Directed by Ki-Hyung Park
Released by Tartan Video
Anyone that’s in any kind of long term relationship knows that, when it comes to the subject of children, most women want to have one of their very own. When numerous attempts are made and no pregnancy is yielded, it can put a great strain on the couple.
Such is the case with Mi-Sook (Shim) and her husband Do-il (Kim), who’s a doctor, even. They’ve been trying and trying to get pregnant, but it’s just not working. Finally Do-il explains that he and his father, who also lives with them, have discussed it and think adoption is the best way to keep their family growing. At first, understandably, Mi-Sook is against the idea, but when she comes around they venture out to a local orphanage and one child, or to be more specific one child’s artwork (she’s an art professor) catches her eye.
When Jin-Seong comes home, he immediately makes a bond with the Acacia tree in the couple’s backyard that, as his new grandfather explains, hasn’t bloomed in years. He believes his real birth mother was re-incarnated into this tree, and does all he can to make it healthy again.
Of course, right about the time Jin-Seong gets comfortable with his new family, Mi-Sook gets pregnant. Jealousy from Jin-Seong begins to rear its ugly head; he even goes so far as to slap the baby and tries to suffocate him. It’s evident he’s a little screwed up mentally, but I guess you can’t blame him considering what he’s been through already.
One rainy night after a fight with his mom, Jin-Seong disappears. From then on, things get really bad. Characters begin to drop off in mysterious ways, all related to the tree in the backyard which of course is now beginning to bloom. Mi-Sook and Do-il maintain to all authorities that their adopted son is missing, but the little girl next door who befriended him knows what really happened. And it’s just very, very evil.
From here, I’ll let Ryan’s review of the movie (a quote from which appears on the DVD cover, I should add) take you the rest of the way. Suffice it to say the film is a lot more horrific than it at first appears.
Of course picture and sound aren’t going to have any issues on a DVD for a movie that just came out in 2003, so it all looks and sounds great. Director Park has a fantastic eye for composition on his shots, which gives the film a very uncomfortable quality as it progresses. He also keeps the colors more or less drab throughout so the sharp reds that inevitably begin to show up are that much more effective.
Features include a commentary with the director, one of the producers, and star Jin-Geun Kim. At first it’s a bit dry, with the director and producer interjecting mostly technical information as well as detailing changes made from the original story/script, but eventually things pick up and it actually becomes pretty entertaining for the most part. It’s always a bit of a pain to watch a foreign film with commentary by people speaking another language, but the subtitles are well placed and translated so you shouldn’t have too much issue finding out more about the film.
There’s also a “making of” featurette that for some inexplicable reason is broken up into 5 2-5 minute parts. It’s all done with a hand-held behind the scenes, and for the most part it’s not really all that exciting. Make sure you turn your subtitles on, by the way, I spent the first half of it not understanding why it wasn’t subtitled, then I realized they weren’t burned in. Duh. My issue with behind-the-scenes stuff like this is it doesn’t really tell you much about the film or those making it, just what it was like to shoot the movie. I want to know how it got started, where it came from, how it was cast and later marketed…not what scene 42-c looked like from a different angle. But that’s me.
Rounding out the features is a photo gallery and trailers for some upcoming Tartan releases, including non-horror stuff that you still need to see like Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Old Boy.
All in all the Acacia disc is pretty thin, but well worth the purchase for the film within, which is subtle, familial horror the likes of which we just don’t see all that often, either in the states or from abroad. I’m giving it a higher score because of that alone.
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The Cured Review – Ellen Page Fights for Her Life
Written and directed by David Freyne
Taking a cue from AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” the new Irish horror film The Cured begins where most zombie stories end. Drawing more comparisons, the themes of mistrust and social upheaval are front and center here as well. We’re the real villains, and the infectious disease turning humans into monsters is only there to hold up a mirror to show the worst sides of ourselves. The Cured uses the zombie mythos as Romero intended as a commentary on culture, with a little cannibalism thrown in for good measure.
Against the backdrop of a military takeover attempting to reintroduce the recently cured back into society, two people try to return to some kind of normalcy in a war-torn Ireland that’s been turned upside down by the zombie menace. Recently widowed, Abbey (Page) allows her now virus-free brother-in-law Senan (Keeley) to live with her and her son, even though most survivors are forced to live in an army encampment. Under constant surveillance, Senan’s old friend Conor (Vaughan-Lawlor) radicalizes the mistreated survivors of the virus into open rebellion.
The treatment of the survivors isn’t entirely unfair considering that they still have a connection and are not detected by a small percentage of the infected that haven’t responded to the cure. As both sides size each other up, Abbey and Senan are caught in the middle as they try to restore their humanity before the powder keg around them erupts.
Given its far out premise, the story stays firmly grounded in reality, focusing on the growing resistance and its political implications, drawing parallels to the protest movements such as the “Black Block” that have dominated some recent news cycles. When the virus divided the population, it was easy to know what side you were on; now, the cure has created a new class structure where the lower class is maligned until they cross the line and overthrow the uninfected. Clearly still affected and haunted by the heinous acts they committed when they were infected, the cannibalistic rage they still carry reflects the rage felt by the mistreated masses hellbent on overthrowing the powers-that-be.
Whether for budget reasons or simply a style choice, the eating frenzies that occurred before the cure are never fully shown so any gore and graphic images that could’ve been showcases for effects are left to the imagination. Maybe they weren’t shown because these acts were so unspeakable that they are too horrific to see and too painful to fully be remembered by the survivors. The top-notch sound design ratchets up instead and roars to life to the point where just hearing the carnage is enough to make you turn away.
Page’s performance is the emotional core of the film as she goes from understanding to fear to dealing with the ultimate betrayal. It’s important for a slow-developing story like this to have an actress with some star power, and director David Freyne and his team were fortunate to have a high caliber actress ready to deliver in some of the film’s quieter, more intense moments. Freyne directs these smaller character moments with care and also delivers once things open up to show the inevitable anarchy brimming under the surface.
The Cured may feel too closed off at times to allow its bigger ideas to fully breathe, but it never pretends to encompass a more epic scope that would be more in the vein of something like World War Z. Without ever addressing it directly, Freyne, as an Irishman, seems well aware of the history of the country; and he and cinematographer Piers McGrail inject their film with a pathos that makes Dublin come to life inside the world of the undead.
The Cured is a gritty take on the genre that fits nicely into the new type of storytelling that these stories need to embrace in a post-Romero world.
Bad Apples Review – Rotten Fruit, Indeed
Starring Brea Grant, Graham Skipper, Alycia Lourim
Directed by Brian Coyne
Like a seriously bad rash, some films stick with you regardless of whichever topical ointment you slather in generous fashion over your regions – ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce today’s orbital irritant: Bad Apples.
Directed (rather misdirected) by Brian Coyne, this lamentably sterile piece of celluloid follows a couple of murderous sisters, donning horrific (and not in a good sense) masks, and generally putting the sharp edges to random folk on Halloween night…case closed. Only problem here is this: the film has no pulse, no interesting characters to speak of, and basically nothing to redeem or recapture the time that you’ll have spent watching this complete dud. A husband and wife duo has a spotlight on them as well, but their tempestuous relationship makes rooting for them about as pleasing as sitting through 3 hours of Olympic curling…absolutely brutal. Also, you’re reading the babblings of a guy who loves to put the boots to any film that has been deemed “unwatchable”, but this complete wreck of a production is entirely that – something so remedial and uninspired that to type an endless array of rightful vitriol would be an utter waste of time.
So I’ll go on a bit longer with my public display of vehemence, as the casting seems WAY out of whack, and the production? Whoa…don’t even get me started on this – okay, I’ll go on a bit. With differing levels of sound editing, you’ll get the feeling at times like you could pick up a needle drop inside of a concert hall, and other frames of dialogue are so muddled they’re incomprehensible (not like you’ll feel the need to know what’s going on). Wonky camera angles and following shots are so horrendously captured, you’ll be wishing to watch your Mom and Dad’s old home movies just to gain a sense of stability. I normally pride myself on not begging this particular audience to take what I say to heart, or to shy away from something that could potentially ruin their eyesight, but believe me when I plead with you: do not waste your valuable time on this shipwreck – even if your time isn’t all that valuable: don’t waste it. Find something else to do and take a big ol’ pass on this wannabe slasher.
I don’t mean to pick on the low-hanging fruit, but these Apples should be batted away with a Louisville Slugger.
Edge of Isolation Review – A Movie with a Simple Message: Don’t Trust Anyone
Starring Michael Marcel, Marem Hassler, Alexandra Peters
Directed by Jeff Houkal
Sometimes, relying on the kindness of strangers is the thing that’ll do your gullible asses in – kindness? Strangers? Come on – think about it! Even further proof of said warning comes in the form of director Jeff Houkal’s brutally blatant film, Edge Of Isolation – won’t you come inside and grab a seat? You see! You fell right into another trap – jeezus, people…don’t trust just anyone, will ya?
Set up in a simplistic format, we’ve got a traveling couple (Lance and Kendra) whose Jeep, conveniently enough decides to shit the bed along a desolate stretch of roadway, leaving them at the mercy of the Polifer family, a slightly odd bunch of backwoods residents. This particular clan isn’t exactly wrapped too tightly, and they’re not afraid to let their freak flags fly, that’s for sure. You see, the family has been deeply-rooted in these here woods, and their “hospitality” has kept them fed for quite some time, and with a fresh supply of unsuspecting commuters stopping in at varying spells, their stomachs never truly seem to growl out of sustained hunger…oh, that kindness will bite you in the ass every single waking moment.
As I mentioned earlier, the film is constructed fairly simple, yet effective in its barbarism, and those who dig survivalist-horror will be wringing their mitts in anticipation for this one. While some editing does look a bit hokey, the practical effects more than make up for an at-times bit of strewn-about plot navigation, but who’s keeping score? Certainly not me, that’s for sure. I absolutely revel in low-budgeted films that don’t necessarily have the looks and feels of such, and Edge Of Isolation is one of those presentations that is certainly worth its weight in blood and guts – do yourself a solid and give this one a look when it becomes available to the masses, and for f**k’s sake, don’t take up anyone’s offer to chill at their place when your ride breaks down – get AAA and save your life (the previous statement was in no way affiliated or endorsed by the Triple A Automotive group – just sayin’).
Edge Of Isolation doesn’t need a full-blown allocation to keep future stranded motorists from losing their heads – all they have to do is push “play.”
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