking Dead 802 By R.C. Murphy
Timing issues continue to plague The Walking Dead in season eight. In this case, it’s pretty apparent that episode one and two were shot with every intention of tying them into one giant episode, and then the network to waved off the idea. That’s the only reason it makes sense for this episode, comprised of mostly fight scenes and awkward talking head bits, to be bookended by slow-motion reaction shots from the main cast. This is almost as bad as season one of Fear the Walking Dead where every scene was cut together with a slow pan of downtown Los Angeles. Did they run out of witty ways to engage the audience right off the bat? If this is war, as they’ve touted since the season eight media push began, why does this initial strike feel like it’s taking days, not hours?The groups split after the attack on the Sanctuary to carry out the rest of the eradication plan. Carol and Ezekiel lead Kingdom fighters to a Savior scout position where they lose the guy after a surprise grenade and walker ambush. They spend the entire episode walking and talking in the woods. Jerry gets a good whack in on a stray walker in their path. Ezekiel and Carol take the travel time to debate the merits of remaining hopelessly optimistic when in fact the odds of winning are heavily stacked against them. Well, that and a little flirting—subtly done, but still there. These actors have an entirely different conversation with their expressions and it’s testament to their skills that they progressed this unsaid thing between the characters while Carol’s basically saying she thinks they’re all going to die.
Group two, comprised of Alexandria people and lead by Aaron and Eric, hit a Savior stronghold safeguarded by Mara and her team. The plan is simple: Kill as many Saviors as possible and let the undead grab whoever survives the firefight. The fight itself is just like the shootout at the Sanctuary. Good guys hide behind armored cars, pop out their heads like perfect little targets, and shoot erratically at the bad guys, missing about 80% of the time. Yet again, the Alexandria cast takes the brunt of the losses, leaving a few named characters mortally wounded at the episode’s conclusion.
That’s not to say there weren’t any friendly losses within the satellite compound. Much like the last time they hit the location, the gang swept in—through the newly made zombie mote without much problem—and hit everyone in every room along every hallway. Somewhat. The slaughter stopped when Jesus’ conscious spoke up. His hesitation lead to an argument with Tara . . . in front of a Savior posing as a victimized worker. They nearly got killed in the name of a forced moral moment from the writing team. Tara’s mood swings likewise draws one from the action. She has every right to hate these people and want them dead, but the language she uses doesn’t always feel like something Tara would say as opposed to a character who’s always been abrasive and on the social outskirts. As much as she argues, Jesus’ stance on the conflict doesn’t change. Now they’ve got a gang of Saviors at gunpoint and a plan to finish which didn’t account for restraining and monitoring those who gave up without a fight.
Morgan may take umbrage to the very notion of Saviors surviving the onslaught. His cool took a hike quite some time ago. We’re dealing with a man similar to the broken soul they encountered hunkered down in a fortified city, speaking to himself and drawing on the walls. He walks into the fight without a worry, assured he’d survive because, “I don’t die.” Of course, dude, but maybe at least try not to offer yourself up as a nice, large target? In the process of Morgan totally losing his marbles, we’re treated to a rather nice fight sequence through the compound’s hallways. A new layer to Morgan’s story also came to light in this episode, with Jared recognizing Morgan and talking as though they’d worked together before under Negan. Which, honestly, makes sense. Morgan is a man everyone wants on their team if they need to keep the body count—alive or undead—high. Especially when he’s back on his Angel of Death gig. For as slow as the episode felt, once we dropped into Morgan’s head, time zipped right on by.
While everyone kept the Saviors busy, Daryl and Rick searched Mara’s compound to find a gun cache someone told them about before the ambush. Stage two of the plan is all about getting these guns in order to hold the line against incoming retaliation. So of course neither man finds the loot. Rick goes a step further, possibly orphaning an infant in the course of fighting toward what he thought was the gun room, not a nursery. Guilt-ridden and distracted, it gives someone the chance to get the drop on Officer Friendly. Morales is probably one of the most asked about characters whose survival was up in the air after they left the group. It’s great to see the writers dipping back into season one—with Morales’ return and the Little Girl Zombie tribute in the season eight opener—and make the show a little fun again. That’s certainly something we haven’t seen in a while, those little nudges from the past where things were simpler, before one man’s anger and ambition cost his friends and family their safety.
Ambition is contagious. Many of the other leaders show signs that they may stretch their people and resources to the limit in order to subdue the Savior threat. Is there a sane voice to pull everyone back before disaster strikes and they lose forward momentum in the war?
The Unknowns: Review for Z Nation 405 By A. Zombie
Guess we’ve kinda figured out why people randomly go missing. Someone or something uses a mind-crippling noise to abduct survivors—in the first incident, the seemingly sentient truck broadcasts the noise, from then on it’s used to curb everyone’s attempts to plan an escape. Whether or not all the missing people are shipped to the same facility, we’re given no indication. The current group finds each other eventually, but Sun Mei, Red, and the others are still MIA by the episode’s conclusion. That means more awkward, longing sighs from 10k every time Red is mentioned. Oh goodie.
What do these mystery beings want with the people they’ve abducted? Hard labor in dangerous conditions—a.k.a. this is a slavery ring with the crop being zombies who must be cleared from certain locations in an industrial building for a plan none of the enslaved understand. Roberta and a stranger fix the elevator situation. 10k and Doc nearly asphyxiate shutting off a toxic gas leak. There’s several other small tasks for the crew, as well. Sometimes they work together. Other times they are paired with a stranger. Sarge pulls the short straw, so she gets the random guy who is more interested in raping her than the task at hand. Writers, try harder. Find another way to scare new female characters.
Roberta thinks she’s lassoed the golden goose when their unseen captors paired her with a man in a Zona uniform. Surely if there’s a high-tech mass kidnapping scheme, it’s based with the filthy rich jerks on the doomed island, right? Nope. At least according to the guard. These invisible baddies aren’t picking on one team or another. They’re snatching anyone they can get their hands on in order to find something hidden in the building. Our gang never learns that secret. They’re too preoccupied with surviving the regular Zs, mega-Zs, and desperate prisoners who think Puppy Chow time is the best time of the day.
Despite the countless boxes in the warehouse, we only see a small handful of the captives. None of those make it out the front door when our gang makes a zombie-assisted break for it. I get the time crunch and all, but not one of the crew stops to think for a second to check the other boxes for their missing friends and loved ones. It feels wrong for them to ignore an entire warehouse of people, at least a couple hundred souls, in favor of this vague trip toward the east. Especially when it comes to 10k. For a guy who’s completely distracted by the loss of his love, he sure didn’t seem desperate to find her when he’s smack dab in the middle of a place giving the first indication that she may have also been kidnapped.
Continuity issues aside, there’s a far larger problem on their plates now. During the final rush to escape, Lucy attempts to save her new zombie friend from a fight. Murphy steps in and is bitten. He’s seemingly cured after the stay in Zona, yet recently resumed eating flesh in the form of self-cannibalism. So what’s going to happen when a fresh dose of the Z virus makes its way into his blood stream? Things aren’t looking good for the formally blue guy. We may have to say goodbye to Murphy as we currently know him.
Warren’s Dream Review for Z Nation 401 By R.C. Murphy
We left our intrepid heroes at a grim place. Roberta and Murphy were injured with the same bullet. Zona forcefully collected a bunch of scientists. Addy, Lucy, and 5k went for a flight off a cliff, but forgot their wings. 10k and came back. A Zona ship hovered over the rest of the gang and seemed to aim their weapons straight at them just as the episode faded to black.
Two years later, things aren’t much better for the crew. Except Murphy. Like always, he’s adapted to his situation and flourished in ways no one alive could ever manage. Yes, alive. As in cured. No more blue dude or the suave white-haired devil, Murphy’s embraced his natural hair color . . . and sweater vests. He’s also secured a pretty plush life as Zona’s savior, a life which spreads to Roberta the instant she wakes from a two-year coma. It wasn’t a nice nap. Oh no. She’s plagued by a nightmarish, smoldering landscape dominated by an ominous black arch. These visions are nutso, folks. Intense, come out of nowhere, and sometimes contain things which make no sense now, but will probably be some brilliant epiphany down the road. Because that’s just how the show works sometimes. The visions also trigger a ripple-effect of small disasters plaguing Roberta. We haven’t seen the last of those flames, that’s for sure.
Elsewhere in the world, Doc’s become a seriously competent zombie slayer. With grace he’s never expressed before, Doc performs a hammer dance with a few undead’s skulls. His shining moment lasts about two minutes, then 10k whacks him upside the head in a case of mistaken identity. This new 10k, or Tommy as Red calls him, is a lot chiller than before. Almost too chill. He’s kind of an emotional zombie at times and it’s coming across awkwardly. The trio are heading to a pick-up spot for what’s promised to be a new start for humans up north where it’s too cold for zombies to survive. This could possibly be Citizen Z and Kaya’s new thing? There’s no confirmation of who’s in charge, only that there seems to be actual military involved at the camp. Oh and Sun Mei.
Z NATION — Season:4 — Pictured: (l-r) Tara Holt as Lucy, Anastasia Baranova as Addy — (Photo by: Daniel Sawyer Schaefer/Go2 Z 4/Syfy)
They’re not the only ones banking on the hope promised in this safe haven. Addy and Lucy are road-tripping to a better life. Along the way, Addy stops frequently to play hero. It also gives Lucy a way to work on her powers. The two don’t see eye to eye on some things. Especially if Lucy is on Addy’s right side, what with the missing eye and all. But their disagreements don’t stop Lucy from helping Addy help humanity even though the mission is long over. Which is how they’re caught by someone who may or may not be Zona goons.
Zona is . . . freaky. It’s obviously some man’s idea of heaven, all 1950’s middle-American city, complete with aimless afternoons playing leisure sports and women in skintight dresses. Murphy introduces Roberta to The Founder, an extreme survivalist who supposedly saw the zombie outbreak coming and set up a refuge for his wealthy pals where they could wait it out. No doubt the place will only get weirder as the season progresses.
Starring Wesley Snipes, Kevin Howarth, Riley Smith, Tanit Phoenix, and Sinona Roman
Oh, oh dear. Today I learned why my gut kept me away from this film for five years. If you want to see what happens when an idea completely misses the mark, here’s your study guide. On paper, if explained somewhat coherently, this is a decent concept. The reality of what they captured does not sell the idea at all, and it’s nearly incomprehensible to boot. Don’t even get me going on these names.
Aman is born to a woman who joins a convent tasked with safeguarding the passage between our world and the underworld where the damned dwell. At puberty, he’s given the boot because he’s a man, and eventually finds shelter with a butcher and her daughter, Sueno. Years pass. The youngsters fall in love. One afternoon he leaves to escort the butcher on a trip; his lover stays at home alone. Men break in and force themselves on Sueno. She hides the horrible truth until nature gives her no choice but to tell Aman. He Flips. His. Lid. Hunts down Kansa and his gang, cornering them in a jail and killing everyone inside—except Kansa’s guilt-ridden son who hung himself. Something goes wrong, Aman is killed. His grief-stricken mother literally talks the Devil into bringing Aman back, but the catch is everyone he murdered comes back a zombie. Oh and she’s gonna die. The rest of the film is Aman chasing the zombie gang around while Kansa frantically searches for a way to revive his son—not to mention constantly harvesting new skins because theirs rotted off. There’s even a plucky young sidekick for Aman, Fabulos. Did I mention this is all set in a vaguely wild west setting?
If only the plot were even that coherent in practice. The story comes out in disjointed flashes between several locations and time periods. About halfway through we finally figure out where the hell the zombie thing came from. The language used for some characters is unpleasant and sounds forced. The action suddenly flashes to the rape scene far too many times; because surely we need everyone’s POV. Not really. It’s hard to keep track of who is where and when. The zombie lore is even a bit sketchy because there doesn’t seem to be a uniform rule for how they’ll come back. Some return as revenants, just hungry and lunging at whatever they see. The rest pretty much maintain their wits, but it’s suggested they lose their humanity, and skin, each time Aman kills them but doesn’t decapitate them.
The makeup is pretty neat. I’m fascinated by the lizard zombie. Kudos to whoever came up with that idea. When it finally clicked in my mind what’s going on with the guy’s head, I had to pause and laugh. Visually, the film is pretty neat. None of the FX makeup is so lacking it pulls you from the movie, save one or two moments where they try something hard to do with practical effects, and you can tell. It happens. The costumes are covetable. Honestly, about half an hour in it really just feels like someone wants to play cowboy, so let’s doll up—and why not toss in some zombies? But the zombies have to talk because otherwise viewers really wouldn’t have a clue about the actual plot.
In the end, I’m judging this one purely on what it looks like. If one tries to think too hard about the story they tried to tell, it ends in a headache. Edited together differently, it might be salvageable. As-is, this is a pretty mess. I’m giving it one and a half punctured lungs out of five.
Rated: Not Rated (contains intense gore, adult language, and violence)
Starring: Benjamin Engell, Troels Lyby, Mille Dinesen, Ella Solgaard, and Marie Hammer Boda
Dino and Pernille Johansson live with their small family in an idyllic town, Sorgenfri, where it’s so peaceful, the teens are bored to death by the end of summer vacation. That doesn’t last long. Shortly after the new girl, Sonja, moves in across the street, things start to get weird in Denmark. The news features public service announcements on proper hygiene in hopes of staving off a virus sweeping the countryside. It doesn’t work. Sorgenfri is quarantined. The Johansson family are trapped inside, stealing glimpses through the black tarps covering their home as the military takes over once-quiet streets. One by one, the townsfolk are removed from their homes and carted off in semi-trucks. Others are forcibly stopped by the military. Gustav, the Johansson’s son, gets curious and breaks out of the house to snoop on the armed men, and perhaps check in with Sonja as well. Of course, he makes matters worse.
Let’s be frank, this film isn’t anything we haven’t seen on-screen before. I’ve seen versions of similar trapped-house horror plots for decades. What We Become takes the zombie genre back to its simplistic roots in an era where we’ve been given blockbuster after blockbuster, and even the TV shows are approached like they’re feature films cut into chunks to air each week. What you see is what you get with this film. There’s one main location. A tiny cast. Most of the action is through stolen glimpses outside, the news, or during one of the few seriously ill-thought outings to confront what’s really going on in Sorgenfri. It’s NotLD in Danish. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s simply a predictable thing, which will be what keeps genre fans from calling this film one of their top-whatever. Simple films can be well done, though. This is a perfect example.
Because most of the tension is based on how the family interacts and reacts to an unknown threat, the zombies are saved for the final act in the film. We’re given a quick look at the undead chaos at one point, but the full-frontal shambling dead came in the last fifteen minutes or so. From that point on, it’s all snarls and gnashing teeth. The makeup takes a soft approach to the newly turned zombies. Some hero zombies are pretty gruesome; one of the first we see clearly is pretty torn up. To go from the restrained first acts in the film where the zombie action was off-screen to the undead taking over the town in minutes is jarring, tampered by the makeup on the newly turned, especially those who turn inside the house. They almost look like vampires up until the feeding begins.
The final zombie action is undercut perfectly with one last bout of family drama. What happens when one of their own is ready to turn? It’s a wonderful final moment for the actors. This cast is pretty solid and did what they could with the script. Unfortunately, that script leads most characters down a path which ends with several attempts to fix their circumstances by attempting to leave the quarantine area or interact with the military on their turf. It goes about as well as you’re thinking.
What We Become is a pretty solid toe-dip into zombie storytelling. Yes, it has predictable parts. However, the cast saves the film from being tiresome. Come for the high-tension acting, stay for the comfortable feeling of watching just another zombie movie. Sometimes we all need to unwind and watch cannibalistic monsters terrorize a family, along with a few select neighbors. I’m giving this film three and a half severed arms out of five.
Rated: TV-MA (extreme violence, strong language) Language: Korean
Starring: Gong Yoo, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma, Soo-an Kim, Woo-shik Choi, So-hee Ahn, and Eui-sung Kim
Occasionally Netflix doesn’t fail the genre completely. Recently they added Train to Busan to their streaming service, which is probably the best thing they’ve done in the last year. It’s hard to believe this film didn’t catch my attention before now, seeing as it was a huge hit across the Pacific. Let’s be honest, the American film media is horrible about giving props to genre flicks not set on their home turf. Pair that with the fact that it’s best watched in the original Korean and film media push it aside for yet another poorly produced American movie which is just a clone of fifty similar films and television shows. This film is a breath of fresh air. It’ll also keep you so far on the edge of your seat, you may fall off by the time the final scene plays out.
Seok-woo is a work-obsessed absentee father dealing with the fallout from a tense divorce. On the eve of his daughter Soo-an’s birthday, he screws up royally. To make it up to her, he relents to her demands to see her mother in Busan. Leaving town isn’t ideal. There’s something going on with one of the funds he manages and his coworker Kim is increasingly concerned about the reports he’s receiving. But a promise is a promise, so off they go. Seconds before the train departs for Busan, an injured woman jumps aboard. She’s infected with something none of them have seen before. When a train worker comes to her aid, the infected woman attacks and chaos erupts. By the time the initial attack is done, there’s only one train car worth of people left. The rest turn zombie and are locked in the middle train cars. News coming in via overhead televisions isn’t any better. Entire cities are overrun with the undead. Several are quarantined. When the train stops at last, it’s only to discover that the military couldn’t hold the quarantine and the dead have taken over. They opt to move on, pushed by an unhinged COO, Yon-suk. Throughout the last half of the movie it’s hard to tell who the real enemy is, the zombies or the paranoid humans trapped on the train.
This isn’t just another action movie with zombies. There’s a message or forty in the way the living interact with each other. We have an intense father/daughter plot which will drive anyone with a heart to tears by the third act. The film’s writer leaned heavily on the notion of ingrained human selfishness and the heinous damage it does to the masses during a crisis. Many of those who perish in the final act only die due to selfishness and their willingness to turn a blind eye to hatred if it means they’ll live to see another day. Panic becomes a new cast member at the end, unseen yet pushing one survivor group against the other with no sound reason. We’ve seen tension like that before, TWD uses it near-weekly, but here it’s so in-your-face wrong that I couldn’t help but yell at the television. That’s the kind of writing I miss, the scripts which make one forget they’re not one of the characters for a couple hours. It’s hard to watch the human cruelty, but even harder to look away.
Those zombies, guys. I haven’t seen character movement like that in ages unless it was in one of countless demonic possession films. These zombies are twitchy, bendy, snappish, and flat out cool. They’re scary solo, and pants-pissing terrifying in a mob. Kudos to the extras who worked on this film. They left everything on the set every day of production. The pay-off created probably some of my favorite mass zombie scenes to date—the train station attack on the stairs and the sequence where Seok-woo, Sang-hwa, and Yong-guk fight from car nine to car thirteen to rescue a group separated from the other survivors. Because there are so many undead, the makeup for them is simplistic. And you know what? I don’t care. They could have slapped white grease paint on them and let them loose and it wouldn’t have done a thing to lessen the performances from the extras and hero zombies.
Train to Busan is the action-packed zombie film we’ve been waiting for since World War Z tried and just didn’t quite hit the mark. There’s some issues, yes, but the writing and action are so solid, the issues get a free pass. I wouldn’t hesitate to watch it again, something I never do with zombie films outside Romero’s contributions to the genre. Train to Busan gets five severed heads out of five. Now what are you waiting for? Go watch it!
Being a fan whose interests aren’t necessarily the norm isn’t easy. We’re a small group. The shows we love don’t pull in the same kind of money or numbers as Game of Thrones or The Big Bang Theory, except TWD, of course. But it’s those smaller-budget zombie shows which really have fan’s hearts in mind. Or so I thought. There’s been some odd things happening in the background this year as far as production news goes. Yes, most shows we follow were represented at SDCC, but the information they gave us was as substantial as wet Kleenex. Now we’re a couple weeks out from the beginning of the Fall TV schedule, and two heavy-hitters for Team Undead have yet to announce an actual release date.
I’m looking at you Z Nation and Ash vs Evil Dead.
Starz has somehow delayed AvED’s announcements, despite filming being on schedule the last time we checked in with them. They’re trying to pacify fans by shoving Bruce Campbell out in the world to give interviews, all punctuated by the phrase, “In the third season, which has no release date yet.” None dare ask the man himself for a release date anymore. He deflects that question straight to his Starz overlords . . . who’re remaining mum through not only fan’s frustrated rants, but some tension from their star as his own frustrations rise thanks to this seemingly unprovoked delay from the network—this is an old struggle for them, as Campbell is notoriously short with fan questions he can’t answer due to network politics. Will we have the usual Halloween-time premiere? Will the show even make it to the small screen in 2017 at this rate? I’m trying not to be Debby Downer, here, but when a network broadcasts crickets instead of news, things don’t look good for the future of the show. That being said, AvED season 2 just hit Blu-ray/DVD, so if you’re jonesing for more gore-drenched laughs, at least you’re covered for a little while.
Syfy has been equally as quiet about Z Nation‘s return this Fall, though they’re slightly ahead of Starz by giving fans the vague promise of a September release, but that’s pretty much it. We know the gang is still filming up in Oregon. The museum which serves as their studio still allows fans to peek at the process, and the ZN Twitter page occasionally posts a filming update to advertise the experience. As for Syfy’s main accounts? Nada. Nothing. I scrolled for a bit while doing research and discovered the network is horrible about advertising their own shows, but has plenty of love for Game of Thrones and anything pop culture that they don’t create. It’s a serious disservice to their fans, actors, and production teams. What’s the point of using social media if you advertise someone else’s work ahead of your own daily? Yes, Syfy rebranded to (finally) accept geek culture as part of the network, but at what cost? Their focus remains outward, with most of their factoids and news coming from non-network sources. Meanwhile shows like Z Nation—not to mention their other women-lead shows Wynonna Earp, Dark Matter, Killjoys, and Van Helsing—are mired in uncertainty in regards to future seasons because it looks like a mere handful are interested online. But only because there’s nothing from the network to get excited about and share with the world in order to bring in new fans.
For an industry where numbers matter, Syfy and Starz seem utterly unwilling to do even a little footwork to bring in enough fans to justify a future for their horror-centric shows. The fans are here, guys. We’ve always been here, holding our breaths, waiting for shows to fill the gaps between halfway decent genre films. Don’t ignore people who want something to watch when you’ve got exactly what they need . . . except you can’t be bothered to spend the time/money to promote it. Z Nation and Ash vs Evil Dead are exactly what we’ve been begging for since TWD became bogged in their own success. It’s mind boggling that these networks still cannot tap into a built-in genre audience. Maybe peek out of your caves once in a while, dudes. Connect with the real world, perhaps? And for heaven’s sake, announce premiere dates more than 3-4 weeks in advance. Some of us have parties to plan.
Update: Murphy’s Law is real, folks. After this article was scheduled, Syfy finally announced that Z Nation will begin on September 29th at 9 PM. Of course, they didn’t come up with their own nifty graphic or anything. Instead the ZN Twitter account made the announcement by retweeting a post from the show’s co-creator, Craig Engler.