Saturday, June 22, 2013

¡Qué horror! 2013
Candidate #12

(October 2012)

“Just say it, man.”
“Say what?”
“Say it! Say it! Say it! Say the ‘Z’ word!”

So the zombie apocalypse has again come to the movies.
This time, what we’re looking at in Jeremy Gardner’s The Battery is basically a two-character piece, as we join ex-baseball players Ben (Gardner, who also wrote the screenplay) and Mickey (Adam Cronheim), as they constantly stay on the move in their day-to-day struggle to stay alive in a world where the hungry dead just keep on keepin’ on.

So while that may sound like the most generic description of a zombie movie ever, rest assured that The Battery doesn’t quite play out the way your average deadhead flick does.
Plus, it’s got Larry Fessenden in a minor (but nonetheless pivotal role).
And it features tracks by Wise Blood, El Cantador, The Parlor, and Rock Plaza Central, to name some, so it’s also one of the best-sounding entries in zombie cinema I’ve seen. (Props for the crazy use of Rock Plaza Central’s “Anthem for the Already Defeated.”

As I said when I talked about Les Revenants and In The Flesh, if The Walking Dead isn’t quite giving you what you want from your zombies, then you might want to check this one out.

(The Battery OS courtesy of

Sunday, June 16, 2013

¡Qué horror! 2013
Candidate #11

(November 2012)

I mentioned Robin Campillo’s Les Revenants (They Came Back) ‘round these parts before in passing.
Allow me now to expound on that film further…

Unleashed in 2004--about a year and a half after Danny Boyle and Alex Garland gave us 28 Days Later, and just two months after A) Zack Snyder managed to get the brilliant Sarah Polley in a zombie movie and inadvertently ignited the slow vs. fast zombie debate with his impressive debut, the Dawn of the Dead remake, and B) Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost kicked off their Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy with Shaun of the Dead--Campillo’s Les Revenants emerged in the very early days of what would eventually develop into an unlikely revival of zombie cinema.

Even back then, Les Revenants felt, at least to me, like a breath of fresh air, a radically different approach to the idea of the dead returning to walk the earth.
Here, in a narrative co-written by Campillo with Brigitte Tijou, there were no rotting, shambling corpses intent on ripping into warm human flesh. Instead, there were the recently deceased (within the past decade), who suddenly appear, whole and seemingly unharmed, wanting only to return to the lives they’d been rudely evicted from by their deaths.
Here, Campillo focused on the living as well, those left behind, who now have to suddenly adjust to the reality that what they might have prayed for--the return of their departed loved ones--had, quite unbelievably, come to pass.

Flash forward to November of last year, and in the eight and a half years since Les Revenants, zombies had moved into the mainstream and become the monster du jour of horror, with an American zombie cable television show perennially breaking ratings records with seeming impunity.
Zombie, you’ve come a long way, baby…
It’s into this strange new world that Canal+’s television adaptation of Les Revenants emerges, and once again, we’re given an atypical depiction of the zombie phenomenon, one needed now more than ever, with so many bland and derivative entries in zombie cinema littering the sidewalks and the cineplexes.

Expanded into an eight-episode first season (with a second season that’s expected to debut early next year), the TV version of Les Revenants employs the same subtle creep and dread of Campillo’s original, eschewing a portion of the art house ambiguity of the film for some more traditional drama of the serialized sort, as well as some more overtly supernatural goings-on (though the exact nature of those aren’t really explained either).
And though the TV show’s narrative does not really follow the film’s (save for the central conceit of the dead returning and how that event impacts on the living), there is one major cast member carry-over: Frédéric Pierrot, playing different characters in either iteration, of course.   

The last time I put a TV series into the ¡Q horror! milieu was Dead Set. But just as that show rightly deserved its ¡Q horror! spot, so does this one. (Just imagine you’re watching an 8-hour long movie, with a sequel waiting in the wings…)

Plus, Mogwai scored the damned thing, so hey, one more reason to check it out!

Parting Shot 1: It should be noted that AbbottVision and FremantleMedia Enterprises have purchased the English-language remake rights, and intend to produce a show under the title, They Came Back, so I’d advise you to hunt down the French original before then.
This show should not be confused with ABC’s mid-season title, Resurrection, which is based on the novel, The Returned, by Jason Mott. (Though honestly, Mott’s novel, to be released in August, has a central conceit that’s pretty much the one in Campillo’s original. As Publisher’s Weekly puts it, “A family gets caught up in a worldwide event in which loved ones return from the dead exactly as they last were in life.” Hurm.)

Parting Shot 2: Also, if the atypical zombie’s your thing, then you should check out the 3 episode BBC show In The Flesh, which might have gotten this ¡Q horror! slot, but it’s particularly less “horror” than Les Revenants, so…
Still, it’s worth your while, if you want more from your zombies than AMC’s The Walking Dead can give you…

(Les Revenants OS' courtesy of; They Came Back DVD cover art courtesy of; Les Revenants OST sleeve art courtesy of

¡Qué horror! 2013
Candidate #10

(November 2012)

“And the shark, it has teeth,
And it wears them in its face,
And a knife, has Mackie Messer,
Of the knife, one sees no trace”

Based on the novel by Yûsuke Kishi, Takashi Miike’s Aku No Kyôten reunites the director with his Sukiyaki Western Django star, Hideaki Itô, who here, essays the role of the charming, psychopathic high school teacher, Seiji Hasumi.
Centered around and grounded by Itô’s commendable performance, Miike effectively highlights the terror of inexplicable violence and the horror of betrayal by a trusted figure of authority.
His familiar flourishes of violence offset by bizarre notes of odd humour will be found here, and props should also go out to him as well, for excellent usage of “The Ballad of Mack the Knife”/“Die Moritat von Mackie Messer.”

Given that we are treated to a “To Be Continued” by film’s end, I can only hope that Miike returns for the sequel.
As I’ve said before concerning Miike, I may not like all of his films, but there’s always something interesting going on in each of them, and in Aku No Kyôten, he brings his innate Miike-ness to the table, ensuring that the narrative content (basically a psycho who gets his bugf*ck crazy on with his students) is kept involving and occasionally, rather bizarro.
Which is what we really need, if we’re to keep this story going in any possible sequel…

For those unfamiliar with the more ultraviolent entries of Miike’s oeuvre, be advised that Aku No Kyôten becomes a rather difficult watch by the time we hit the third act, particularly in light of the current climate of school violence in countries like the United States.
You have been warned…

(Aku No Kyôten OS’ courtesy of &