The 20th anniversary of Montreal’s Fantasia Festival took over Concordia for three weeks last month, and what a glorious three weeks of cinematic goodness that was. A lot of these films should be hitting theatres, Blu Ray, or VOD in the near future, so keep an eye out for the amazing stuff you missed. I managed to see over 40 flicks this year, and here’s yet another small sampling of some of my faves…
Train to Busan
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Screenplay: Park Joo-suk
Cast: Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, Ma Dong-seok, Choi Woo-sik, Kim Su-an
Country: South Korea
What’s it about?
A zombie outbreak occurs on a speeding train as passengers fend for their life, in what’s possibly the best and most tense zombie story of the past 15 years, and recently one of South Korea’s highest grossing films.
Why should you watch it?
If you are a Zombie fan you OWE it to yourself to see Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan. See it now before it inevitably gets remade, because it WILL get remade. Trust me. This is singlehandedly the best zombie film ever.
Yes, I know that’s hyperbole, so let me scale that back… this is easily the best zombie film of the last two decades, and I’m including Zombie TV shows in that statement. Hell, I’m including zombie everything in that statement. If you are not a zombie fan, then you should STILL watch this, because this WILL make you a a fanatic of the genre.
This film is utterly tense and stressful as hell with a very simple premise… It’s a train full of zombies. That could easily sound like a parody sketch, or another Snakes on a Plane, but no, this film is terrifying and pitch perfect. This is that quintessential zombie film that you’ve been waiting for even if you think you’ve already found said film.
For one thing, you have characters that you actually give a shit about. You have characters that you love. You have characters that you hate. And they’re all significant factors in this zombie trainpocalypse. A lot of times you’ll have a zombie movie and you don’t care about any of the people… but here YOU do care… yes, you even care about the assholes, and oh, what a glorious asshole this film has.
What I love about these characters is that every one in this film has an important role to play, and you, as the viewer, are emotionally invested in them. That’s what makes a good zombie film a good zombie film… the people dealing with said zombies.
The main characters in this are a father and daughter. That’s the story at it’s core. A neglectful workaholic father who wants to finally do right… and it just so happens that the day he finally decides to make things right is the day that all this zombie crap is going on. While that’s what fuels this story, you eventually meet an other set of individuals who are all really fun and full of various motivations. You get your typical zombie tropes and some other surprises, but holy hell, does this film ever work.
As for the zombies themselves, they’re utterly creepy. This isn’t schlocky zombie crap… this is terrifyingly freaky shit. You’ll be telling yourself, “nope, nope, nope” when you see them. It’s the right kind of unsettling. The “holy crap, they used to be human” vibe. They also have their own rules and their own zombie physiology. They react to sound and visuals in very specific ways. This is fun kind of worldbuilding that most people wouldn’t even bother putting in a film, but this extra attention to detail is what makes things work.
Much like classic moments in Romero’s original trilogy, or the 28 Day Later films, it’s really edge of your seat fare. It’s classic, “holy shit, how do they get out of this one?” The speeding train aspect really heightens things because there’s only two directions one can go on a train, so options are limited as to what they can do, and that’s where the beauty lies.
I can go on and on about this film. The sound design. The FX. The makeup. The massive amounts of suspenseful tension. The psychological warfare. The mistrust. It’s classic zombie tropes done right and remixed. It’s truly a masterpiece of the Zombie Genre. It’s clever and fun.
This film utterly destroyed at Fantasia Fest winning the Audience Award for Best Asian Feature and the Cheval Noir Awards for best feature. And you need to see this as soon as you can. RUN. DON’T WALK. Just don’t watch it on a train…
Director: Sabbir Khan
Screenplay: Sanjeev Datta
Cast: Tiger Shroff, Shraddha Kapoor, Sudheer Babu
What’s it about?
A wonderfully and ridiculously fun Bollywood Action Thriller about a Martial Artist rescuing a kidnapped actress, who just so happens to be his former love.
Why should you watch it?
Full disclosure, I haven’t seen many Indian martial arts flicks, but after seeing this one, I kind of wish every flick was an Indian martial arts flick. There’s something about Bollywood guaranteeing you getting a fun ride, even if it means you’ll be making several stops at every possible genre.
Everything, and then some, is crammed into this picture. You get everything you want in a Bollywood production. Huge lavish musical numbers, extremely over the top villains, beautiful locations, brilliant and colourful photography, goofy romantic subplot, and a whole bunch of heart. Add to that mix some truly incredible fight choreography and amazing stuntwork. And yes, a whole bunch of zaniness.
A lot of that has to do with the lead. You may not have heard of Tiger Schroff before, but, if all is right in the world, you will very soon. This guys is insanely talented and is a very likeable on screen. And yes, he kicks plenty of ass. Not only can this man fight a horde of gangsters and goons, but he also sings and dances with the best of them. Can’t we get that in every action film? Can’t we get more singing and dancing along with the busting of heads?
On that note, there definitely is a lot of busting of heads. There’s some incredible martial arts going on in this picture. It’s very well shot and choreographed and has that high energy feel that you want in a film like this. There’s been a lot of talk about this film feeling very similar to another high energy film, The Raid, but all those comparisons stem from only ONE particular sequence.
I loved Raid to pieces, but this isn’t a Raid copy. They’re both very fun, but they’re both very different films. Granted, the film’s end battle does have that same type of floor-by-floor fight to the top of an apartment complex, but even when Raid did that it felt like an homage to late 80s video games and their level-by-level boss fight aesthetics. Another film, Dredd, also used that same technique, and both Raid and Dredd were in production around the same time. I foresee more films using this trope as the action genre moves on, because it’s a good trope that beckons to that videogame nostalgia.. having said all that, that sequence is very entertaining and still manages to feel very different to the Raid.
Okay, but what about that other stuff? How’s the dynamic with Shraddha Kapoor and Tiger Shroff? Is that romantic plot that drives the entire film thoroughly engaging? Yes, that works too, and it’s adorable as all hell. You totally get your rom-com fix full of big misunderstandings and extremely long date montages that either take place on one day or several days. You know the type. It’s all fun and zany. And there’s a whole thing about the rain that is so perfectly cheesy that it just plain works in the context to this already silly film.
Yes, this film is a lot of fun, and it’s a very entertaining story with plenty of thrills and twists and turns to keep you hooked in between all the singing and dancing and kicking and punching. If you liked the Singham films you’ll like this one. Although, this one’s a little more gritty and grounded in reality… well, as much as these films can be grounded in reality with the constant singing and dancing and ridiculous fight sequences.
Just stop reading this review right now and just watch the film. You’ll thank me. Equal parts adorable, equal parts ass-kicky, and absolutely, totally Bollywood.