Seoul Station (2016) Review

rsz_ss1SEOUL STATION (2016)

Starring Seung-ryong Ryu, Franciska Friede and Joon Lee

Written & Directed by Sang Ho-Yeon

OUT NOW on UK DVD & Blu-Ray from Studiocanal

Several groups of people try to survive a zombie pandemic that unleashes itself in downtown Seoul“.

Let’s get this out of the way. I have a confession to make.

I still haven’t seen Train to Busan.

I get it, every other horror fan in the whole entire universe has seen it and raved about it, I’ve seen the trailer and it kicks ass, and as far as I know it’s been available in the UK for a while. I just haven’t gotten round to it, I’m going to soon, I swear. Stop giving me evils. Stop the hate mail. I will watch it eventually.

“So why the hell would I want to review the prequel?” I hear you ask. Well, after a quick bit of research I discovered the animated Seoul was actually made before the live action Busan, yet released later. This is only after a google search so may not be true, but I thought this must be more than a cash in like expected, and I really wanted another good zombie movie.

rsz_ss2And let me just say, animated or not, Seoul Station is a VERY good zombie movie.

Seoul Station unfolds predominantly from the point of view of four characters: young runaway prostitute Hye-sun; her useless computer geek boyfriend Ki-Woong; Hye-sun’s desperate father Suk-Kyu; and a nameless vagrant who is desperately trying to get help for another homeless man, who happens to be patient zero…

Just from the brief character descriptions you can see that Seoul Station is not interested in conventional heroes. Everyone here is damaged, even if they don’t at first appear to be. They are each victims of society before the zombie outbreak, and this is shown best in the early stages as we see seoul Station as a nocturnal haven for the most desperate of society. Homeless, the mentally ill, all abandoned and left to suffer in the building. It’s because these people are ignored by society, the film suggests, that the outbreak is allowed to spread so quickly. Like the best of Romero, Seoul Station effortlessly provides a fascinating social commentary, and goes to some very dark places indeed to make it’s point.

But skillfully the film never becomes preachy or stops in it’s tracks to relay anything too heavy handed. One big difference compared to the low-budget Romero flicks of the past is the set pieces, no doubt helped largely by the freedom being an animated movie allows. Ho-Yeon creates some truly imaginative and visually arresting sequences, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve seen before. Moreover, he truly “gets” zombies, and their behaviour, their expressions of pure hunger, are something to behold. As is the gore, which is plentiful and rightly so.

While I doubt the story is as propulsive and energetic as Train to Busan, which I’ve heard described as a rollercoaster, Seoul Station is still a finely paced dramatic horror that milks it’s situation for every bit of action, tension, terror and subtext it can. It often feels choreographed, almost like a dance, the result of a filmmaker using everything in his toolbox.

After this, Ho-Yeon went onto make Busan, his first live-action feature, and if he’s taken half the craft he displays here with him, well, I’m not surprised it’s gone down so well.

rsz_ss3Any complaints are very minor. The score is a little non-descript and doesn’t always compliment events onscreen. Also, some of the animation can be a little rough around the edges. But it’s nothing really.

A dark hearted and socially aware thriller interrupted by the relentless undead, Seoul Station is an excellent zombie movie, and I can’t wait to see how it plays alongside Train to Busan.

9/10

From Inside (2008) DVD Review

frominside1From Inside (2008)

Writer & Director – John Bergin

Producer – Brian McNelis

Starring – Megan Gold as CEE.

Soundtrack – Gary Numan & Ade Fenton

UK DVD Release – 2nd March 2015 from Wienerworld

 

OK time to fess up. I don’t really ‘do’ animation, or should I say I don’t really watch a lot of or enjoy animated features. Now there are exceptions such as some anime like say Akira and I do adore most of Studio Ghibli’s releases including my all time favourite animated film Spirited Away, but as a whole it is not something that I choose to watch, read or really have any real background or knowledge in.

So when I was approached to review From Inside I did agree but however it was my intention to pass it on to someone much more informed in these matters than I. But due to unforeseen circumstances I was unable to do so , and so I took a deep breath and ventured into a world mostly unknown to myself the world of From Inside.

frominside2From Inside is 70 minute feature based on the graphic novel from John Bergin. The story revolves around CEE who is a young pregnant woman riding on a train through a bleak post-apocalyptic world, and her tale tells of the her own and the passengers struggles as they search for a new home.

From Inside is unlike anything I have seen before , it is not really animation but more the graphic novel brought to life on screen. You see the panels from the novel on screen and some of the parts are moving or animated yet most is just still life , this adds to a unique feeling of almost 3D at times . This is much more the book being brought to life rather than an animated version of the book if you get my drift? But then author John Bergin did also direct the film so that is why the continuity is perfect and the visuals are eye-crushingly amazing.

The story is very dark yet it is lit up with the fantastic use of colours as the rivers run blood red and the dark powerful oranges of the flames make you almost feel the intensity of the heat. And the scene in the slaughterhouse is a truly disturbing scene of absolute beauty.

frominside3And that I think is my view on From Inside. It is a bleak, dismal and almost soul destroying world yet it is so very beautiful. I just couldn’t take my eyes from the screen and the soundtrack from Gary Numan and Ade Fenton is haunting ,fits perfectly and immerses you deeper into the story on-screen. And on a further note I watched this whilst wearing a pretty decent set of headphones and by god you get the full impact, as later I tried it just through (an average) the TV alone and the experience was nowhere near as powerful .

From Inside is narrated throughout from the main character Cee and all you here is her voice alone, and this again draws you into her world, her feeling of isolation and her predicament of bringing a new baby into such a chaotic world. Now I know I haven’t really ‘reviewed’ From Inside, but that is because I really don’t want to spoil anything for people , all I can say is watch it. Imagine a very dark version of When The Wind Blows and you are getting close.

frominside4After watching From Inside I pondered why it resonates so much with me ? From Inside is not my typical fare, it would never have been my choice if found in a store. But I still am not sure why? There is definitely something very primordial and deeply primitive that tapped deep into my soul , and is still tapping away now days later. And just to think that I would have missed this were it not for fate bring us together.

As a horror fan over decades I often feel that I have “seen it all” and that films can no longer move me like they once did, but From Inside has come along and stomped all over that. A beautiful, haunting and visually stunning feature that is less a film and more an experience, and WHAT an experience.
9/10

Although released in 2008 , From Inside has been recently picked up and released (2nd March) from the great Wienerworld UK. The link to Amazon UK is below and it is currently available on DVD for the amazing price of just £6.75 .

Amazon UK LINK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Inside-Gary-Numan-Special-NTSC/dp/B00MVIYOFG/

And please check out the great Wienerworld site here – http://www.wienerworld.com

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) My Halloween Tradition by Oli Ryder

nbc1How I Celebrate Halloween #2: Oli Ryder and The Nightmare Before Christmas

 

By Oli Ryder

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Dir. Henry Selick
Voices: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, Ken Page

 
Twas a long time ago, longer now than it seems, in a place that I’ve seen often in my dreams. For the review that you are about to be told, took place in the Odeon Screen 7 of old. Now you’ve probably wondered where my obsession with all things horror comes from, if you haven’t, I’d say it’s time you begun…

 
On a cold November morn of 1994, a young 5 year old me was taken to the cinema in place of attending some wedding or other. The experience was nothing new, for a minnow I’d already been dusted with the pixie dust diet of Disney films and the promise of the magic of cinema on a young child’s imagination was something I already devoured with great gusto. I was not to know of course, that this particular trip was to ultimately be the catalyst to shaping not only the kind of films I enjoyed but also my personality, how I lived my life and in a way, dress sense (if I can honestly be credited as having one).

 
Many forget that ‘Nightmare’ is of course a Disney film, something that, for a time a least, Disney tried to enforce themselves, the film representing the misunderstood teen who dresses in black and is made to stand in the corner away from the glowing warmth from Mickey Mouse and his posse. As a result, many were not expecting something that flew under the flag of dear old Uncle Walt to be so…dark, macabre and packed full of nightmarish creatures. Indeed, one of my first cinematic memories remains the cries of small children and the desperate stomping of feet as adults fled the cinema in a mad rush, trembling innocent bundles of virtue buried in their arms in a bid to escape the phantasmagorical images now burned into their retinas.

 
nbc2There was a small child who stayed though, one who stared goggle-eyed at the spectacle of this musical stop-motion masterpiece unfolding before him. A small child who, over time, amassed as much ‘Nightmare’ related merchandise as he possibly could, who would watch it religiously every year on both Halloween and of course Christmas and, much to the enduring embarrassment of others, could proudly sing every lyric of every song without any need for encouragement. This child still exists, still watches this film religiously every year, walks around with the soundtrack buzzing in his head all through the month of October and its magic has not aged a single day and still after 20 years of it being a part of his life, notices things he didn’t before. Me, I owe this film everything and I won’t ever forget it.

 
This is not to say that I wasn’t initial scared on a first viewing! Kids today are used to the happy-fun supporting features from the likes of Pixar, ‘Nightmare’ on the other hand, was accompanied by Tim Burton’s early short ‘Vincent’, the tale of a boy who wants to be Vincent Price, narrated by the great man himself. The dark German expressionism style and the chilling tones of Price were terrifying and the type of animation I had never seen before added an extra layer of disturbing quality. Perhaps this was a perfect sampler to prepare you for what was about to come, and make no mistake, there are still some pretty grotesque monsters in ‘Nightmare’! None of these cutesy ‘Monsters Inc’ bollocks, characters like the Clown with the Tear-Away Face or big bad Oogie Boogie himself are initially frightening and the sort of thing that no kids film would ever be able to get away with in this day and age for fear of being sued by overly-protective parents (‘Coraline’ a brilliant exception).

 
What sets ‘Nightmare’ apart, however, is that it has an enormous love for these creatures who would in all other incidents be resigned to the role of ‘bad guys’. The film’s hero is Halloween Town’s top scarer, Jack Skellington, a skeleton suffering a mid-life (or death?) crisis about whether or not his heart is really into scaring people anymore. We have a skeleton as a lead, a Frankenstein-like ragdoll named Sally as a love interest and a plot that centres around the creatures of Halloween Town hijacking Christmas. See, one of the main reasons I have a beef against ‘Monsters Inc’ is because it verges on ripping off the central notion of ‘Nightmare’, the creatures are not ‘evil’, it’s just their ‘job’ and even though their take on Christmas is both a hostile take-over and full of lethal ‘presents’, including a man-eating wreath, what they are doing is not malicious, it’s just their way of expressing themselves. Some may disagree…

 
nbc3 ‘Nightmare’ is truly a film that champions the ‘misfit’ or the ‘outcast’ and I think that it is for this reason that its fans hold it dear to their hearts with such fondness. It’s a Christmas/Halloween film that’s uniquely ours and does not belong to anyone else as they wouldn’t appreciate it properly. It has one of the greatest soundtracks of all time, composed by Burton collaborator, Danny Elfman , it somehow manages to perfectly balance on creating songs with both a Halloween and Christmassy feel. A song like ‘What’s This?!’ with a joyful upbeat bounce containing the lyric ‘There’s children throwing snowballs, instead of throwing heads’ is on the one hand gleefully dark and yet, as with the whole film, there’s a sense of indefinable innocence that means that no matter how ‘dark’ the film is wrongly perceived to be, it has a warm, fuzzy heart that beats through it. You only have to look at my favourite onscreen romance between Jack and Sally to know that there is a great deal of love in the film, running hand in hand with its more mischievous side.

 
I cannot think of any other film that straddles the labels of both a perfect Halloween and Christmas film with such ease. This film certainly engrained an absolute adoration for both seasons in my head and, of course, I watch it multiple times during both. I love the painstaking efforts that went into making the stop motion look so slick and that have not aged a single day. I was lucky enough in Florida to actually see the marvellous set of Halloween Town itself and short of seeing the film in 3D (one of the few enjoyable and worthwhile 3D experiences) or going on the fantastic ride at Disneyland California, it was the closest I’ll ever get to actually ‘visiting’ Halloween Town. A childish fantasy, I know, however it’s one that I’ve refused to give up on. The film embraces its audience in such a way that through the magic of Halloween that it creates, makes you feel like you’re a part of it and truly no other film effects me in such a way.

 
The film has been my cinematic ‘third arm’ my entire life. It plays nightly in my Cerebral Cinema and very rarely does a day go by when I am not reminded of it in some way. I could go on for hours about every single tiny detail that I love about it but I’ll finish simply by saying that it remains my very favourite tradition of watching it on Halloween. That and carving pumpkins which, for some reason, I always insisted on being called ‘Harris’ when I was younger and it’s stuck ever since!

 
I hope that this has given you some insight as to just how much the film means to me and if, somehow, you have never seen it or forgotten it, has encouraged you to seek it out!