A teenage schoolgirl has been kidnapped. The missing persons case is upped to a murder case. Two police officers are both put on the case - one is by-the-book and the other is a thug. However, this is not a buddy cop movie. Instead of being partners, they are rivals - each running his own unit. Worse, the Major Crimes unit can over-rule them both.
As well as the murder investigation, there is also an ongoing storyline about organised crime. The local drugs gangs are ethnic Chinese, and they control the building that the murder suspects live in. Worse, the protagonist gets implicated in a crime. Yes, this is basically a Film Noir.
The plot threads get intertwined and slowly resolved, although there is little which is original. That said, it is a well-executed piece.
The next morning, she mysteriously fails to answer her phone. Her apartment has been tidied, almost as if she has gone on a vacation, but her luggage is still in the closet. It is almost as if she disappeared.
The protagonist suspects that Ben had something to do with the disappearance. He protests innocence, but he has a subtle air of creepiness about him. Yeun delivers a great performance, so different from what the western audiences associate him with.
Strangely for an American movie, the monsters are oriental dragons and the caucasian characters are reincarnations of Korean heroes. In fact this was produced in South Korea, which accounts not only for the Asian look to the production design but also for the high quality of the CGI SPFX, especially when one considers that the film was made on a modest budget several years ago.
The Evil Overlord's forces, looking like the Gungan Army in Star Wars: Phantom Menace , march into the centre of Los Angeles and take on the US Army's M1 Abrams main battle tanks.
The differences are what make this film unique. Instead of Patricia Arquette's happy hooker, this one is suffering withdrawl symptoms from narcotics and has halucinations reminiscent of a J-Horror movie. The final shootout forgoes Tarantino's suspenseful mexican standoff, and instead goes for a stalk-and-shoot that seems a poor version of John Woo's Hardboiled. Even the police turning up seems reminiscent of City of Fire, the Hong Kong movie that served as Tarantino's inspiration for Reservoir Dogs.
The title character is a vampire who looks like a young woman. At night she prowls the streets of Bad City, an oil town in Iran. With her wearing of the traditional female headdress, and her targeting of hedonists like junkies and alkies, she seems more like an Islamic traditionalist than a feminist icon. This has more in common with medieval morality plays than with modern, intellectually-challenging films.
This was adapted from an English-language novel, Fingersmith, set in London in the Victorian era. The Korean versions of the antagonists are exaggerated, almost to the level of cartoonishly evil, so that their brutal come-uppance seems more justified. Due to the differences from the original work, the novelist preferred that it be credited as inspired by.
The protagonist is a woman who is emotionally damaged thanks to the disappearance of her son five years previously. She and her family move to her husband's home-town. However, this merely brings them a whole new set of problems.
Their new house is beside the woods which contain a creepy cave. A supernatural entity that lives in the cave can mimic human voices and lure its victims inside. There is also a creepy little girl, which gives this movie shades of Dark Water . Finally, the monster's avatar can appear in mirrors. This is such a classic trope that it is not really worth discussing.
There is a romance subplot as he falls for a young waitress. There are some great fights, and a twisted ending.
Basically, this is Treehouse of Horror stuff. The simpsons are poor, and live in a basement in a slum. Bart gets a job at the home of the rich Flanders family. He soon gets Lisa and the others jobs as servants too, replacing the existing staff members. Then, when the Flanders family is out of town, the Simpsons party. Of course, things go badly wrong.
The director ( ) has made a series of films that re-interpreted their genres. Oldboy (2003) is a revenge thiller, The Host (2005) is a monster movie, Thirst (2007) is a vampire film, and Train to Busan (2017) is a zombie movie. The reason that none of these was deemed worthy of an Academy Award seems to be that they were all genre-based films. In contrast, Parasite is a very basic film.
Of course, when the piper makes good on his offer the villagers do not want to pay him. They have a deep dark secret - the plague of rats seems to be a divine punishment for their collective sin. But when they turn on the piper they try to justify their actions, first by calling him a thief and con-man, then by accusing him of spying for the Commies. Evidently Cold War paranoia was a big thing in a country which was recovering from an invasion by Red China.
The setting may be nearly post-apocalyptic, but there is a strong undercurrent of eastern mysticism. The villagers look to their shaman for advice, and accept her prophesies as truth. This does not bode well for them when they get a prophesy of death and destruction.
This may be the Asian version of a well-known European fairy-tale. However, it is a refreshing change from the usual J-Horror ghost story.
Once out of the clinic, the vampire priest must combine his religious morality with his new-found bloodlust and heightened physical sensations. He befriends the lonely wife of a cancer patient, and starts an adulterous affair with her. This is the core of the story, with the vampirism merely as part of the backdrop. It is taken from a book by the French novelist Emil Zola, and is apparently the only version of the story to feature any vampires. Much like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies , this is a mainstream story with genre aspects added.
The problem seems to be the beginning of the film, which is slow-moving and concentrates on introducing the protagonist before he becomes a vampire. But since the story is about the affair, not the vampirism, this is not really relevant.
The twist is that the Yakuza boss was a vampire. He bites his most loyal follower, who then sets out to avenge his death. Unfortunately the other Yakuza members are also vampires. Yes, the gangsters may metaphorically suck the life out of a community but these ones are LITERALLY bloodsuckers!
The gangsters call in backup, in the form of a demon. This one looks like a man-sized frog, and as well as being a martial arts expert he also has the superpower of Hypnotoad from Futurama .
Basically, the film is about a haunted house. There are several story threads that each take place at a different time over a period of several years. Anyone who enters the house is affected by a curse - they are haunted by the ghosts of a woman and a young boy. Not only do the victims of the curse suffer an unnatural fate, but the curse can actually infect people they come in contact with!
The story starts with an American man (Bill Pullman - Independence Day ) in Tokyo. Of course, this being a horror movie it all ends badly.
Next the story goes to the house of an old ex-pat woman ( Grace Zabriskie ). A young Japanese woman looks after her. Of course, this being a horror movie it all ends badly.
Finally we meet the main protagonist and Final Girl, Karen ( Sarah Michelle Gellar ). This was Gellar's first big job after Buffy the Vampire Slayer , and not exactly the best way to re-invent herself after such a career-defining role. In contrast, her co-worker Eliza Dushku only appeared in Wrong Turn (2002) because of assurances the monsters were human and not supernatural.
Karen's boss (Ted Raimi - Xena: Warrior Princess ) gives her an easy job. All she has to do is look after an old lady whose carer has mysteriously failed to turn up for work. And guess whose house it is.
The original film had a non-sequential structure. This version is a lot more linear, but includes a flashback to when Zabriskie moved into the house. She was accompanied by her daughter ( Kadee Strickland ), her son (William Maprother - Lost ) and his wife ( Clea Duvall ). Of course, this being a horror movie it all ends badly.
Another flashback, courtesy of Karen's investigations, we discover how Pullman fitted into the whole storyline. Yes, this is put together like a novel. It would be a nice touch if this was an original all-American production, but such things are standard in Japanese movies so we must hold them to a higher standard.
Karen's boyfriend (Jason Behr - Roswell ) goes looking for her, so she must go and rescue him. Yes, this otherwise superfluous character has a purpose after all.
The story is told out of sequence. Scenes of the sister investigating the house are intercut with three school-girls messing around. One of them ( Arielle Kebbel ) falls victim to a cruel prank.
Finally, this is intercut with scenes of strange goings-on in an apartment in Chicago.
In the old days, Sadako gave you seven days. Now she has shortened it to forty-eight hours. Well, since the Internet runs in dog years it is only to be expected that digital monsters are up to seven times faster than analogue ones. Also, her movie-within-a-movie has been changed. The old one was a classic piece of arthouse film, while the new one is just her walking through a doorway.
Since nobody has VCRs any more, the chances of someone watching the cursed tape are slim. However, not impossible. As always, some college girls end up being cursed.
The changes have dumbed this down from a full-on horror towards the more ratings-friendly PG13-style movie that is churned out these days. Sadako does not do her classic appearance. Instead she merely causes the victim to comit suicide. Likewise, The Grudge does not have any creativity in its kills. Instead it will just break your neck. No imagination, so real suspense.
A college Frat boy (Ryan Merriman - Jurassic Games ) gets a girl named Emily ( Emily VanCamp ) to watch a copy of the tape. Yes, somehow the tape is still in circulation. Naturally, it all ends badly.
Rachel ( Naomi Watts ) has quit the big city, and taken a job at a small town newspaper. By incredible coincidence, her new area is the same place that the Frat boy lived in. She gets dragged into the investigation.
The reporter continues her investigations into Samarra's origins, in the hope that she will uncover a cure. A friendly realtor (Gary Cole - American Gothic ) points her in the right direction. Eventually she locates Samarra's birth-mother Evelyn ( Sissy Spacek ), and we get some exposition along with flashbacks of the younger Evelyn ( Mary Elizabeth Winstead ).
The climax is not a massive battle of good against evil. Instead it focuses more on the mother's love for her child. Shades of another J-Horror film, Dark Water .
A couple of years later, a copy of the VHS tape falls into the hands of Johnny Galecki ( I Know What You Did Last Summer ). Much like his character in Big Bang Theory he is a lecturer at a university. He sets up a team of college students to investigate the tape. His reasoning seems solid, but he makes classic mistakes like converting it from analogue to a digital format. Of course, it all goes wrong.
The Final Girl finds herself chosen to follow clues that Samarra set for her. Vince D'onofrio ( Men In Black ) pops up to help the investigation. They discover Samarra's origin story - apparently she was adopted. In the original story, Ringu , the video girl was Sadako who inherited her powers from her father - a sea-goblin. Remember, play with brine, goblins be thine. This film has a different, nonsensical origin.
There are no real surprises in this film. Despite the film-makers' best efforts there are no good shocks, scares or suspense. Some scenes are reminiscent of a far better film, Don't Breathe , which has no place in the same universe as Sadako, spawn of a sea-goblin.
A trio of tweenagers hitch a lift with one of the brothers. They discover what he is up to, and things spiral out of control. There is no whodunnit element, and no hockey-mask to cover the killers' faces. Instead there is more of a torture-porn element as the victims are tied up and try to escape before they get mulched.
Australia's home-grown film industry seems trapped in the 1970s. Ironic, since that was the decade that it was kick-started by Picnic at Hanging Rock . These days their main product is the crime thriller, while supernatural horror is extremely rare. This movie adds an element of very dark humour to the mix. For example, the police sergeant who pops up is played by John Jarratt, best known for playing a more serious serial killer in Wolf Creek .
This might be called a more grown-up version of Home Alone . However, the leader of the villains is a criminal mastermind who deserves a place in the pantheon of horror movie villains. He is far scarier than the generic Freddy and Jason clones who proliferate the genre.
It is a relief to see something that is not about the usual five archetypal teenagers. The dynamic is a lot different from what we are used to. Each character has their own ideas on how to proceed, but they need to convince the others on the merits of their plan.
The crocodile has an unusual feeding pattern, and chooses to menace the humans rather than just feed or move on. All standard stuff in a suspense film like this, where jeopardy must be ever-present.
As slasher films go, this is typically Australian. It lacks the Hollywood trappings (hockey mask, chainsaw) and instead is more like an amped-up crime thriller.
For the sake of moral ambiguity, in the third act of the film he runs into some real bad guys. Yes, it was not porn or sex that killed her, it was the drugs. So the real villain is a drug-dealer, with a gang of thugs and a penchant for making snuff movies.
Six months later, the witnesses who testified against him are abducted and forced to live out office-themed Torture porn. The man wants them to prove his innocence. For every minor indiscretion, he cuts a scar into their forehead with his hook-hand. On the fifth strike, he cuts it across their throat!
As the couple's investigations proceed, their story is intercut with that of the family which pitched the tent at the camping spot a couple of days earlier. Eventually we discover that the local thugs had something to do with the disappearances. Well, modern Australian horror movies are basically crime thrillers instead of traditional supernatural suspense films. Anyway, it looks like the tweenagers will solve the mystery the hard way.
The Final Girl goes on a road trip with her sister's BF and the police officer assigned to the case, who has taken time off from his day job in order to help. They follow the trail to a caravan park, where the inhabitants are so creepy they would be expelled from Twin Peaks .
Things get creepier still, when the action shifts to a clinic straight out of A Cure For Wellness .
The plot seems identical to a George Kennedy film set aboard a mysterious ship. The only updates are that it is set on dry land (for a much lower budget) and the cast are all Tweenagers (to make it a cliched mainstream horror flick). Also, like most Australian efforts the supernatural aspect is played down. Their home market prefers crime stories, and thus their horror efforts like the supernatural underpinning.
The passengers include John Jarrett ( Wolf Creek ) and Mia Wasikowska . The guide's boyfriend (Sam Worthington - Clash of the Titans (2010) ) also drops by in his own boat. Yes, there are even more Aussie stars-to-be in this film than in the average episode of Neighbours.
The early kill scenes are very lacklustre, with nothing much shown on-screen. This is quite disappointing, even if it means the dodgy CGI is kept to a minimum. However, the director was just saving the good stuff for the second half.
The crippled cop ends up as a prison warder in a teenage detention centre. He is put in charge of a work detail consisting of a photogenic group of teenage delinquents who appear to have been selected to be equally representative of race and gender.
The work detail are sent to clean up an old hotel. Unfortunately, and predictably, the monsterous killer starts to bump them off one at a time.
The most interesting thing about this film is that it was filmed in Queensland, Australia. This is apparently so successful that there is a sequel, directed by up-and-comers the Soska Sisters .
After the events of the first film, the body of the serial killer is taken to the morgue. The place is meant to be closed down for the night, but Final Girl Amy Danielle Harris decides to stay and help out rather than go celebrate her birthday. Instead her BFF Tamara ( Katharine Isabelle ) holds the party in the morgue with all their tweenage friends.
The slasher character archetypes from Cabin In The Woods are all represented, with a slight twist. The Scholar (Michael Eklund - Wynonna Earp ) is in a wheelchair, the Athlete (Greyston Holt - Bitten ) is the heroine's pushy brother, and there is even a spare slut ( Chelan Simmons ). What really makes the movie unique is that we actually start to care about some of the characters. They are almost likeable, as opposed to the usual expendable fodder in slasher movies. The kill scenes are also impressive, a more realistic portrayal of violence than in a by-the-books effort.
Tamara decides to have sex in the morgue room, where the killer's body is stored. Unfortunately her performance is loud enough to wake the dead. The others later upbraid her, in what would get a male director accused of slut-shaming. However, the killer is the real slut-shamer, since his mother was an abusive puritan who makes Mama in Carrie look like parent-of-the-year. This plays into the trope of the medieval morality play, where the tweenagers are punished for having pre-marital sex. However, the killer turns out to be equal-opportunities and will kill just about anyone if he gets the chance.