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  Robot Wants It All:Including Puppy! 08:35 PM -- Mon March 26, 2018  


Still working on Robot Wants It All! At this point, the first 3 games are pretty much done, in their initial state - Robot can get Kitty, Puppy, and Fishy. We're working on a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff as well. I mentioned the alternate maps in the previous update (and I've worked on one live on my Twitch stream!). There are 2 alternate maps for Kitty, and 1.5 for Puppy (getting there!). I haven't started on alternate maps for Fishy yet. That's gonna be rough seeing how it's so much bigger than the first two games.

I could talk about a new feature like I totally said I would, now that the site is finally back, but I think I'll leave that for next time. I'm just glad to have my blog back. Other Robot tidbits: we're working on getting a testing situation set up, we should be looking for testers in a couple of weeks (hopefully); I will share a new feature next time I discuss the game; and you should stop by the Twitch stream on Tuesdays and Thursdays (time to be determined, but I tweet and instagram each time I do it, or just follow me on Twitch), as I do development of the game live on there!
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  The blog is back, baby! 08:14 PM -- Fri March 23, 2018  

I'm not sure if it works 100%, so consider this the beta test. The Hamumu blog is here again. Click it, read it, smile and scratch your chin thoughtfully.

If you find any errors, let me know. Perhaps by posting a comment, unless the error is that the comments aren't working.

In other news, I am now streaming on Twitch approximately 3x weekly (development twice, and playing games once). I'm aiming for Tues/Thurs/Sat, and mixing up the times on them so different people have a chance to sit in. It's nothing special, I just hang out and work/play on whatever I'm doing, but I like to do so where I can interact with you all, so join in and chat away. You can see Robot Wants It All in action. Or Overwatch.

My Twitch channel is HamumuGames.
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  Robot Wants It All: Development Update 04:20 PM -- Mon November 27, 2017  

Trying hard to make sure you are all aware that this game is underway and making progress, but actually stepping out of my dungeon to share things with the world isn't my strong suit! But here it is, your first progress report.

Click for big
[click to embiggen]
There are quite a few new elements visible in that screenshot (ignore the one in the lower left - that's just a debug display), but I'm just going to tease you with info on one new feature every week (*This means "every week that I get around to it"). So for this week, let me point out the obvious fact: this is clearly the game Robot Wants Kitty, but that is most definitely not the proper map layout for it!

Alternate Maps

So one of the bonuses in Robot Wants It All is the alternate maps. So far, only Robot Wants Kitty is implemented, so we're still in the early stages, but for that game at least, I've developed two new maps you can play. One is supposed to be the "easy" map (pictured), and the other is the "remix" map. In truth, the easy map is probably slightly harder than the classic map, but it is a lot shorter, which is the main selling point. The "remix" map on the other hand, is huge and brutal (I think - we'll see how it goes in testing). It should take much longer than the classic map to complete, even once you have it fully figured out.

So there you go - a fun new feature in Robot Wants It All. You get three times as much Kitty! Of course, there will be alternate maps for the other games too. I'm not sure if there will be as many of them, or maybe more. I'm a little scared of how tricky it will get to develop maps for some of the other Robot games.

Now feel free to wildly speculate about all the other oddities in the screenshot! You might hear about them next week, who knows?
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  What's going on at Hamumu? 11:07 PM -- Thu November 2, 2017  


That's what's going on! Robot Wants It All is a PC game which begins as a compilation of all the previous Robot Wants games. Since Flash has died, these games are getting harder and harder for people to access, so I thought it would be a good project to compile them together into a format that'll last a while (hopefully...). And it means you can play them with a gamepad, which I can already tell you makes them so much better!

Of course, in addition to the old games (which you can still play on our site, provided your browser allows Flash to run!), we have plenty of other content to make it worth your while. Exactly what new content is coming is not entirely set in stone yet, and we're gonna keep that info under our yerf-hats for now. Traditionally I tend to add a lot more junk to games than they need, so you can expect more of that. One thing I can say is that obviously Robot will be going on an adventure to collect something new. He does, after all, want it all.

This project is being programmed by Anthony Salter, an old indie pal. I am doing the design and the art. It'll take a while, because we're doing a lot more than just porting the games, but I'll be sure to keep you all updated as we move along. But I might keep some things for a surprise, because, well, I'm Hamumu.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: 2017 Wrap-Up 05:20 PM -- Wed November 1, 2017  

Mikey: Well, it looks like we have now watched 31 horror movies. Actually 29 horror movies, one comedy (Netherbeast Incorporated), and one thriller (Stonehearst Asylum), by my subjective calculations. We have each awarded six five-star ratings (counting 5+ as a 5). So I guess the obvious first question is: What was the best movie of them all?

Solee: Wow. We’re just diving right in, huh? Okay … I am having a very hard time choosing. This is so different from last year, when I had a very clear-cut favorite. The Monster is high on my list. The acting was SUPERB in that. But I remember that could have had a stronger punch.

Mikey: I am surprised to hear The Monster get mentioned before Get Out from you! For me, the two of them fit a similar mold. I really loved what they were doing underneath - the meaning and the production itself, while the actual plot in both movies was nothing special, no big twists, just kind of a threat that the characters face and defeat (to varying degrees).

Solee: I’m getting to Get Out! Patience, grasshopper! (Although I agree with your assessment.) I legit can’t decide which is my favorite out of Get Out, Under the Shadow, and Train to Busan. I love them all for so many reasons. Primarily, they all had great stories that were told with skill. Maybe I need to hear what you have to say while I think about it. Which was YOUR favorite?

Mikey: I am finding myself in trouble as well. Maybe there doesn’t have to be one favorite. Train To Busan was really really fun, moreso than the others because it was just that: a fun movie. The others had all kinds of deep stuff going on. Looks like we are ignoring the other movie that actually earned a “5+” (Acting’s Highest Honor) from us: The Babadook. That might be my favorite. I don’t know though, to watch it again would entail hearing that screeching kid again, and that really puts a damper on it.

Solee: Yeah … I can see that I gave it a 5, but I don’t feel it still sitting on my heart the way the ones I’ve mentioned are. Those movies made a lasting impression. I thought The Babadook did … but it seems it didn’t last as long. I really liked that Get Out, Under the Shadow, and Train to Busan all had a level of “importance” to their story. They are addressing real issues through the medium of horror.

Mikey: BA-BA-DOOK dook dook! The allegorical depression film!? Seems like a real issue to me. I think it did such an amazing job of talking about the issue.

Solee: Ugh. You’re right. I can’t have FOUR favorites, can I??? We watched too many high quality movies this month!!

Mikey: I think we screwed up pretty badly. But since nobody wants to just hear us agonizing, I guess we can close out this segment by just telling people the movies they need to see: The Monster, The Babadook, Get Out, Under The Shadow, and Train To Busan.

Solee: Yep. How about you tell us some of the stats you gathered this month? What did we watch? How?

Mikey: I am SO full of stats you should stop me when you hear something interesting to discuss. We watched movies from the average year of 2010.7, which averaged 95.71 minutes in length, and on average I rated them 3.11, while you rated them 3.35 (so generous!).

Solee: Last year, I had a slightly higher average rating, too. I’m clearly just nicer than you.

Mikey: Yep. Fifteen of the movies were rated R, five were rated PG-13, and eleven were not rated. We do watch a lot of unknown stuff!

Solee: The unrated stuff … is that the lower quality and indie stuff?

Mikey: Definitely less well-known… However, Train To Busan is one of the unrated ones, and it’s not even indie. I guess just not released in US theaters.

Solee: So is Babadook!

Mikey: I kinda wonder if some of them are just oversights, but IMDB is usually quite accurate. Also of note, back to being nice, is that we are somewhat nicer than the critics and other human beings: our combined average rating is 18.71% higher than the critics, and 13.41% higher than the Rotten Tomatoes audience ratings for these movies. I always attribute that to the fact that we judge them as horror movies though, and not just as general movies.

Solee: That’s a lot of data, Mikey! One of the things you track all month are tags like “witch” or “pregnant” or “insane”. I know that we worked hard to spread our choices out among different tags. Are there any that we hit last year but didn’t hit this year?

Mikey: Well, we had a different set of foreign films - this year, we had two Aussie movies, and one each of Italian, Filipino, Iranian, Korean, and British. Other than that, I tried to make sure we found stuff from all the same categories, but we failed to discover a first-person movie (two of those last year! The only two I’ve ever seen!), a courtroom drama (quite rare in horror…), and a musical (sad face). The other big difference is that last year it felt like just about every movie made the female protagonist pregnant to up the danger, and this year we only had one movie - Train To Busan - where pregnancy was any real factor at all.

Solee: I see our most common tag was ghost (7), followed by serial killer (6) and found footage (5). There were significantly more ghost (12) and driven insane by ghosts (11) movies last year. Do you think we avoided them this year or were there fewer to choose from?

Mikey: There were quite a few movies this year that I couldn’t quite tag the “monster type” for. The Ruins is about evil plants, Get Out is just … I don’t know, bad doctors? And others. I do think it was a very different batch of movies. Last year was your typical bunch of haunted houses, and we had very little of that this year (I’m gonna guess about 7!). This year I got to tag two movies’ villains as “disease” (Cabin Fever and The Thaw), which is a new category (even if The Thaw was really bugs). It’s not an exact science.

Solee: It certainly gives us an interesting perspective on our viewing habits though.

Mikey: One habit we developed this year was watching Amazon Prime movies. It was our biggest source of movies - Twelve of them were on there (second place was Netflix with seven). And we watched 2 movies in the theaters this year, both of them their opening day! That would be It and Happy Death Day. Which incidentally makes Happy Death Day our most recently released movie, while Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) is the oldest, and also happens to be my age!

Solee: I notice we paid (beyond our regular subscription fees) for seven movies this year, compared to nine last year. We’re cheap! If we can’t get it for free, we tend to skip it. Luckily, there are a plethora of free horror movies to access.

Mikey: Plethora hardly begins to describe it! All the streaming services are just buried in cheap, terrible, horror movies. I want to drink them all in. So, beyond pointless numbers, are there are any deep insights we’ve gained with these movies? How have we grown as people after 31 days of enforced entertainment?

Solee: I want to celebrate movies as a form of cultural understanding. I mentioned this in one of our reviews, but I think that watching horror is an interesting way to look into a culture on a deeper level. Our fears are based on things we learn from the moment of our first breath. I appreciate horror as a way of learning about other cultures and gauging my own understanding. Like how they say you know you understand a language fluently when you can make/understand jokes. Not that I am saying I understand the Filipino or Australian cultures … but I got some insight into what I don’t know about those cultures through the movies. Or something deep like that.

Mikey: I think there are some things we saw that were unique to foreign cultures. The Filipino movie (Haunted Mansion) really showed off the Catholicism that’s such a part of their culture. The Iranian movie (Under The Shadow) was all about the women’s issues in Iran. The Korean movie (Train To Busan) was heavily focused on issues of workaholism that I’ve heard about from there before. And the Aussie movies? 95% kangaroos.

Solee: I’m also reminded of how we discussed the social commentary in the horror movies last year. This year we definitely saw more of that with the allegorical studies of depression (Babadook), single parenting (Train to Busan, The Monster), people with disabilities (Disappointments Room), mental health issues (Stonehearst Asylum, Split), and, of course, racism (Get Out).

Mikey: I feel like we did get a lot more depth than I am familiar with seeing in the horror genre! All those messages and depth instead of kids getting stabbed with machetes. It’s weird. I guess that’s what comes of looking up too many “best horror movies” lists. Turns out that’s what makes them good. In fact, we probably only avoided the deep stuff when we skipped the lists and just picked movies based on their cover art. Which did lead to some garbage (Mark of the Witch).

Solee: Ugh. That’s how we marked off the “score of zero” box! Anyway, I’m sure we’ll do more horror movies next year. Do you think we should go for high-brow informative horror or get back into the cheesy monsters?

Mikey: You know, I’m not sure what the right solution is. But I will say what we did this year felt pretty good. We got a nice mix of crap and quality (overall, our rating average was only about 2% higher than last year), and we honestly got surprised on the regular by incredible movies. I definitely don’t mind that experience! I think I’ll be back to something similar next year. Why not? I’m always up to have my mind blown!

Solee: I just realized what we haven’t done much of that I want to work into the rotation next year: old classics! I want to dig further back into the roots of horror and explore some of the originals! We did that a little with Chainsaw Massacre this year, but I want to go back to the 50s and see what they thought was scary then!

Mikey: Hoo boy. I’m always hesitant to do that without 2 robots and a man in a jumpsuit sitting in silhouette in front of the movie. But we definitely didn’t do much of that this year. We watched only 2 movies from before 2000 (Nightmare On Elm Street 3 and Texas Chainsaw).

Solee: I’m the robot! You’re the man in the jumpsuit! Any last words for this BHE Wrap-up?

Mikey: Hmm. I wish I could remember some terrible line from one of these movies to throw out for a cheap laugh. So just remember kids, watch horror movies! They could help you learn how to manage your depression, or at least battle your inner/outer demons.

Solee: Terrific. Done. Now it’s time to decorate for Christmas, right??

Mikey: THE HORROR!
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Halloween Marathon 04:09 AM -- Wed November 1, 2017  

So it's Halloween day, and I decided to indulge in my dream of seeing all the horror movies. I woke up around 8am, put on the first one I found, and just kept going all day. The following movies are ones that were in my various lists for potential consideration, but they're all ones we skipped in favor of other movies, so they're not exactly the cream of the crop. Here are my quick takes on a whole bunch of horror movies - with no spoilers. Enjoy! It was a fun Halloween!

BOO (2005)
Rating: 1/5
This is one of those throwback movies - made in 2005, but done in a total 80's style. It did provide me with what I've been missing all month: a story about a ghost, figuring out what that ghost wants, and the heroes try to solve the problem. It actually was interesting on that level. However, it was ridiculous, with terrible acting, effects, everything. Just super cheeseball. Which of course was a lot of fun for me. Interestingly, it's the second movie this month (along with Ghosts of Darkness) to feature shooting ghosts in the face as a way to get rid of them!
Best line: Can't pick just one. There was "If you shoot me in the face, I'll kick your [butt]!". as well as when Marie walked up to a mirror that had "Who are you?" written on it and just perkily said "I'm Marie, silly!". Then there was "You think if the living are afraid of dying, then the dead would be afraid of living again." And finally the classically confusing line "Are you fools to think you can leave without me?" (Hmm, I don't know, are they?)

Home (2016)
Rating: 1/5
A classic haunted house story. Worst child actress I've ever seen. Kind of a decent twist at the end, actually, that makes it all (sorta) make sense, but it's all so dumb to begin with, and presented in such a pedestrian way, that it's just not okay. Until the twist explains things, I think it's fair to say this was a movie about an evil ventriloquist air conditioner that hates dishes. Which probably makes you want to see the movie, but I really don't recommend you make that mistake.
Best line: "I've never seen a couple of 'womens'. I mean, it's kind of like the Easter Bunny or unicorns, you always talk about them but you never think they're real."

The Strangers (2008)
Rating: 2/5
This is very similar to a French movie I reviewed long ago, Ils (Them). I don't know if the "true events" this is based on are the same "true events" the other one was based on. I hope so, since I don't want this to be a common true event. Like Ils, there's not much to this movie - people get terrorized, and they either get out of it or they don't. It's a polished production with real actors, so it's not terrible, but on the other hand, it sort of is terrible because there's absolutely no point to it except to watch people suffer. At no point is any motivation explained, or any plot present other than said suffering. Not my bag, jack.
Best line: One of the very few lines in the entire movie - "Why are you doing this to us?" ... "Because you were home."

Charlotte (2017)
Rating: 3/5
Well now, you know I can't resist a horror anthology! In this movie, an evil doll forces a babysitter to watch scary stories on the TV. It's lightweight, cheeseball, horror with a little twist (usually super obvious) to almost every story. Exactly what I like in an anthology. Still, super cheesy. There's one story about girl scouts selling cookies that is really good stuff... just a crazy Twilight Zone episode. There are also a few not-at-all-cheeseball stories (not quality, necessarily, just dark and serious), so I'm not at all sure what audience this movie is for. I guess it's for me, because it's fun for me even if it isn't actually good!
Best line: "I've never knocked out two little girls with a baseball bat before, but I'm willing to give it a try!"

Beacon Point (2017)
Rating: 1.5/5
This movie looks and feels like a SyFy Original. But instead of battling a giant CGI monster, it's this trippy story of alien abduction told through weird dreams and inexplicable events you have to tie together yourself. It's not super opaque, but it's not your typical on-the-nose alien movie. It's a little artsy, but mostly it's a SyFy movie. Neither scary nor interesting.
Best line: Nothing stands out. But there is a character named Cheese!

Dark Ride (2006)
Rating: 1.5/5
Gory slasher movie with all the basics: a group of teens going to stay somewhere scary for "fun", a hitchhiker who is clearly crazy, a psycho escaping the asylum, extremely implausible attacks like jamming a flashlight through a person's body, and a general disregard for the laws of physics. In fact I can't think of any teen slasher cliche that's missing here. Theere's really no point to seeing this movie, but until I got utterly bored towards the end I was sort of enjoying it. Sort of.
Best line: "He was a doctor or banker or, I don't know, a mortician or something."

Rec 4: Apocalypse (2014)
Rating: 3/5
En Espanol! We reviewed [Rec] last year. Even though this is 3 movies later, it sure looks like it follows right on after that, beginning with a rescue of the main character from that movie. I dunno what happened in #2 and #3, but I guess it wasn't much! This is zombies on an oil tanker. Not found footage, this time around. It's pretty much a toned-down Resident Evil. Still ridiculous and crazy and pseudoscientific, just with less kung-fu.
Best line: (translated for you) "It's just a flesh wound." Or perhaps "MONKEYS!!!"

Hush (2016)
Rating: 4/5
It's kind of Don't Breathe turned sideways - a killer shows up to stalk a deaf woman. It's similar to The Strangers above, but really much better on every level. Whereas that was just a celebration of torture, this is more of an ode to survival. Plus it's got a couple of fun tricks, even if it doesn't have any major twists.
Best line: "THE END. Money now please."

Demonic (2015)
Rating: 3.5/5
This movie begins with the scene we never see: you know in found footage, they always have "These tapes were recovered..."? Well, this movie starts with said recovery! The cops go into a haunted house and there are cameras, lights, and laptops everywhere. So we end up with a combo of police procedural, found footage, and haunted house. It's an interesting idea I have not seen before. What ensues thereafter is a lot of silliness and melodrama and it doesn't all add up, but you know, it was a fun ride the whole way.
Best line: "They don't usually convict houses in the state of Louisiana."

Well, it's 11pm, and I don't have it in me to last another whole movie. I think nine movies in a day is quite the achievement. I truly feel like an accomplished human being now. I'm looking forward to 11 months off from my movie-watching job, but I'm also really looking forward to next October as well! I do love bad horror movies.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Blair Witch 01:37 AM -- Wed November 1, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Blair Witch (2016)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“After discovering a video showing what he believes to be his vanished sister Heather, James and a group of friends head to the forest believed to be inhabited by the Blair Witch.”
IMDB Rating: 5.0/10
Metacritic Rating: 47/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 35% critics, 29% audience
Solee: 3/5
Mikey: 3/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Mikey: So for our big Halloween day finish, we’re going back to the well! We both have a history with The Blair Witch Project, and hadn’t seen this recent sequel (though we did see the stupid Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2). So how would you set up your experience with the Blair Witch Franchise?

Solee: Well, there are exactly two theater movies I can remember being truly afraid of while watching. One is E.T. (I was six and those hazmat suits were terrifying.) The other is the BWP. I watched it literally on the edge of my seat and I distinctly remember feeling VERY unhappy that I had to walk across a dark parking lot to get to my car afterward. I did NOT feel the same way about BW2.

Mikey: No no, that was a silly movie. I also had the scariest experience watching BWP in the theater. I don’t think anything else has ever matched it. And we did rewatch that movie, and found it was actually pretty scary even in retrospect, though obviously not the same as a first-time viewing in the theater, the first time we ever saw a found footage movie!

Solee: Was it really the first of that genre? That explains why I found it so terrifying then. I always have a very physical reaction to the panting-into-the-microphone aspect of found footage films. If I’d never experienced it before, I’m not surprised I was so wrapped up in it.

Mikey: Yeah, people say The Last Broadcast was the original (and many claim Blair Witch Project is a total rip-off of it). I’ve always wanted to see that movie, but it’s not easy to come by. But they came out at nearly the same time. I’m sure there were some indie found footage movies before that, but whatever. That reaction you mentioned leads me to a moment, near the end of this movie, when Lisa is crawling through a teeny tiny dirt tunnel. That was very claustrophobia-inducing. I honestly can’t be sure that the found footage aspect of it helped that, but it sure was something that made me feel like I was right there, trapped in a very tiny space.

Solee: I felt the same. Most of the footage designed to raise anxiety (swirling camera, minimal lighting, running through the woods) was just annoying to me. But that crawling through the increasingly narrow tunnel scene was very stressful. I did not like it. Especially after having that moment of “oh, she’s the safest one of the bunch” after she got locked into that wooden box.

Mikey: Well, she was being stored for later killing, I assume, so not a great place to be. But I do feel that same feeling, where it just doesn’t match the original in terms of anxiety. It felt so much less real, and had so many pointless gimmicks (like… what did the drone ever accomplish?), that I just wasn’t sucked in by the realism that you had in the first movie. You could say this movie was a lot more exciting - we weren’t left with effectively nothing happening, which is what the first movie had. But more isn’t always more!

Solee: The drone was a complete waste of opportunity. Basically, the only thing it did was give Ashley a reason to climb into and then fall out of a tree. BWP was original and edgy. This was very commercial and [word for basic, boring, done plot]. It felt like they were trying everything and even though they gave explanation (which was lacking in the original), I still feel like I don’t understand most of what happened. If the backstory is all about a witch, why does it have such an alien invasion feel to it??

Mikey: Oh yes! At the end of the movie, we get that light-through-the-walls moment that is straight out of any UFO movie. I really thought they were gonna go with aliens (honestly, it could be aliens as written, who knows?). And yes, they had a whole lot of disparate elements which don’t really seem to clearly connect. Full disclosure: just before writing this review, I was looking for a freeze-frame of the “Stick Monster” that we see very briefly in the movie, just out of curiosity (wondering how much like the stick figures it looked - not very, actually), and I ended up tumbling down a rabbit hole of Blair Witch Theorists. There were so many screenshots and explanations and ideas going around. Turns out nobody actually knows what it is all about. But apparently the filmmakers at some point declared that the stick monster is not the witch - it’s another one of her victims. Which is silly, since the extended limbs on it fit the whole story about the witch being left to die on a makeshift rack. I have so many more ideas in my head now from this journey I went on… I dunno man. Whoa.

Solee: The part that REALLY doesn’t fit for me is the thing living in Ashley’s foot.

Mikey: YES!

Solee: I mean, it was one thing to have her be injured and get an infection and have that play into the chase, but there was clearly a critter in there and I don’t know what that has to do with anything. It’s almost ridiculous.

Mikey: Like it was from another movie. Specifically, The Ruins. I had this notion that the witch is connected to the woods, and the stick-men, so like sticks were gonna grow through her leg and basically replace her with a giant stick-woman. That would’ve been silly, but at least it would’ve connected to the concept. Maybe it’s what was happening, but we got not enough info to know, just one little weed yanked from her leg. Her constant tripping got real old, for sure. I don’t know what they were trying to say there. Was it that her foot hurt so she couldn’t walk right? It sounded like her ankle broke in about twelve places overall.

Solee: I like that theory, actually. I dunno, man. At first I thought she was tripping because of the pain. Then I thought maybe because the critter or branch was moving around in there. Finally, I just gave up trying to figure it out. She’s just real clumsy. There were lots of little homages to the original movie. Were there any that particularly stood out to you, good or bad?

Mikey: Oh, that’s one thing I found in my rabbit-hole! All the little video glitches throughout the movie actually were super-quick, scrambled up, shots from the first movie! Speaking of homage. I think the part at the end where Heather’s brother was crying and apologizing to her was good… it was pretty on-the-nose, but it makes the connection we want for a sequel.

Solee: Yeah, every Blair Witch movie needs a good snot-face monologue. Or dialogue in this case. I liked the way Peter had a temper and started kicking that tent like he wanted to kick it all the way to the river.

Mikey: Blair Witch movies are mostly about kicking things into rivers, as we all know. Not an homage (I think) but I did like one thing about the structure of this movie: right away, after the first night, when stick figures showed up, everybody immediately agreed “this is just too weird. Not worth it, we’re leaving.” Of course, they were trapped by witch-magic, which just goes to show other horror movies: people don’t have to make stupid choices to keep the plot going (not that this movie was devoid of them). I like that immediate appropriate reaction instead of demanding to press on.

Solee: It’s always easier to relate to people who aren’t being complete morons. Regarding the witch-magic … did the first movie have a never-ending night, too? They made a big deal out of how this darkness was lasting for days.

Mikey: I am pretty sure it did, only on the final night. They were waking up and it was still dark, and it just never stopped being dark. But one thing I know it had, which this movie was full of, was time being screwed up in general. Like Lane and Talia being lost for days, in the course of half a day for the other people. The witch clearly can manipulate time and gets things all out of whack. I really enjoyed that element and have a whole ending discussion about it.

Solee: Hmm. I’m excited to hear your discussion of it, but I didn’t love that aspect of the movie.

Mikey: What! That’s the whole joy!

Solee: Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, but it didn’t seem like it made sense. I mean, I get that it was trying to be confusing and discombobulating, but it was just too much.

Mikey: I think “just too much” was the whole agenda for this sequel. Turn Blair Witch up to 11. Bad idea. I don’t really think it made sense, I was mostly in my head in a better movie that took that idea and ran with it. Here’s the thought: in the ending, we have James going into the house, and doors keep shutting behind him (standard ghost stuff). Then Lisa goes into the house, and what’s the first thing she does? She shuts and locks the front door. Immediately I was like “Oh snap are they going there??” I was really hoping for the ending to be this thing where it was all time looped around on itself, so that there were no ghosts or anything weird, just these two people causing things to happen for each other, out of time sequence. There is some of that in the movie - Peter appears in the corner, then is gone, Heather even appears in a brief flash, and we get the shot of the mirror from the very beginning of the movie which was supposedly old footage. It all adds up to time wrapping around, I just don’t think they worked it out cleanly, or executed it well enough. And they added a stick monster.

Solee: That is a really good idea. That would have made it very clever. Without making that obvious enough to understand, thought, it’s just chaos. How did you feel about the addition of the “locals” who made fake stick monsters and then got lost in the woods? Were they necessary? Or were they like the drone?

Mikey: I don’t know… I can’t actually think of a purpose they served, other than the misdirect of the first night of stick men. Which was sort of interesting, but ultimately doesn’t matter. And I guess they gave us our replacement for the old serial killer. OH WAIT. They gave us my favorite moment of the movie! When Ashley snaps that stick man, it is so incredibly shocking. And it also is what starts off the fireworks. The movie from that moment on is in full endgame mode, just running around crazy. Too crazy, I’m pretty sure, but that little event is just… wow. What’d you think of that, and the locals themselves?

Solee: The snapping of the stick figure with Talia’s hair, which resulted in the very dramatic snapping of Talia, was nothing short of genius. It came on so suddenly that I didn’t have any time to get there on my own. Usually, with this sort of thing I’ve already thought, “oh, what if they …” so I’m braced for it. In this case it was a total shock, like a bus coming from off screen, and I loved it. Aside from that, I didn’t love the locals. I feel like everything involving them could have been cut out and that time could have been used to elaborate on the time-manipulation. Or the foot worm. Or give the drone some usefulness. Anything would have been better.

Mikey: I totally agree, more movies need to move with that kind of speed (not constantly), to really surprise you. It was cray cray. Sadly it was also in the trailer, and it’s also why I clicked off the trailer while you were in the kitchen and said “oh yeah, we need to see this one!” so that’s the lesson for this movie, kids: never watch the trailer! It ruins everything.

But our time here is up. There’s lots more I could say about this here witch, but I’ll let you instead say how you rate it!

Solee: I’m kind of sad about this rating because I wanted to love it for nostalgic reasons even if it wasn’t all that good for itself. It didn’t really work that way. It wasn’t the worst movie we’ve seen, but it is a far cry from the best and a far cry from the original. I was NOT scared while watching this movie at all. My overriding emotion was one of annoyance. I’m going to give this movie a solid 3.

Mikey: I see those annoyances. We forgot to mention all the horrible sound in the first half of this movie - tons of super loud noises out of the blue for no reason, probably meant to build tension, but it just made it hard to watch. And that’s where I think this movie would’ve done much better by dropping the found footage and just being a real movie. The ear cameras, the drone, all that was silly. Just send the kids into the woods and make it real. But with that said, I didn’t hate it all. I didn’t love it either, so you know I’m going full 3 out of 5 on this one. It was not the crass cash-in sequel I thought it would be, but it was a long drop down from the original.

So that’s it for 2017! So sad! I’m gonna watch lots more movies anyway and just not tell anyone about them. Join us tomorrow for a quick (unlike last year) wrap-up about the whole month. Happy Halloween, everybody!

Solee: You say quick … but have you MET us? I’m not sure we can possibly rehash the whole month in a reasonable amount of time! I guess we’ll have to see what we can manage.
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: The Sacrament 07:11 PM -- Mon October 30, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

The Sacrament (2013)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A news team trails a man as he travels into the world of Eden Parish to find his missing sister, where it becomes apparent that this paradise may not be as it seems.”
IMDB Rating: 6.1/10
Metacritic Rating: 49/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 63% critics, 47% audience
Solee: 3/5
Mikey: 2/5
We paid to watch this on Amazon.

Solee: We watched The Sacrament last night. How did you settle on that movie for our second-to-last horror movie of the month?

Mikey: It was a tough call. But it was on some of those “best of” lists, and the core idea for me was that it was a high-end version of found footage. A known director/writer (Ti West, who did The House Of The Devil which I did a video review of), and some money behind it. Not your normal found footage. I hope we don’t have to have especially brilliant choices for our last couple, that’s too much pressure!

Solee: I don’t have to … but I think we might accidentally end up with some pretty decent films. This is what happens when we let Best Of lists influence our choices! So the premise here is that VICE is recording footage to create a documentary about a potential cult that the photographer’s sister has joined. Did it “work” as a found footage movie for you?

Mikey: What I found interesting about it is that it is not a mockumentary. It kinda starts out as one, but what you see throughout the movie is the raw footage these guys are filming in the course of making a documentary. As opposed to formatting this movie as if it were the finished product. I’m not sure if that’s better or not, but it does make good sense, and solves the whole “why are they filming” dilemma very easily. And they definitely seemed like the real deal, although they may not have been making the most brilliant choices. Well, the real deal except for how they were “speechless for an hour” when the guy told them his sister had joined a cult. That’s a lot of speechless.

Solee: Yeah … I don’t believe any of those guys could be speechless about anything for more than 30 seconds. They spent a lot of time talking to the camera, which is to be expected, I guess. While we were watching, you mentioned an episode of Reply All where a couple of guys go to India trying to chase down a telemarketing scam. It kind of boggles my mind that there are people who see this kind of sketchy, questionable behavior (scams, cults, etc) and their first response is “I have to get myself right in the middle of that even though I have no power or authority in any way!” Would you ever consider doing what they did?

Mikey: Nope. The Reply All episode was fascinating because I could see just how far they could get without any authority, by simply being pushy and having it be known that they were “journalists” - meaning whoever they talked to knew that they would spread information they learned to the world. It really is a lot of power to just say that. Of course it’s also potential reason to kill you. Or your entire own cult, in this case. It’s pretty amazing what these people do in the real world, and it definitely takes more guts than my abdomen contains.

Of course, that was a problem I had with this particular cult. What they were doing was actually totally fine. Like super duper fine. People getting together to live in a commune, and not hurt anybody. If they just dropped the paranoia part of it - get rid of the guards, let anybody leave if they want - then what would the government care about it? Enjoy your commune. I feel like Father created his own trouble, and it is quite possible he is not the genius that Caroline thought he was.

Solee: At the very least, he was not at all confident in the fact that people REALLY want to live that way. I think that’s a valid concern--that if he let people leave, they would--because people are not great at committing to big change or sacrifice long term. And if people get to leave, they’d want to take their money with them. I think it was all about the money for Father. He had convinced these people to give him all their worldly possessions and do manual labor for him, so that he and Caroline, who was apparently sleeping with him, could have all the control and break their arbitrary rules. That kind of thing would get out, even as rumor, if people were allowed to leave and then they’d have a harder time convincing new people to hand over all their cash and pick up a hoe.

Mikey: Doesn’t seem that expensive to run such a commune to me, plant some plants. But I’m not sure it was all about money for Father, or he would’ve (as I had kept hoping to see) skipped town with the money and Caroline as soon as everybody had had their Kool-Aid. I was actually surprised he was serious about this stuff.

Solee: Hmm. I’m not convinced he was really all that serious about it. He SAYS that’s why he offed himself, but I definitely got an “I won’t go to jail” vibe instead of an “I must follow my flock” vibe. He knew the jig was up.

Mikey: That makes sense. But it brings up my biggest issue: As soon as he felt there was a whiff of trouble - these documentarians might make the government come down on him at some unspecified future point - everybody gotta die. I mean, dude, wait until the helicopters show up at least. It could easily be years! Although personally, I’d rather get shot than die from poison Kool-Aid, so I’d stick it out.

Solee: He was jumping the gun (the one held by hired guards who didn’t give a crap about any of this nonsense). I’m surprised this was the first time anyone thought to be suspicious. I wonder if Caroline was the first wealthy person to get suckered in. The first one who had people with the curiosity and resources to come looking for her.

Mikey: No wonder she got the special spot! They probably should’ve just turned them away at the gate.

Solee: Yeah...but after what I heard from that Reply All podcast, that would not have deterred these journalists for long! It was definitely all about the money (and how the money was important to keep her “family” growing) for Caroline. She killed her own brother because he wouldn’t agree to join her and--more importantly--contribute his wealth to the flock. That girl was not in a stable mental place.

Mikey: So all this talk about what somebody would and wouldn’t do, and what their mindset was, brings to mind the fact that this is obviously very much based on the real massacre at Jonestown (warning: true news, really disturbing and graphic account of horrible events). And to put it bluntly, I’d much rather have watched a real documentary about that than this fictional story. I don’t know too much about it beyond Kool-Aid (except I do know that isn’t the actual brand they used!), and the real thing would be very interesting. I feel like I wasted my time watching this instead. Did you feel like this was a worthwhile endeavor?

Solee: I don’t regret watching it … it was well done and had tension that kept me interested. I wouldn’t call it the best movie ever or anything. I’m not sure I could handle watching a documentary like that about Jonestown. My brain has very different reactions to things that are make-believe vs reporting of actual events that have really happened to really real people. I can find the slaughter fests of Rob Zombie’s imagination quite entertaining but I don’t EVER watch True Crime stuff. It’s just a step too close to think about the actual people who experienced that kind of trauma. I see what you mean though. The story of Jonestown can be a learning experience, whereas this movie was pretty much just voyeuristic.

Mikey: Yes, the learning experience and just the reality of it. I don’t want to see the real bodies laying around, but I do want to see interviews and information about what people were thinking. I feel like the events in this movie weren’t very interesting. There was no big twist, no exciting moments really. Even when they were being hunted by guys with guns, it just felt kind of blah. Whereas even if the story of real Jonestown is much more boring in terms of actual events, it’s way more interesting by virtue of being real. Although, shocking twist, I’ve actually heard it is a lot more interesting as well!

Solee: Huh. I don’t know much about Jonestown. One of those Really Sad Things that I have kind of avoided learning too much about. Slight change of topic … I read on IMDB that there was a different ending originally proposed. In that ending, the helicopter pilot doesn’t get shot. As he flies them out, he says something about “following the Father’s orders” and crashes the chopper. Would changing the ending change much for you?

Mikey: I’m always in favor of a twist! That’s what was really lacking. Everything happened in real basic fashion. I can’t believe the pilot was still alive. Those guards are not good at their jobs. And that would’ve certainly put those survivors in a pickle if he hadn’t been. I don’t know, I feel let down by this movie in a way that’s hard to describe. I think this story could be done in a very unsettling and intense way, but that they didn’t do it. Hiding under a bed while a guard comes in and searches the room is a very tense concept, but I didn’t feel nervous at all during that scene. Also the fakey throat-slitting in that scene should’ve been pretty crazy too, but again, I was like oh, okay, she’s dead. Maybe I need to go join a cult to rediscover my inner child. Did you get the good tension the movie wanted to throw our way?

Solee: No, I agree with you. The overall premise of the story was anxiety producing for me, but the way it was told didn’t really make the most of the events. They seemed to rely a lot on shock value (OMG! She slit her throat! … OMG! She lit herself on fire!) instead of storytelling technique to put the audience on edge. That seems a little lazy to me.

Mikey: Yeah, I get that for sure. Which is weird in a movie about a mass suicide - something that is more disturbing than shocking. Like the core of the whole movie is this big event full of dread which does not jump out and shock you, so why are they trying to get you with ‘shock’ moments all the time? I guess they’re mixing it up. So, I suppose our time here is done, and we must give out our ratings. M’lady?

Solee: Like I said earlier, it wasn’t a terrible movie and I don’t regret watching it. Honestly, I didn’t notice the problems you mentioned until you brought them up. That doesn’t mean the problems weren’t there, but it makes me think this is a decent enough movie to distract from the bigger flaws if you’re not looking too closely. I guess that means I’m going to go middle of the road and give it a 3. What about you?

Mikey: Unsurprisingly, I go lower. I did stay invested in the movie throughout, but it was all too low-key. I never got that big hook or great tension to really suck me in. And I am throwing in extra minus for the fact that it’s a less interesting version of a real thing. They could’ve made something original that was bad, but instead they took something real and did a worse job of it than reality did. So I mark them down for wasting celluloid. Or probably hard drive space, more likely. Which leaves us at a 2 out of 5. Not a disaster by any means, but just not worth it to me. Your time would be better spent outside of this particular cult.

Solee: I suspect that statement is true in a lot of cases.

SO. It’s my job to pick the very last movie of the month now. I don’t know what to do!! Do I want to go funny? Or artistic? Or straight up slasher? There are still so many good choices on our list.

Mikey: And more deliciously, BAD choices! The real horror is that you have to choose.

Solee: Truth. I’m going to go back to some of my horror roots and pick Blair Witch (2016), the sequel to the scariest horror movie I’ve ever seen.

Mikey: That’s some classic Hommel, because I’ve previously reviewed both The Blair Witch Project, AND Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2! Let’s do it!
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Thirst 02:02 PM -- Sun October 29, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Thirst (2015)
Not Rated
IMDB Says:
“When a group of wayward teens arrive at a desert boot camp, with no communication, and nowhere to run to, they realize their only chance for survival is to fight for their lives.”
IMDB Rating: 4.4/10
Metacritic Rating: N/A
Rotten Tomatoes: N/A critics, N/A audience
Solee: 2/5
Mikey: 1.5/5
We watched this on Amazon Prime.

Mikey: So, it seems that you wanted to ensure we didn’t go too crazy with the good movies, and you pointed us to Thirst. Success?

Solee: Thirst is not a great movie. But it IS a great movie to laugh at. It hits a lot of my favorite ridiculous horror moments. So I consider that a success.

Mikey: It also hits the “sci-fi” button on our checklist, at this point leaving “first person”, “musical”, and “courtroom drama” all we’re missing for the month. Sure hope we can find a first-person musical courtroom drama horror movie for one of our next two.

Solee: I’m sure that would be a quality film. Since you brought up the alien … let’s discuss it. Is this alien scary? Original?

Mikey: Definitely NOT scary. I think it’s pretty original though. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an alien land on earth that turned out to be a cyborg. This one is about 80% robot. And no explanation ever given, no info about him at all, just cyborg alien lands and starts eating. And has a baby on board. Which I’m actually cool with - I don’t think we need to have a Scientist Character who magically explains just what the alien is about. My big issue with the alien is the fact that its “thirst” did NOT MATTER. It could’ve been stabbing people, or burning them, or anything else, and it would be the exact same plot. I needed this movie about people in the desert to have some thematic thirst involved. I put a hint to the screenwriters in italics there...

Solee: There are so many ways they could have gone with that too, as thirst can be just about any deep desire, metaphorically. They weren’t thinking metaphorically with this movie. It was all very literal. We DID have a couple of pseudo-scientists, though. Remember how Nerdy Kid and Girl Crush simultaneously realized that there was some kind of static electricity thing happening? SCIENCE!

Mikey: Yeah, they were ridiculous MacGyver people out of the blue. Even though they had no smarts at all for the first half of the movie. And then they created an electro-explodo deathtrap for the monster. Oh, and pipe bombs, made offscreen in minutes, just “surprise, here’s some pipe bombs!” Wow. Way to go Luis. Courtney on the other hand didn’t even know how a shotgun worked and resolutely refused to learn.

Okay, so what did you think about the whole Second Chances system, since you’re a teacher of defiant children yourself?

Solee: Oh, I taught small defiant children. Or the occasional solitary tall one. I don’t do groups of tall defiant children. Too scary. I did NOT like their approach to “reprogramming” these kids though. There were glimpses of good strategy, but for the most part it was all “I’m bigger than you so you better straighten up” which NEVER works. That being said, it was sadly realistic. I believe that there are programs just like this out there, taking broken, traumatized children and breaking them even further. Those kids needed to visit Discovery Horse! They needed CONNECTION, not whatever the heck Second Chances was trying to do.

Mikey: So the confusion I had, which you may be able to explain, is what incentive did these kids have to obey anything they were told? I don’t feel like these people held any power over them except “you better do what I say!” Or perhaps the fact they’d be left to die in the desert.

Solee: You’re exactly right. The entire program was based on fear and threats. Not the foundation for a successful program for troubled teens. As evidenced by the fact that none of those kids made any progress until after BossyPants Counselor and Meathead Guide were dead.

Mikey: So you’re saying the alien is part of the program? They just chew through a couple of counselors each session. Maybe they rehydrate them for next time.

Solee: They are ACT-TORS! I don’t think the alien was a planned part of the program, no. But I do think that facing the alien (certain death) was more helpful in their growth than being forced into the desert with strangers. Even the alien couldn’t rehabilitate some of those kids though. This movie had an irredeemably bad character, just like Train to Busan. Trapper was just a nasty person through and through. Even the alien didn’t want to eat him. Just killed him.

Mikey: I made a note of that! Nobody wants to drink Trapper. Now that you mention Busan, I have to discuss that. The start of this movie had me bored out of my mind. It was introducing characters, they were going on their hike, bickering and being petty and stupid. And I was like, I get it. I see the character traits you are showing me. You contrast that with Train To Busan, where they managed to quickly introduce a dozen characters and you got a feel for their personality in moments. We didn’t have to spend half the train ride watching each one call their family and discuss a personal issue to understand how they worked. It’s just infinitely better filmmaking!

Solee: Infinitely better writing, for sure. I just read an article about the importance of inner conflict and growth as well as outer conflict in creating a story people want to experience. This movie was definitely lacking in the inner conflict and all the ridiculously fake explosions in the world weren’t going to make up for the fact that our characters didn’t grow. Except for Roth. I think Roth had a bit of an arc.

Mikey: I think the writers spent all of their time on him. It was certainly his movie. Which reminds me of his uncle Burt - we got a little talk about how he was an MMA fighter, and angst over having killed a man in the ring, and so he’s trying to get out from under th- BAM HE’S DEAD. Royally missed opportunity, right?

Solee: Totally. Especially since we learned all this about his past--he killed a guy in the ring, he’s being sued for assaulting a minor on a previous trip--and he’s STILL doing all that crap right up to the point that the alien sticks a straw in him. Yes, he saves Trapper right before he dies … but that’s not enough to show anything. That could have been pure instinct. I wanted to see that he had done these things in the past, but since then he’s started his own counseling and has dealt with some of his own past traumas and has learned to connect with the kids on a meaningful level during these trips, but The Man doesn’t know it yet so he’s still got this bad reputation. THEN have him sacrifice himself to save the kid. And THEN have the kid actually learn something from the fact that he’s met an adult who listened, connected and put his own life on the line to protect him. THAT’S a Second Chances trip!! It’s COMPELLING!

Mikey: And I just wanted to see him put the alien in a headlock. But no, we can’t have nice things. One other thing that got to me throughout the movie was that somebody would die, and then a minute later, everybody is smiling and laughing about something. Even Burt’s WIFE didn’t care he was dead after the first scene they told her. They have no object permanence, they’re like Busan zombies.

Solee: My final note as credits rolled? How Roth ended the movie: “Sure, my whole family and everyone I knew died, but I have a new girlfriend who only got chewed on by an alien a little bit, so it’s all good!” Super weird how there were no real emotions in this movie. I wonder what that says about the folks that wrote and directed it.

Mikey: Speaking of her, seems like the chewing was not a big deal, which is really weird. Perfectly healthy after a baby alien has been gnawing on your sternum for an hour or two. But anyway, why was the giant two-ton mechanical alien so sneaky?! It could pop up five feet away undetected. And then of course go on a noisy rampage with no stealth whatsoever. I feel like they should’ve included a cloaking device scene to explain this. Just have it fade in when it pops up.

Solee: Maybe it was malfunctioning? I know we’ve ripped on the plot a lot here, but there’s one more thing I HAVE to mention. When Roth and the kids get back to the base camp and the helicopter pilot is there, Roth gets SUPER defensive and yells, “We didn’t kill her!” even though the pilot has done nothing to suggest that they had and it’s obvious that she’s been mauled by some kind of wild animal. What was up with Roth? Why does he feel so guilty? WHAT IS HE HIDING??

Mikey: That’s the moment the movie really needed to twist - unreliable narrator, no alien, they killed them all, and the pilot is next. I don’t even know how that plot would make sense, yet somehow it would still be more compelling.

Solee: YES! Oh, well.

Mikey: Well, do you have more to discuss? I could point out the crazy technobabble that suddenly spurted from these otherwise ordinary teens at one point, but I just did, so I am done!

Solee: I could point out that the alien was able to chase down a pick-up truck, but unable to catch a four-wheeler, but I kinda feel like I’m kicking this movie after we already have it curled up in a ball on the asphalt. Ratings?

Mikey: Ratings! The trick with this movie is that it’s a total SyFy Original Movie (probably not actually, it’s more of a style than a reality), but it just doesn’t have the fun and self-awareness of a lot of those. It feels like it’s trying to be good, and that’s just a little sad rather than funny. I think that puts it on par with last year’s Behemoth, which suffered from a similar problem, though frankly had more silly fun to it, but this was higher-quality in real movie terms. So it’s another 1.5 out of 5 from me. How about you?

Solee: I think I enjoyed making fun of this movie a little more than you did. I agree that it is taking itself too seriously, but sometimes that’s where the fun is. (I realize that I’m not a very nice person as I’m saying this.) They are just so oblivious to how off it all is from where they were aiming. The story was super broken and the characters both under- and over-developed. But I do enjoy a hugely overdone CGI explosion. So … I guess I’m going to give it a 2. This is the kind of movie I would watch with the nieces and nephews so we can laugh about it together.

Mikey: Yep, that’s exactly how I was thinking of viewing it! But I thought it would be much more boring for us than the unbelievably amazing Land Shark, which is highly recommended viewing if this is your category! Also if you are a fan of eyebrows.

Solee: And very scientific things like charts and counting. I *heart* Land Shark so much! I know we’re not seeing that tomorrow … so what are we seeing?

Mikey: Now I’m sad we’re not seeing that. Please everyone, go watch it now! It’s on Amazon Prime. But we are relegated to The Sacrament, a found-footage cult movie!

Solee: Awesome!
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  Belittling Horror Excessively: Train To Busan 03:15 PM -- Sat October 28, 2017  

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

Train To Busan (2016)
Not Rated
IMDB Says:
“While a zombie virus breaks out in South Korea, passengers struggle to survive on the train from Seoul to Busan.”
IMDB Rating: 7.5/10
Metacritic Rating: 72/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 95% critics, 88% audience
Solee: 5/5
Mikey: 5/5
We watched this on Netflix.

Solee: Yesterday, our guest reviewer, Colin, recommended that we watch Train to Busan. It was already on our list of movies to see, right? How did it get on that list? More importantly, do we still get to blame Colin if we didn’t like it?

Mikey: I think we can always blame Colin for our ills. But the movie was on the list because of one of the many “Best N Horror Movies on Service-Name” articles I looked at during the month. People sure seem to like it. It’s Zombies On A Train. Also, it ended up on our list in part because of that - our first zombie movie of the month (if you don’t count one short segment in Patient Seven).

Solee: It also adds to our list of horror films from other countries, since it’s from South Korea. We watched it in Korean with English subtitles, which is always fun. I feel like I pay closer attention when I can’t pretend I’m listening while I play on my iPhone. The movie starts with the basic roving camera showing us the variety of people on the train (and cluing us in on who is going to be important to the story).

Mikey: Which brings me to my overall take: while this is very clearly a zombie movie, what it is more than that is a Disaster Movie. It’s all the tropes of a disaster movie, where you get to know the assorted people who are going to be trapped in the disaster (too many for a normal cast, but they disappear fast), and then our heroes and villains who make their way through. It was like all those 70’s disaster films.

Solee: Yep. They made a point of having characters from several different walks of life: the high school baseball team and their one cheerleader, the married couple expecting a child, the spinster sisters, the spineless railroad employee, the homeless man who knows more than he should, and the rich jerk. That’s on top of the main characters, a workaholic father and his emotionally neglected young daughter.

Mikey: Yeah, there’s a very big element of emotional manipulation (which I suppose is what all movies are, end to end, but nevermind that), where they have these over-the-top villain characters, and over-the-top good guys who will save anyone, and you can’t help but cheer and jeer the appropriate people as it goes along. Although I think one place they let me down was the end of the rich jerk. He was the absolute supervillain of this movie, and I just didn’t feel like he got the big horrible end he needed.

Solee: We didn’t even get to see him get bit! He’s one of those characters that you really want to see get their comeuppance on screen. He got it, we just didn’t get the release of seeing it happen. Instead, they humanized him by showing him as a scared little boy, which is probably the source of all his terrible behavior in the first place. This movie really tried to make each character feel real and relatable.

Mikey: It was just a fun experience rooting for the good and booing the evil. Another interesting thing going on in this movie was their take on zombies. Putting them on a train posed an interesting challenge - there’s not really any room to maneuver, or directions to go in. Just back and forth. So to make that work, they made the zombies rely almost entirely on sight (with some hearing, but not great hearing). They were able to pull a lot of tricks to get past them as a result. Oh, and P.S. FAST ZOMBIES.

Solee: For sure. That was one of the scarier things for me. I spend a lot of time mocking people in zombie movies for being unable to get away from the slow, lumbering corpses. I had total sympathy for people trying to get away from these zombies. They even sped up the film to make them seem faster and jerky in that way that Korean and Japanese films so often do with their supernatural monsters. It’s very effective on me. Gives me the creepy-crawlies! I thought it was interesting that they established that the zombies could not work doors and they had very little object permanence. Once people were out of sight, they were safe.

Mikey: And yet, it was always very dangerous! The zombies also did a little of the World War Z pile-up trick and similar things, but what I liked was that they would quickly cut away from these CGI zombie pile-ups, they were just a little hint of “whoa, that’s a flood of zombies”, instead of shoving it in your face as a spectacle. Although when they all grabbed on the train at the end, that was a little goofy. Made me concerned for the actors involved. Also made me think of the horrible fire ant rafts in the Houston floods.

Solee: That was definitely an obstacle I didn’t expect them to have to deal with. There was a moment, as the passengers were safe in a train car watching absolute carnage on the platform outside, when I realized that there’s a very specific horror in watching mass violence from a safe place. It’s the same trauma that people experience watching tragedy on the news (in my experience: 9/11, Columbine, various riots). We forget how much it affects us, as humans who tend to like to be proactive and solution-oriented, to see things we can’t do anything about. That’s not something that comes up in horror films often, as having the characters actually experience the trauma first-hand is more exciting … but the train element allowed the second-hand violence to be traumatic in this film. I thought that was something unique and special.

Mikey: I see what you mean, that is interesting.

Solee: Another less-common trauma that was addressed briefly was that terror of knowing something bad has happened to someone you love but not knowing the details. The main character’s mother calls him and it’s clear that she’s becoming a zombie, but we never see what happened to her. He never knows. People tend to find comfort in details and he (and consequently we) were denied them. Upped the tension, I think.

Mikey: It is a rare trick that we actually never got to know what happened to her. Other movies would’ve shown us the other side and left only him in the dark. I did notice that Zombie Mom was still able to hang up the phone at the end, though! Which brings me to this movie’s Protagonist Magic: if you are a main character, you turn into zombie a lot slower than anybody else. This movie featured the quickest turn of any zombies in history - 2 seconds is about what I’d call it. Unless you were a main character, where it could be as much as 3 or 4 minutes. His mother was on the slower side, at thirty seconds or so.

Solee: It depended on whether they had important lessons to impart to us before they died!

Mikey: That is the heart of Protagonist Magic… whatever helps the story more! Speaking of that story, I believe this entire movie was created to teach a very specific lesson to a very specific person. What did we learn, Solee?

Solee: You can’t see it because I’m in another room, but I just rolled my eyes SO HARD at you. Haha!

Mikey: I could feel it.

Solee: The super duper evil guy, the COO of Stallion Express (not sure what that is), completely embodied Solee’s #1 Rule of Infection. He had a zero tolerance policy about anyone who had been anywhere near the zombies and was the first to shout “he’s infected!” whenever things weren’t going his way. He was a real jerk, but the thing is … he wasn’t WRONG. There WAS an infected individual. They should have been quarantined in some way. But he was doing it for all the wrong reasons. He wasn’t invoking The Rule to protect the masses … he was invoking it to protect his own sorry butt. It DID make me question my rule a bit, thought, I will admit that.

Mikey: He was so wrong! I mean, sure, actual infected people are a problem, but since they turn in 2 seconds, we know who they are. These people were clearly not infected and he was just Solee-ing all up and down the place! Punk. And then he killed Jin-hee in the most shocking and unacceptable moment of the film.

Solee: The husband of the pregnant lady WAS infected!

Mikey: Yeah, and he sacrificed himself bravely so the other people could get through, not himself! These were good folks, not like Solee Express.

Solee: In THIS movie, the infected folk mostly sacrificed themselves. They were very noble about it. This is not how normal zombie movies go … there’s always SOMEONE who has to hide their infection until they can’t control themselves. You and I both know which way real life would go. We live in America, land of Bad Things Can’t Happen to Me and I Am the Exception to All the Rules! The #1 Rule of Infection is necessary.

Mikey: But he didn’t need to know their honesty, he knew they’d turn in 2 seconds, so there’s nothing to hide (unless of course they are a protagonist).

Solee: EXACTLY. There’s always that one character that somehow manages to spread the infection to the group.

Mikey: Well, I can see that we won’t get anywhere on this politically-charged issue. So I will just relegate myself to dying moments after the next zombie apocalypse begins and move on: Speaking of sacrifice, what do you think about Jong-gil’s suicidal final act to reunite with her sister In-gil? Not really thinking about others there...

Solee: I was legit SHOCKED at that. It did not at all seem in keeping with the very strong message of “take care of others” the whole movie was based around. I honestly don’t understand how she made that choice. Her sister had just sacrificed herself to save her and the rest of the people in that car and Jong-gil just opened the door and let them all in. Crazy.

I want to mention a couple of people we haven’t brought up yet before we move on to ratings. First, Yong-guk, the sole surviving baseball player went above and beyond to protect Jin-hee, the cheerleader. That was an interesting bit of teenage drama thrown into the mix and I liked how he really stepped up. Actually, all the baseball players really stepped up. Teenagers, FTW.

And finally, my favorite side character of the whole movie was the conductor. That man took his responsibility for his passengers very seriously and he didn’t have the benefit of other people to work with. He was alone basically the whole movie, making the decisions and taking the risks that he thought would best protect his passengers and I have huge respect for him. I was SUPER mad when the rich jerk threw him to the zombies to save himself.

Mikey: You just go and go with this movie! We’re almost out of time here, but I want to mention my favorite person, not such a side character: Sang-hwa, who taught the main character to actually care about his child, was the best with his pummeling of zombies with his bare hands. When he got into it, it was like this weird moment where the movie sidestepped from normal zombie movie to superhero brawling. It was pretty ridiculous, but lots of fun. It also made me wonder if breaking a zombie’s neck actually stops it, because he did that a lot.

Solee: Sang-hwa was a tough guy with a heart. Every girl’s dream! So how are you rating this movie?

Mikey: This is not an artsy-fartsy piece with a bunch of metaphors and depth. It’s an action horror disaster movie with lightweight characters that you care about the same way you care about your favorite sitcom character. I don’t want to see Pam & Jim get a divorce, and I don’t want to see Sang-hwa get bitten by a zombie. But that isn’t a bad thing! Not every movie has to be artsy-fartsy. I don’t want to always be moping around in black and white metaphors. Sometimes, I just want to give 5 out of 5 to a movie for being a step up from your usual blah action nonsense. It was really great for what it was!

Solee: I agree! Our plethora of faithful readers are going to stop trusting my judgement because it seems like I’m handing out a lot of 5s this year, but I am happily giving this movie a 5. It was fun. It was heartfelt. It was action packed. I was more scared in a “oh, HE can’t die” way than in an “OMG WHAT WAS THAT” way, but I was scared. And I would definitely recommend it to others. Plus, it was fun to watch a Korean film.

Mikey: Okay then! So many good movies. This is a weird BHE year. What is happening next?

Solee: I want to promise that I’ll pick something terrible … but there are still some really promising movies on our list. I guess I’m going to go with Thirst (2015, not the Korean film).
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