Scare Campaign (2016)

Directed by Cameron Cairnes [Other horror films: 100 Bloody Acres (2012)] & Colin Cairnes [100 Bloody Acres (2012)]

I didn’t go into this one knowing too much about it, aside from the fact the plot sounded interesting and Olivia DeJonge (The Visit and Better Watch Out) was in it. Otherwise, I went in pretty blind, and overall, I’d say that Scare Campaign was a pretty decent movie. Not amazing, by any stretch, but good.

The plot, dealing with a Scare Tactic-like television crew, was pretty unique and, at times, meta (such as DeJonge’s character’s love of horror films). I think it gets a bit more muddled than necessary toward the end, but it was still decent. I do applaud the fact that they kept the movie played straight, when they easily could have moved to a more comedic direction (think Fear, Inc.), so kudos there.

Olivia DeJonge wasn’t the main star here, but I think she did really well in her role. There were some aspects to her character that didn’t really hit as hard as was probably intended, but she still did great. Meegan Warner (who I know only from the woeful The Veil) played a compelling main character, especially with the direction the movie went in during the second half.

I don’t know Ian Meadows, but I liked him here, despite the fact that his character is pretty on the fence between being pleasantly annoying to being an outright dick. Josh Quong Tart’s character was an interesting one, because some of our expectations are a bit subverted, giving his character a bit more depth than we first might think. Most of the other performances are solid, but few stand out like these four did.

As far as the gore goes, Scare Campaign isn’t mind-blowingly awesome, but there were some occasionally great scenes. There’s not really a stand-out scene of gore, at least in my view, but there’s still enough here to keep the casual slasher fan happy.

Though I think the movie is far from perfect, I don’t have any major critiques of the story. I do think some reveals toward the end were a bit weak, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t welcomed, just that they were anticipated. The turn-of-events about halfway through the film, though, really took me for a ride, and I utterly loved it, so Scare Campaign definitely did some things right.

The movie isn’t amazing, but this Australian film is still pretty solid, and definitely worth at least a single watch.

7.5/10

This is one of the films covered by Fight Evil’s podcast. Listen below as Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss Scare Campaign.

Seoulyeok (2016)

Directed by Sang-ho Yeon [Other horror films: Busanhaeng (2016), Bando (2020)]

Commonly known under the title Seoul Station, this animated prequel to Train to Busan was an interesting experience. It’s my first experience with an animated horror movie, and while I appreciated some aspects of it, overall, I just found this one pretty meh.

I guess it’s worth talking about the animation, which was okay. At times, it seemed somewhat sparse (showing a lot of empty streets with zero zombies shambling about seemed off), but that’s fine. The character designs weren’t great (the faces were what most bothered me), but animation’s not my forte, so I wouldn’t say it really impacted my feelings one way or another.

This movie is oddly somewhat poorly sourced on IMDb, so I don’t really have names to going with the voice actors, but some of these characters were very prone to over-exaggeration, such as the homeless man (who apparently was never named), especially during his “I have no home” wail, which, while somewhat dark, did rather crack me up. I understand that over-acting might be common in animation, but it didn’t make it feel any more realistic to me, which was problematic.

Certainly, I appreciate the attempt to pull in some societal issues to the forefront, such as the division between the homeless and the police (when one officer just assumed all the zombies were just angry homeless people, there’s a problem with the system they live in) and the atrocious reaction of both the city police and the military (a bunch of uninfected people easily could have been saved, but instead they’re just hosed back into their area by police, because fuck the people, amiright?), but I don’t think either of these points are really examined as well as they could have been. Even the tragic lives of sex workers is hinted at, but despite potential, this isn’t expanded on as much as it could have been either.

It could be said that the dismal nature of the story was a bit much (there are few characters who actually survive through the film), but for a zombie movie, I can’t imagine that this is really a surprise. Shim Eun-kyung’s character (Hye-sun) was okay, but I was really hoping for a stronger female lead than what she brought with her. Her boyfriend, Ki-woong (voiced by Joon Lee), was pretty pathetic throughout, and Hye-sun’s father, Suk-gyu (voiced by Seung-ryong Ryu), who brings an actually surprising twist toward the end, was decently efficient. Of course, we see him differently by the end, but at least he was good at killing zombies.

Still, Seoul Station is a bleak movie, and while the same could be said for Train to Busan, I think that this is a lot darker, and there’s not near as many fun sequences here (not that many scenes in Train to Busan set out to be fun, but at least the budget they had made them feel more epic). I don’t hate the story they went with, though I do have problems with some aspects (such as the inconsistent time it takes for people to turn into zombies once being bitten).

For an animated zombie film, while I have nothing to compare this too, it’s not an especially poor film. It’s just not especially memorable or worthwhile either, which isn’t much a positive aspect. If you’re into zombie movies, this might be worth taking the time to watch, but I personally think seeing it once was enough, and it just couldn’t match the enjoyment I got from it’s live-action counterpart at all.

6/10

Busanhaeng (2016)

Directed by Sang-ho Yeon [Other horror films: Seoulyeok (2016), Bando (2020)]

It took me long enough to finally watch this South Korean modern-day classic, but I sometimes move through the genre I love in odd ways. Train to Busan was, as many have said, a very solid movie, and though I wasn’t really amazed or blown away at any point, it’s a strong zombie movie and definitely one worth watching.

One reason this works out a bit better than many modern-day zombie movies is the setting. The movie primarily takes place on, you guessed it, a train. It’s a enclosed, small space (though not as small as you might think – South Korea put far more money into public transportation than the USA ever has, apparently), and because of that, tensions are a bit higher. You can’t run from building to building here – you’re stuck in a car, and if zombies are on either side of your car, you’re pretty much not moving, unless you know how to navigate through hordes of zombies without alerting them.

Which actually happens later on in the film, when three characters need to go through three or so carriages to rescue family and reach the other survivors. It’s a pretty fun sequence, and it’s not even all-out action either, which I expected, but a mix of intelligent ways to get around the zombies using things they’ve learned about their perception. There’s a general sense that, at any point, the whole rescue mission could go horribly wrong, though, and it’s, as the kids say, aces.

I don’t think the performances here are the most memorable thing in the film, but most of them are pretty solid. It’s true that Gong Yoo makes for a somewhat unlikable focal point at the beginning, but he cleans up nicely. Ma Dong-seok is, of course, a lot of fun, and easily one of my favorite characters here. Seok-yong Jeong (captain of the train) looked really familiar, but I don’t know him. Still, a very strong character. Sohee was pretty cute throughout, which was another (small) plus, and Eui-sung Kim made for quite a despicable antagonist (perhaps worse than the zombies).

And as far as the zombies were concerned, I thought they were interesting. They only reacted violently when they actually saw people, otherwise, they just stood there, occasionally jerking and mostly harmless. The scene in which Gong Yoo and company (Ma Dong-seok and Woo-sik Choi) was a good illustration of this unique aspect of the zombies. You can distract them with noises when dark, and so, if intelligent, you can avoid them, which led to some tense scenes (usually when the train was passing through a tunnel, rendering the zombies less dangerous).

Remarkably, this movie never really feels like it’s dragging, even at almost two-hours long (which, for a zombie movie, is pretty ambitious). The ending isn’t really my favorite, but that’s due more to the fact I didn’t care that much for the remaining characters than anything else. Otherwise, though, from the brief stop at Daejeon to the climatic finale at Busan, it’s a fun, tense, and somewhat aggravating film throughout.

Train to Busan is a film that’s well-liked for good reason. It’s a high-quality film with fantastic cinematography and solid performances, and while it’s not really that gory a film, there’s enough to keep zombie fans happy. As I said, I wasn’t knocked off my feet at any time during this, but it was a very solid watch, and is certainly worthy of being thrown into a horror fan’s rotation.

8/10

Ozark Sharks (2016)

Directed by Misty Talley [Other horror films: Zombie Shark (2015), Mississippi River Sharks (2017), Santa Jaws (2018)]

Okay, this movie isn’t great. It’s barely good. However, I have to admit that I find Ozark Sharks oddly entertaining at times, and while it’s definitely a movie that’s below average, it’s easily something I can see myself going for again, and as I’ve seen it twice already, that may say all that needs to be said.

I’ll still say more, though, because as a verbose guy, it’s in my nature.

A strong selling point to me about this one is the cast. Few here are really excellent, but who can’t love a cute main character (Allisyn Ashley Arm) with a dorky boyfriend (Ross Britz)? Sure, it’s not original, but Arm’s character is a lot of fun, being a cute bookworm who wears a choker, and Britz has some pretty amusing interactions with both Thomas Francis Murphy’s and Dave Davis’ characters. Davis, on a side-note, also starred in Leprechaun’s Revenge, another movie that I enjoyed more than I probably should.

Michael Papajohn and Laura Cayouette made for decently convincing parents, and Sharon Garrison likewise made a solid grandmother. None of the three were overly plot relevent, but their performances, as they were, were still appreciated. Ashton Leigh was another decently attractive actress, though unlike Arm, she didn’t really do that much during the film. Her character was strong enough, but I was hoping for a bit more from here.

Really, though, as decent as many of the performances are (I think that Britz and Murphy are perhaps the second place contenders), it’s Allisyn Arm that really makes this movie just a bit more enjoyable. Her personality rather amused me throughout, and her dead-pan quote about “enjoying nature’s splendor” is one that I’ve used in my day-to-day life. She’s a lot of fun, and without her, I don’t think Ozark Sharks would have been near as memorable.

As it is, this had simply atrocious special effects and a rather terrible finale. The sharks looked both bland and hideous in their CGI, to be sure, but what had to be the worst scene was one of the sharks getting stabbed with some fireworks. The combination of CGI shark and CGI fireworks was perhaps the worst my eyes have seen in some time. Seeing a shark getting dragged through a wood-chipper was fun and all, to be sure, but I don’t think the ending itself was as satisfying as it could have been.

Like other rather bad Syfy shark films (such as Swamp Shark and Toxic Shark), Ozark Sharks can be rather entertaining at times, and the performances here do bring the film up a bit. It’s still not a particularly good movie, though, and while I could watch it again, it’s not something I’d recommend to others unless I know they enjoy a bad special effect-laden shark film as much as the next guy.

6/10

Better Watch Out (2016)

Directed by Chris Peckover [Other horror films: Undocumented (2010)]

I pretty much knew next-to-nothing about this when I started it out. It seemed pretty clear cut at the beginning, a home invasion movie with a Christmas theme, but as the movie went on, I was taken on a rather unexpected and enjoyable ride.

To speak of some aspects of this movie and the story without spoiling anything might be hard, but I will certainly try my best.

Olivia DeJonge, who starred in the surprisingly decent The Visit, did great here as a babysitter with a few personal problems that she’s going through, and a crush on her by the kid she’s babysitting (Levi Miller) doesn’t make matters better, nor does the break-in of armed assailants. DeJonge did great in The Visit, and puts up a very fine performance here also, especially as she becomes more the kick-ass chick toward the end.

I can understand complaints about Miller’s performance, because it was a bit much at times, but he is a younger actor, and I certainly thought he did pretty well here, and Ed Oxenbould (also from The Visit) was fun too, as a sort of comic relief character (though not without his own drama, to be sure).

Also, I have to point out that Patrick Warburton makes a small appearance as Miller’s father. I know him from many things, be it voice-acting on Kim Possible, Family Guy, and Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated to small appearances throughout his career (such as on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). It was just fun seeing (and hearing) him here, no matter how small the part.

Better Watch Out isn’t about the gore, and there’s not a whole lot here in terms of that, but there are still a few okay kills throughout. What matters more is the small cast and their solid performance, and that, mixed with the story, made the movie a very decent watch, and certainly worth seeing at least once.

7.5/10

This is one of the films discussed on the Fight Evil podcast. If you want to listen to Chucky (@ChuckyFE) and I discuss this one, enjoy.

Shadows of the Dead (2016)

Directed by John Ross [Other horror films: N/A]

This is a Syfy film I have little to say about, which isn’t really surprising. Shadows of the Dead isn’t a particularly poor film, but it’s certainly not that memorable, and I probably couldn’t see myself giving this one another go.

Story-wise, the movie takes a somewhat interesting route. I truthfully expected most of the movie to take place during the anti-prom party at the beginning, but no, it’s over the following days that the bulk of the story unfolds. It doesn’t really make the story itself any less mediocre, but it did go against my expectations, so that’s at least something.

Really, there aren’t many memorable characters here. I guess you have some decent young actresses (Kennedy Tucker, Alexandria Paige, and Lindsay Elston), but no one stood out whatsoever. As far as characters go, my favorite was probably the shadow creature, which looked okay (though every time it was onscreen, I was reminded of the Marvel comic book character The Fury, an enemy of Captain Britain).

I highly doubt I’ll remember Shadows of the Dead in another two weeks, and already small things going from my memory. The movie wasn’t nearly as bad as other newer horror films could be, but there’s little here going for it, and I can’t say that this is one I think many would look highly upon.

5/10

2 Lava 2 Lantula! (2016)

Directed by Nick Simon [Other horror films: Removal (2010), The Girl in the Photographs (2015), Truth or Dare (2017), Karma (2018), Untitled Horror Movie (2021)]

I gave the first movie a decent amount of praise, but this ridiculously-titled sequel is just a bit much. The first movie was just stupid fun, but as this virtually repeats that movie, there’s not really much point to it, and what was amusing in the first movie becomes old with this one.

Again, we get a lot of references to other movies (among them Scarface, Deliverance, Dr. Strangelove, Indiana Jones’ films, Crocodile Dundee, Die Hard, and Jurassic Park), but it didn’t feel nearly as fun as it did the first time around, and really, many times it felt a lot sillier. The Jurassic Park kitchen reference started out okay, but then it kept going, and toward the end of the scene, a banner falls down, just throwing the fact it’s a reference in our face, which we didn’t need.

Steve Guttenberg was, of course, nice to see, but I already saw him in the first movie, so the charm of seeing him again has worn off, especially when not much of the story has changed. Michael Winslow did as much for me here as he did in the first one, which isn’t really a positive. Michele Weaver did pretty okay, but Martin Kove (famous for The Karate Kid) didn’t wow me, quite possibly because his character was just too ridiculous for me.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, the first movie was ridiculous too (it’s called Lavalantula, for God’s sake), but as a one-shot wonder, it came across somewhat fresh. As little here was changed (aside from the fact that some lavalantulas can shook spikes), the movie strikes me as somewhat pointless. Were there a few worthwhile scenes? A handful, but overall, I didn’t care for this one nearly as much as I did the first.

5/10

The Crooked Man (2016)

Directed by Jesse Holland [Other horror films: YellowBrickRoad (2010), Chilling Visions: 5 Senses of Fear (2013, segment ‘Listen’), We Go On (2016)]

Well, it’s not Syfy’s worst movie in the last five years, but it’s certainly not their best. Honestly, The Crooked Man is almost decent, and I like some aspects about it, but I’d rank it between the rather forgettable Karma and the decent-yet-flawed Stickman.

The origin of the Crooked Man is fine, but nothing special (given this is a Syfy original, I doubt that would come as much a surprise). It’s the design that I thought was more interesting. The hat is whatever, but the way the creature sort of glitches in and out, like some sort of corrupted computer program, was unique. It didn’t always look good, but it was passable, more so than most of the other special effects from the film.

My biggest issue here is that the kills were pathetic across the board. There was one solid scene of a character getting their head ripped off, but otherwise, I wasn’t impressed at all with the direction the kills went in, which ranged from broken bones to falling out of a window onto a car (which also includes some broken bones, now that I think of it) to being strangled. Just very little there to do anything for me.

Performance-wise, again, the movie’s passable. I find it laughable that Michael Jai White is on the cover of this movie, yet appears maybe a total of seven minutes in the film (and none of it is all that noteworthy), but Angelique Rivera and Cameron Jebo made an almost-acceptable couple. Rivera was pretty cute, and Jebo got a few funny lines in, so despite some character faults, I generally liked the pair. Though she didn’t appear a whole lot (though still more than White), Reilly Brooke Stith was decent also.

Overall, though, The Crooked Man is just barely decent. Like I said, it’s not near as forgettable as Syfy’s Karma, nor near as terrible as Dead in the Water. But it’s not even close to being as good as Neverknock or House of the Witch, and even a below average movie like Stickman beats it out. The Crooked Man isn’t that good, and some issues with the ending come into play. For a Syfy movie, you certainly could do much worse, but overall, I’d only go out of my way to see this once.

6/10

The Greasy Strangler (2016)

Directed by Jim Hosking [Other horror films: ABCs of Death 2 (2014, segment ‘G is for Grandad’)]

I saw Triloquist recently, and gave it the low, low rating of 0/10, but there are gradients in atrocity, as I hated this even more.

Everything I hate about this film is intentional, from the terrible dialogue (it’s stilted, sure, but the dialogue, even ignoring delivery, is utterly cringe-inducing) to the really stupid chants (be it ‘free drinks’ or ‘disco cutie’), from the characters, and just everything.

I get that some people like this humor, and the movie boasts over a 5/10 on IMDb, but I don’t see it at all. To be honest, I don’t want to dwell on this, or think about it any more than I have to. Triloquist was a bad film, in my opinion, but this was even worse, and entirely void of enjoyable content.

Sorry, but that’s all I want to say about this waste of time.

0/10

This is one of the films covered on Fight Evil’s podcast. Chucky (@ChuckyFE) enjoyed this one – I didn’t. Check the conversation out for a fun time.

Gehenna: Where Death Lives (2016)

Directed by Hiroshi Katagiri [Other horror films: N/A]

I think that this film had potential, certainly more potential than what the final product displayed. While I liked some aspects, including much of the conclusion and some of the plot, overall, I was underwhelmed, and because the film runs on a tad long, even bored at points.

The basic plot is interesting, especially if you’ve some interest in history. I was reminded a little of a film called Dead Mine (2012), but luckily, not only is this story better, the movie as a whole is more enjoyable (which says far more about how bad Dead Mine was as opposed to how good this is). A group of people exploring an old war bunker and running into several things that don’t make sense is a fun time. It gets less fun the longer the movie runs, but as a basic story, I enjoyed it.

Most of the main characters do well, but not that many really stand out all that much. Eva Swan, despite being a bit of a nobody, did rather good here, and I rather enjoyed how her character was mostly able to keep her cool when few others could. Simon Phillips too did well, especially toward the end when he became more antagonistic toward the others. Used primarily for comedic relief, Shawn Sprawling was decent, though I don’t necessarily care for where his story went.

Occasionally Gehenna: Where Death Lives reminded me of As Above, So Below (though that film is so much more enjoyable than this one, to be sure) due to the characters reliving past mishaps, but more often than not, Gehenna: Where Death Lives plays out as a by-the-numbers ghost story. It’s disappointing, because the setting is unique and some of the aspects aren’t fully explored like I feel they could have been (such as the time issue).

I wasn’t expecting much going into this one, and I didn’t get much coming out. There are portions of the film I enjoyed, such as the finale, and the characters are mostly decently-acted, but the film was an hour and 45 minutes long. At least twenty minutes could have been cut easy, so despite some of the more unique parts of the film, overall, this isn’t one I can see myself ever going back to.

5.5/10