Tag Archives: subtitled


A long time ago, I saw the George Clooney remake of Solaris, a movie about which I remember essentially nothing except that I sort of hated it. The open (and unanswerable) question is: was past me wrong? Later, my horror(?) movie podcast decided to watch the original[1] Russian Soviet adaptation of the Stanislaw Lem novel, which is what brings us here today. Arguably, having watched these movies in reverse order, I should next pick up the book.

Solaris, in a non-spoilery nutshell: there’s this guy, and he wanders around his family property staring distantly at the lake and the underwater reeds and the empty road. Later, a second guy comes to visit and recap his history with the largely oceanic planet Solaris, which we[2] have a station in orbit around. Some people went missing, and the second guy piloted a failed solo rescue mission in which he saw a lot of weird things that his onboard camera system did not corroborate, as a result of which he has advice for the first guy, who is a psychologist going to the station to decide whether it should stay open. Also, the second guy has a son who seems unfamiliar with the concept of horses, and then afterwards the second guy and the son go on a long, pointless[3] drive in [probably] China. Later yet, the psychologist goes to the station, and discusses with the remaining two residents a) what happened to the until recently remaining third resident (who was the psychologists’s friend) and b) why there are in fact rather more than two residents. Then he spends the remainder of the movie coming to grips with the answers they provide him, as well as the answers they do not provide him.

I think I might have gotten more out of the film if I had a better grasp on the painting where those hunters(?) are returning to town on a ridge while everyone ice skates in the valley town below, or more fully caught the Tolstoy and Dostoevsky references, for examples. But even at three hours, it only wears out its welcome once or twice during the most drawn out and inexplicable scenes, or when director Tarkovsky gets a little too clever by switching to various black and white shades as though we’re meant to know what is being conveyed by this change in that moment. The rest of the time, we are presented with a slow (nay, lingering) meditation on what it means to be human, and to behave humanely, in the face of the unknown.

And really, you cannot ask for much more out of your science fiction than that.

[1] False! There was a TV movie in the USSR four years earlier, which, huh, okay.
[2] humanity? The Soviets? It’s not perfectly clear, but probably humanity.
[3] Okay, that’s editorializing. I have no idea whether it was in some way central to the plot or it wasn’t.

Hotel Leikeu

If you think it’s hard to watch a foreign film in a language you don’t know while working, well, it is, but what I was going to say was, imagine how much harder it is when you watch the two halves of the movie with a gap of probably two weeks in between. So if you think this is going to be a shitshow of a review: fair.

Lingering is a haunted hotel story, a la The Shining. A young Korean woman is called upon to care for a disruptive younger sister she never even knew existed, which is also how she learns that her mother has died by suicide. At a loss for how to take care of a little girl, she takes the sister to a hotel run by one of her mother’s friends, a place where she spent a lot of time as a child herself but which in latter days is seeing less and less business; now there are only a handful of employees and maybe one other guest?[1] Only, the little girl has visions of violence and death (to be fair, this was the disruption at school as well, so it predated the hotel), but then other people start dying in mysterious and/or suspicious ways, depending on whether you think you’re in a ghost story (as our hero does) or a crime story (as the investigating police do).

Sometimes, I think movies aren’t very good but wonder if I failed them instead of them failing me, by watching while working. This time, I’m quite sure the movie was good and I would have enjoyed it more watching it at night, but at minimum all in one sitting. (This was not a choice I made, just an oops.)

[1] The rundown, “nobody comes here” aspect put me in mind of an additional hotel movie, to be honest.


I feel like this is a movie I should have heard of before it came up as the next podcast movie, or maybe I did and later forgot? The Host, a title I do not believe I understand[1], tells the story of a chemically mutated fish monster that rises from the depths of the Han River in Seoul, South Korea, and terrorizes, well, obviously the whole city and sort of the country and the world, but specifically a very diversely talented family: the grandfather who owns a food truck down by the river, his daughter who is an Olympic class archer, his son-in-law who is a bit of a layabout, his teenaged granddaughter who is the child of the previous two, and his alcoholic son. They are terrorized, specifically, by the monster choosing to take and devour the granddaughter.

There’s honestly a lot to unpack in this movie. Fears about pollution and the continued US presence in South Korea are front and center, but also fears of central authority, a theme I’ve seen running throughout almost all of the Korean horror (film or TV) I’ve watched over the past several years. But all of that is thesis material I’m just not up to thinking about at the depth it deserves. I bet this dude I know named Trent has some opinions, though.

Really, what it mostly is is an old-fashioned rollicking monster movie, a la Them or Gojira. The effects are dated, but the monster itself is fantastic, and I cared about the family. Will the archer get over her her crippling perfectionism? Will the layabout and the alcoholic overcome their natural proclivities? Will the government stop getting in the way? The more I think about it, the more of a throwback movie it becomes in my estimation. But, you know, in a good way.

The runtime is probably 30 minutes longer than it needed to be, though.

[1] Gwoemul translates as Monster, a title that makes a lot more sense. *shrug emoji*

Malasaña 32

Today’s movie was chosen randomly[1] for fun, without any particular agenda such as keeping up with a podcast or seeing a movie of the week from November or wherever I left off, sigh. The sigh being about November, not about watching a movie purely just because.

32 Malasaña Street is an address in 1970s Madrid that houses a small apartment building of the type where you own the apartments. And after a spooky prequel scene from 1972 in which a couple of kids try to retrieve a marble and get scared by an old lady in a rocking chair that had, as far as I can tell, literally nothing other than geography to do with the rest of the movie[2], a family consisting of father, mother, older teenaged sister and brother, substantially younger brother, and declining grandfather buy the top floor apartment that has been vacant for some time, at a bit of a steal for the size of it, since there is not yet an elevator on premises.

They’re all bright-eyed for the big city, even mentioning multiple times how they left “the village”. (The teens have regrets, but not the adults.) And they start getting big city jobs and talking about big city opportunities, except that there are some, well, creepy big city noises and things shifting around and puppet shows on the big city TV channel when nobody else is around, and before you know it, it’s the Spanish Poltergeist / Rosemary’s Baby crossover you never knew you should have been asking for.

Other than the teen daughter being a little too open-minded for her “I grew up in a village and also it’s 1976 right now” backstory, this was pretty perfect. Good family tensions, good terrifying ghost, A+ haunting explanation, satisfying conclusion. Unless you hate subtitles, check it out.

[1] Well, it was deepest on my Shudder to-watch list
[2] Well, okay, maybe one thing

Nóz w wodzie

As you have perhaps guessed by the title, Mary and I finally watched another movie in the so-called “weekly” letterboxd dot com challenge, about which I’ve said more than enough previously. This, the seventh in the sequence and representing the beginning of November[1], was Polish Film School[2] week. I had (of course) already seen most of these, but the first film by newcomer Roman Polanski caught my eye, and we decided to give it a whirl.[3]

Knife in the Water is the beautifully shot story of a middle-aged married couple who pick up a young hitchhiker and invite him on their overnight sailboat trip, while all three constantly pick at each other. Also, the hitchhiker has a fancy(?) knife.

Okay, that was a little dismissive. It’s a three-person character study of clashing personalities in tight spaces, even though the cinematography is ironically full of open skies and broad vistas most of the time. It’s not clear why the husband dislikes the hitchhiker so much, their initial encounter notwithstanding, and it’s even less clear why he invited the youth onto the boat, nor yet why the hitchhiker accepted. Nevertheless, the premise leads to simmering emotional and eventually physical tension that both promise to boil over before the credits… well, okay, it’s 1962 and end credits weren’t a thing yet. Allow me to correct myself to “promise to boil over before the screen fades to black.”

Was it good? I believe it was. Was it in fact the first Roman Polanski movie I’ve ever seen? It was not, but only because of Rosemary’s Baby a short while back. …which, come to think of it, shares this movie’s paradoxical claustrophobia.

[1] sigh
[2] Polish Film Movement might have been more explanatory, week title deciders
[3] To translate, I was able to find exactly one of the movie options on a streaming service I have access to, and it happened to have name recognition as a bonus.

Busanhaeng 2: Bando

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula is the second entry in the TtBCU[1], and even though it wasn’t on the list of Korean horror films for last(?)[2] week, I did the research and confirmed for myself that it counted (same director and writer as Train to Busan, and made by South Korean companies). So, that’s what we watched!

As discussed in the tagline, the movie is set four years after the events on the train, and in that time… well, the short version is North Korea was finally useful for something besides human misery. Since South Korea is on an isolated peninsula[3], they were able to use their otherwise pointless and/or actively evil military to contain the zombies, and then everyone else just stopped letting escaping boats in without incredibly onerous health checks of the kind that I think we’ve proven would not actually occur in the real world, but. And so, South Korea is a zombie-infested wasteland, and the rest of the world is all, “Huh. I guess that happened.” And the few people who did get out are mostly disliked refugees, so at least they got that part of how we’d behave correct.

Anyway, that’s all setting for a heist-and-redemption story precipitated by an army guy and his embittered brother-in-law being roped into a shot at 50% of the take on a truck full of money just sitting there, waiting to be taken by whoever can survive. It has every trope you’d expect and then some, but you know what? I liked it. (Arguably, that’s why I liked it?)

Thanks, Korean horror community!

[1] There is no TtBCU
[2] When I started this, we were potentially only a week behind. A lot of water has passed under the bridge between then and when I finished it.
[3] Hey, I see what they did there!

Miracolo a Milano

The theme for week three of the letterboxd dot com challenge was Italian Neorealism. For the uninitiated (which includes me, for example), that is a specific period in post-war Italian cinema that focuses on reality and daily life stories with no heroes. So from the list available, we picked Miracle in Milan, which is pretty much the opposite of those things? I may have done a bad job.

It is also worth noting that, wait, why is it so far past your week two review? The answer is, haha, we’ve been sick and got behind. Hoping to catch up over a few days? We’ll see!

So anyway, this movie is weird[1]. Like really weird. There’s this kid, Totò, who after experiencing a bizarre childhood punctuated by a cabbage patch adoption and multiplication tables, comes out of the orphanage as a relentlessly cheerful and giving adult who immediately finds himself in a homeless encampment[2], and proceeds to organize it into a pretty cozy and happy shantytown. (I haven’t yet gotten to where the movie is especially weird, to be clear, but saying more would go deep into spoiler towne, whose inhabitants are far less cheerful a bunch than these were.)

I guess the neorealism part is in the characters themselves rather than the plot, which shortly after I ended my synopsis above (about 15 minutes into a 90 minute movie) goes so far off the rails my metaphor is impossible to complete, but the words “wishing dove” and “timely to modern eyes class warfare” are involved, as are the words “ghostly top hat stampede”. But the characters, I was saying, the characters have a lot of daily life reality. There’s the rich family that has fallen on hard times but still has a nanny (also now homeless, natch), who spends most of their time in the shantytown trying to bilk lire from the populace. There’s the really grumpy outsider guy who keeps getting in fights with everyone else. There’s the black man and white women who arrived at the same time and are clearly mutually interested, but who keep staying away from each other because I guess Italy also had miscegenation laws?[3]

And there are more. What I guess I am impressed by, as an avowed watcher of movies that would not want to be called films, is how many of the characters in a cast of hundreds were, okay, not fully realized, but at least memorable. I’m not sure if that’s just difficult to accomplish in more plot-centric movies, or if we’ve lost something along the way, but I bet it’s some of both.

All the same, I’m glad my entry into this subgenre of film history was as plot-dense as it was, because I’m not sure how much I would have enjoyed something that was all aimless and bleak like the description of Italian neorealism reads to me. I know I said “entry”, and while I use the term advisedly, one of the other movies we contemplated, The Bicycle Thieves, is by the same writer and director, and I can’t help being a little curious. (I mean, it will not be capital-w weird, I already know that much. But still.)

[1] Also, I never saw Life is Beautiful, but I can tell you with high confidence that `the guy who made it has this movie as one of his major influences. Seriously, look it up later and prove me right.
[2] If you see the wry humor in that, trust me, so did the filmmakers.
[3] That plotline ends in a way that would be spectacularly cringey if I were to describe it, but in its own context was both progressive and earnedly hilarious.


Man. This was a ride.

You know all the stereotypes about Japanese schoolgirls you learned from anime? It turns out they also existed in 1977 in Japanese cinema. This particular set of schoolgirls, and let me see if I can get this right, consist of Fantasy (who has a vivid imagination), Mac (who likes to eat), Melody (who plays music you see), Sweet (who helps out, like with cleaning or whatever), Kung Fu (who… I mean, you can suss this one out), Professor[1] (she’s smart and wears glasses), and Gorgeous, who in addition to, one supposes, being pretty, also precipitates the main action of the film by being upset that her father has decided to remarry eight years after his wife’s death, so she refuses to take all her friends on summer vacation with him and his fiancee and instead takes them to visit her (maternal, natch) aunt’s House.

Between the melodrama of Japanese schoolgirls and the separate melodrama of the tragic tale of Gorgeous’s spinster aunt, dating back to the war[2], I really had no idea what to expect at this point, and while it perhaps would be better for the viewer to show up similarly uninformed, I gots to earn my money[3] somehow, so, stop here if you want to see the movie based on only the above description and my nod that yes, probably watch it.

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I’ll get the easy part out of the way. The Wailing is a supernatural mystery in which a lot of people in a small town are killing each other in zombiepocalypse-adjacent ways, but with no transmission of disease. Is the problem drugs? Mushrooms? Demons? Ghosts? Evil spirits? (Do Koreans distinguish between the latter three possibilities?) But then it turns personal when a local cop’s daughter is possessed by the same force. On the one hand, we never see the incubation period of the drugs-or-mushrooms-or-demons in any of the other murderous victims, so her slow deterioration might still be perfectly reasonable under any of those explanations, but on the other hand, she’s a little too young to have gotten mixed up in drugs or random forest mushrooms, probably.

The meat of the movie, though, is what I want to talk about, except it’s entirely spoilers, more than the arguably too many I’ve already provided, so I’ll go to a cut.

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Perempuan Tanah Jahanam

I think I like the Indonesian title better. “Woman of the damned land” is kind of badass, you know? Whereas, I cannot really determine what Impetigore is supposed to mean. My best guess is that it’s a portmanteau of the Latin “impetigo”, meaning to rush upon and attack, and “gore”, meaning buckle up and get ready for buckets of the stuff. And I’m sure that by Indonesian standards there was rather a lot of the stuff? Nah, that’s not fair. Whatever else this was, it was not a tame movie.

Imagine, if you will, that you are a broke-ass tollbooth attendant trying to determine how to make ends meet with your best friend who is also a broke-ass tollbooth attendant, only she’s a little more worldly than you are, and there’s been this creepy guy perving on you for a few days in a row, and now he’s identified you as a person with a different name from a village so small it isn’t on the map, and also tried to kill you with a machete because they in the village don’t want “your” curse anymore. So you dig through stuff your aunt left you when she died, and find indications that your long dead parents did in fact come from that village, and they have exactly one picture of you, when you were five right before they died and you went to live with your aunt, and as if it weren’t weird enough to only have the one picture, that picture has the name the machete-wielding perv called you by.

If I were that girl, I’d maybe run away from Indonesia or something? Not her. She sees the big expensive house in the background, and, remembering that they are both broke-ass 20-somethings, they decide to hare off to the remote village so they can sell the house and stop being quite so poor, even if the village is populated by the kind of dead-eyed people you would expect to find in Resident Evil 4.

All’s I’m saying is a) that is a really good setup, and b) between this and Satan’s Slaves (by the same director and producers), it’s fair to say that Indonesian horror cinema is having a moment.

Lastly, I have a thing that I do not know if I learned about Indonesian culture or that I learned about the writer or director of the film, or a thing that I learned about the makeup effects artist. But seriously a lot of people, with moderately implausible frequency, threaten suicide, and suicide of a very specific type at that. This is where I need a Joe Bob Briggs to come along and do my research for me and explain which one of the above is at play here.