31 Days of Horror: Train to Busan


Dir. Yeon Sang-ho

This is a zombie movie on a train. And what sets it apart from just being seen as such, is the heart found in the movie. And the use of tension. So many other movies fail to make me care and when I don’t care, I stop watching. The physical and emotional stakes are clearly communicated and the audience can chart the growth of the characters. There are several beats that are straight out of movies like World War Z, which is okay because there is its own spin put onto it.

The movie also knows how to subvert genre expectations, and when it fails to do so, it makes up for it by having a heart. The central relationship of the movie is a workaholic father and his lonely daughter. And as stated, the fact that the story takes the time to establish their relationship to the viewer makes this movie work for me. The revelation of the outbreak is very similar to other movies aforementioned, but where the movie goes, literally, sets it apart because of the amount of fun and inventiveness in its execution. Train to Busan is so much more than just a zombie movie on a train – in my estimation, it is one of the better zombie movies to come out in quite a while.


The Untenable Podcast, Episode 132: Tears in Rain, Controllers at Rest


The one with synthetic existential dread.

In this week’s episode, Mike and Jay talk about Mike’s exploits in gaming, as well as their reactions to Blade Runner 2049 and the last Episode VIII: The Last Jedi trailer.

Intro song: “Mesa” – Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch, and Vangelis

Outro song: “John Carpenter’s Halloween Theme” – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and John Carpenter

31 Days of Horror: The Loved Ones

Loved Ones

Dir. Sean Byrne

The Loved Ones was recommended to me by a coworker, which was odd at the time because they did not strike me as a horror movie person. And I remembered reading about how good it was years ago, and how shocking it was. But shocking in a good way. And being Australian, I’m always curious about their horror cinema offerings. I will say that this movie was impressive because it had a DIY aesthetic but was guided with a deft hand for the material and the genre. Some truly gory and shocking moments, but they really did serve the story and were not gratuitous. A very fun and dark ride, and much better than it should have been.

There is a nice twist on the torture trope where instead of a man trapping a woman, this is a woman trapping a man. But it does fall into the “crazy chick” trope, yet works around it by offering that she isn’t crazy because of rejection from boys, but that she might just have been born bad. Or possibly had pushover parents who allowed her to go too far without any corrective disciplinary measures. I could definitely see that pushover parent aspect, considering how she treats her parents in the movie. The movie is gory, but it’s not gratuitous. And there are plot moments that are disguised as jump scares but actually function as both character defining moments and payoff moments for the audience. This movie should not have worked, but it worked for me.

31 Days of Horror: Lake Mungo


Dir.  Joel Anderson

Lake Mungo was highly touted on Reddit and other places online, so again, as with many movies, I had a fear of being disappointed by the presentation. Yet again I was not let down. This movie moved swiftly, probably because it made very good use of the mockumentary format, which then utilized found footage to great effect. There were some great unsettling moments, such that when a major twist occurred I was floored. But what made the movie even more effective is the heart at the core of the film. The family depicted were clearly grieving so all that happened was heightened and was ultimately satisfying in its execution.

What works most for me, and what I feel creates the effectiveness of the entire framework is the chemistry of the family dynamic. The family is clearly broken by a family tragedy, but it also posits that they were already broken before the aforementioned tragedy that tears at its remaining fibers. The amount of trust given to the investigative crew that covers this family is astounding, but not unbelievable. Which also sets the greatest asset working in its favor, the believability. With this type of genre, or rather genre mashup of mockumentary using found footage within its narrative, lives or dies on believability. And this movie has it ten fold.

31 Days of Horror: The Void


Dir. Steven Kostanski and Jeremy Gillespie  (2016)

I had a lot of fun with this movie, which is a relief because I had also heard so many great things that I was concerned that I would be disappointed. I am a fan of deadly cults in horror movies, and this movie provided that in spades, although they were not a very mobile cult, yet they were effectively menacing and omnipresent. This was also another great presentation of Lovecraftian lore and influence in a small town with major horrors. The filmmakers made a lot with very little, from what I know of of its production. Unsettling throughout and equally effective in its delivery.

The greater achievement that I find in this movie is the use of atmosphere. A seemingly empty building in what seems to also be a secluded area. And of course, there’s always the decoy character who is seemingly dispatched early on who has greater import to the plot. So many tropes, but so much fun playing and subverting them. It really shouldn’t have worked, but it really did.

31 Days of Horror: The Bay


Dir. Barry Levinson  (2012)

The Bay surprised me, for what reason I am not really sure, other than I had always had it in my Netflix queue before it left, but never watched. I found it on Amazon Prime and added it, then decided to watch. Being directed by Barry Levinson, I think I had a prejudice against him based on his previous oeuvre, but I was mistaken. This movie had me from the first two minutes and it did not stop. Great use of the mockumentary and found footage tropes, but not predictable or lazy. Great fun and unsettling for most of the time.

The use of a post-mortem mockumentary to frame the context of the events is not necessarily new, but it is quite effective in this case. Interviewing, or possibly debriefing a survivor who is a reporter gave a unique perspective as to how all of the events unfolds. And there is an added level of realism in that the antagonistic force is a combination of nature, the sea dwellers affected by pollution, and corruption in a small town. Very fun and worth a watch if you’re a fan of such fare.

31 Days of Horror: Noroi: The Curse


Dir. Koji Shiraishi (2005)

Another indie found footage horror film that is giving me a reason to believe again. This is J-Horror at its finest, and it twists some of the conventions of that specific genre and slowly sets the fuse for a powerful slow burn. I was genuinely unnerved at various points in this movie, and had I seen it in a theater I might have walked out because of the tension. So very well done. Cannot thank Shudder for bringing it for streaming, as it is notoriously difficult to find outside of Japan.

The use of folklore and religious aspects in Asian culture, as in South Korea’s The Wailing, is done quite effectively here as well. It’s a mix of horror and a quasi-police procedural type of investigative narrative and character. What’s also effective are all of the main and side characters. Usually, they are pop-ups and then missing. Not here – they are curious inclusions at first, disappear, and then play very interesting roles later in the story. Intricate plotting and effective use of atmosphere.