M.L. Miller aka the @$$hole formerly known as Ambush Bug here! I posted my very first horror reviews on October 1, 2010 and have been posting every Friday ever since on AICN until just recently. I’ve uprooted the show and taken it to my own site just in time for this year’s Best of the Best in Horror Countdown. It’s going to be running all through October, counting down to the best horror film of the year. Some of these films can be found in theaters, but others have unfortunately only seen the light of day on Video On Demand or simply go straight to DVD, BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews where you can check these films out.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked through my reviews over the last year since October 1st, 2016 and worked and reworked the list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth nothing or missed being on the list by a little bit for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
#17 SEOUL STATION #17
Why is SEOUL STATION #17? Sang-ho Yeon seems adept at filmmaking whether is be live action or animated. In this prequel to last year’s excellent TRAIN TO BUSAN, the outbreak of a zombie virus occurs and the people in Seoul are forced to face legions of undead. If you think you’ve seen every ieteration of zombie film, think again. SEOUL STATION was recently added to Shudder. You can also find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
SEOUL STATION (2016)
Directed by Sang-ho Yeon
Written by Sang-ho Yeon
Starring Seung-ryong Ryu, Franciska Friede, Joon Lee, Sang-hee Lee, Eun-kyung Shim
Find out more about this film here
While technically, I believe it came out first in Korea before its sequel TRAIN TO BUSAN, SEOUL STATION is finally being released here in Amerrrrrica and the film serves as a perfect counter-punch to its sequel. Seen combined and keeping with boxing terminology, it’s a bonafide one-two knockout punch for completely different reasons.
Those who have seen TRAIN TO BUSAN or any other zombie movie will be familiar with the setup to this one. At the beginning of SEOUL STATION, a homeless man with a bite wound wanders the streets of Seoul, Korea in search of help, but no one will give it to him. Of course, it turns out he is infected with a virus that kills people and then brings them back to life as a leaping, sputtering, bone-cracking, teeth-gnashing zombie that attacks and kills anything living in its path with little regard for things like gravity or the density of its own flesh and bone against glass, concrete, and steel. Meanwhile, across the city, a young man is forcing his girlfriend Hye-Sun into prostitution due to their financial hardship. When Hye-Sun’s father is informed that his daughter is on an internet escort site, he makes his way to the city and sets up a date with the boyfriend in order to find Hye-Sun. Sounds like a good plan if not for the fact that the zombie apocalypse has just begin and the streets are teeming with the undead that are infecting the living at an alarmingly fast rate. Connected only by Hye-Sun’s telephone, the two parties make their way above, through, and under zombie hordes to get to one another.
While TRAIN TO BUSAN is a blockbuster-esque rollercoaster ride of an awesome film, SEOUL STATION tells a much smaller, and surprisingly more nuanced story set in the same apocalypse. Both films deal with the usual zombie film stuff we’ve seen a million times in these films, but I was as shocked as I was with TRAIN TO BUSAN at how these tropes felt fresh and vividly new in the hands of the filmmaker of both films Sang-ho Yeon. While TRAIN TO BUSAN centered on the almost saccharine sweet relationship lesson between father and daughter, SEOUL STATION focuses much more on broader and weightier themes of class structure such as how the homeless are seen in society and how certain groups are sectioned off from safety when the shit hits the fan. Because of some coincidences and rushed assumptions, the police think that the problem is that the homeless are going crazy and having some kind of uprising. We know that is not what is happening, but the government breaks out the hoses, batons, and eventually firing squads in order to try to contain and quell the situation. There is even a scene when a well to do man who dedicated his life to working for the government finds himself trapped in with the unwashed masses and demands to be let through the barricade. He is confronted by a homeless man that also served in the military. It’s a conflict like this that elevates SEOUL STATION to something way more meaningful than a simple zombie cartoon.
And while SEOUL STATION again is about a father and daughter relationship, this one plays out in a much more sinister and pitch black fashion by the end. I don’t want to spoil this one. You have to see it yourself. But I found the ending to SEOUL STATION just as moving as the relationship between father and daughter in TRAIN TO BUSAN—just for completely different reasons. The variety in which this same theme is handled in both films shows how deft a storyteller Sang-ho Yeon really is. Just when you think the filmmaker is going to repeat himself with themes through both movies, the rug is pulled out right from under you. I was blown away by the way this one resolves itself.
Those writing off SEOUL STATION as “just an anime movie” or worse yet “just a foreign language cartoon” are missing out on a truly scary, highly energized, emotionally acrobatic horror film of the highest caliber that very much compliments and adds to the awesomeness of TRAIN TO BUSAN. If you loved TRAIN TO BUSAN, you’re going to love this one. This is no cartoony and spastic anime, this is a high tension nosedive into terror that just happens to be animated. See SEOUL STATION. It will energize your love for zombies all over again.
Worth noting: HERE ALONE!
Another zombie flick worth checking out is HERE ALONE, which focuses on the survivors with a much more microscopic lens, so precise that we rarely even see the zombies. Oh they are there, out of focus, off screen, and ever looming in the background, but this film highlights the angst, guilt, and tragedy of being a survivor in a dead world. You can find it here on iTunes and Amazon here!
Available On Demand from Vertical Entertainment!
HERE ALONE (2016)
Directed by Rod Blackhurst
Written by David Ebeltoft
Starring Lucy Walters, Gina Piersanti, Adam David Thompson, Shane West, Ryken A. Whitfield
Find out more about this film here, @herealonefilm, and on Facebook here
While survival horror is dangerously getting just as tiring as zombie horror, HERE ALONE manages to be compelling from beginning to end due to some tense direction, creative storytelling, and simplistic, yet powerful performances by a terrific cast.
HERE ALONE isn’t the first movie to shift the perspective of the zombie apocalypse to the survivors and their ordeals rather than brain-spattering/brain-eating zombie mayhem, it does so with a confident hand. THE WALKING DEAD has basically shifted the zombie threat to the back burner and HERE ALONE feels a lot like a one-and-done episode of the series in some ways as the story focuses on one couple attempting to make their way out of the city and into the wilderness and then shifts to the future where only the woman Ann (Lucy Walters) has survived on her own by living alone in the wilderness and protecting herself when she does go to get supplies by smearing herself with feces in order to cover up her scent. Ann meets another survivor Chris (Adam David Thompson) and his step-daughter Olivia (Gina Piersanti) and reluctantly accepts them into her camp, which ends up unsettling the fragile order she has established for herself.
What sets HERE ALONE apart from most zombie films is the intimate and meticulous way it displays Ann’s daily routine she sticks to in order to survive on her own. The story that unfolds explains why Ann prefers to be alone and why she is so cautious to stick to the routine she has learned. It’s a harrowing story makes it understandable why Ann is so careful as it plays out. Still, it is equally understandable when Ann lets her guard down when Chris and Olivia cross her path. The best thing about HERE ALONE is that it gets these intimate and emotional moments so right that it sucks you in and makes you care about the welfare of these survivors.
The horror of the zombies doesn’t really bring much new to the table. Filmmaker Rod Blackhurst keeps the zombies blurry, out of focus, and in the background for most of the time. The guttural howls that echo through the forest offer up enough menace in the dark and honestly, the absence of the zombies make them all the more scary once they rear their decayed heads in the final act. The appearance of the zombies themselves isn’t the most horrific scenes of HERE ALONE. It’s the quieter scenes when you realize a character you’ve found yourself caring about get into the worst kind of danger.
Still haters of the zombie and survival genre are going to find a lot of familiar things to hate on here. If you aren’t into characters you can sink your teeth into and patient horror that hits you more on an emotional than visceral level, this isn’t going to be for you. But if you watch zombie films to get into the character rather than the brain-eating and want to see some well developed characters acting out potent emotional scenes of torment, guilt, and strength of will, HERE ALONE is worth viewing.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
#31 – THE DEMOLISHER
#30 – PLANK FACE
#29 – LAST GIRL STANDING
#28 – DEVIL IN THE DARK
#27 – HELL HOUSE LLC
#26 – XX
#25 – THE SUBLET aka THE RESIDENT
#24 – PATCHWORK
#23 – Morgan Spurlock’s RATS
#22 – SPLIT
#21 – ANNABELLE 2: CREATION
#20– I AM THE PRETTY THING THAT LIVES IN THE HOUSE
#19 – THE GREASY STRANGLER
#18 – IT STAINS THE SANDS RED
#17 – SEOUL STATION
Best of lists from previous years;
2015-16 #1 – THE VVITCH
2014-15 #1 – THE CANAL
2013-14 #1 – PROXY
2012-13 #1 – MANIAC
2012 #1 – THE WOMAN
2011 #1 – THE LAST CIRCUS
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow Mark on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
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