Tag Archives: subtitled

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.

De Dødes Tjern (2019)

Lake of Death is a Norwegian remake of a famous (I’m told) Norwegian horror movie from 1958, Lake of the Dead. Same in Norwegian, though, as you can see. And man did it know it was a remake, what with all the dialogue references to Nightmare on Elm Street, Evil Dead, Cabin Fever, and so on. Mostly, that was the only problem with the movie. It couldn’t decide what kind of film it was. Slasher homage? Creepy ghost story? Portrait of a woman in declining sanity? Who knows! It really didn’t make a lick of sense until the last five minutes, at which point it made an extremely small amount of sense but still mostly not.

See, there’s this 20-something girl, and she and her twin brother owned a cabin on a lake in the Norwegian woods, or rather inherited it when they were orphaned, and eventually got it out of trust or got old enough to drive themselves to it, or, I don’t know how it worked. Usually people who are in foster care or being adopted don’t own cabins, okay? But then a year ago, the brother went missing presumed dead, and now the girl and some friends (a podcaster, a Dane, a blonde swimmer, a person who owned a car, and I forget who else) are visiting it and the lake one last time, before she sells the property.

Only, the lake has a creepy history about mesmerising people into being murderers or being a place where parents drowned their sick children who would not recover, and the cabin has unexpected secrets, and also now that they’re at the cabin, animals are being tortured, and people are going missing, and uh oh, oops all murder! ….except, you know, is it a ghost, or a newly crazy person, or a previously crazy person, or all of the above, or none of the above? Too many things, is what I’m saying here. Too many things. Pick a genre! …or transcend it, that’s okay too.

Spoilers, I guess, but I kind of wish it had been the ghost thing.


Warning: Do Not Play is a movie about a student film called Warning, which the plot of the movie (not of the student film) exhorts you not to play. Well, okay, maybe not you, but it is exhorting everyone in the movie not to play it, and especially the not quite a student herself yet also not quite an auteur movie script writer / I’m pretty sure also director who has nevertheless become obsessed with it while trying to finish the script for her own horror movie.

Broadly, obsession is what the movie is about, and also the movie-within-the-movie probably? Mi-Jung’s life, what little of it there is in the first place, seems to quickly spiral out of control, at least any time she isn’t hunting clues to Warning‘s existence, or to its director’s identity, or to the filming locations. And anytime she is hunting for all of these things, she is surrounded by danger. Because Asian ghosty horror movie, y’know?

I liked it. It was either extremely dreamlike or playing with time loops, and I’m not sure which. Probably not both? Later events offer a third option, but that feels like a spoiler even by my semi-loose “look, we both know you’re not going to watch this” standards.

You will not like it if: a) you are allergic to not really knowing what just happened, for certain, or especially if b) you find yourself yelling at the writer lady every time she pulls out her phone during a dramatic confrontation and takes photos instead of hitting record. Come on, lady, you want to make movies! Remember?! (But I did appreciate the verisimilitude of how badly cracked her phone’s screen was.)

0.0 MHz

“Zero point zero megahertz is the frequency at which a person’s soul meets a ghost,” someone technobabbles in like the third scene of 0.0 MHz. I, uh… I to be honest did not understand this at all. Something about radios and/or brainwave scanning? Other than a few scenes in which the megahertz reader is inching downward towards zero to create tension, I don’t know that there was a reason for it. …or maybe it’s real ghost hunter technobabble, rather than made up? They did, after all, have a salt circle at one point.

That’s not really important right now, I suppose. The thing about this movie is, it is a nearly perfect Frankensteinian amalgamation of classic American slasher horror and Asian spooky ghost horror. It’s like, the entire first third is, hey, let’s get some teens (whether high school or in this case college, they are honorarily teens for these purposes) in a car and drive out somewhere bad, and even make sure that a crazy-eyed dude warns them not to go there. You know, the thing that’s gone from staple to signifier to self-parody over the course of my lifetime.

Then, gradual transition with significant overlap from that movie to the haunted ghost movie, complete with unwashed black hair and random double-jointed body horror. But somehow, it works? For a movie that feels like it was put together to fulfill the terms of a bet, it’s surprisingly effective. Of five cast members, I only knew for sure whether one of them was going to live or die, and that ain’t bad. (You’ll know too.)


According to the write-up, Seoul Station is a prequel to Train to Busan, which would actually have to be more of a sidequel since the first twenty minutes of the latter movie take place during the same day / overnight that all of the former movie occurs during. The zombies are the same style (controlling for live action vs animation at least), and I have no reason to disbelieve them, it just… doesn’t make sense as a prequel instead of its own standalone movie. Partly because they have nothing to do with each other save look at how many more views we’ll get with brand recognition, but mostly because the logistics fall apart. If the Seoul movie had happened as it did, people would have known by early AM not to be getting on trains to Busan.

Whatever, it’s the same writer and director, I guess I have to take his word for it.

Leaving all that aside, though, this is a dark, brutal, and above all angry movie that would definitely fit in any US metropolis as well as it fits in Seoul. See, the zombies are real and all, but they’re also a metaphor for the homeless problem. I say that in the sense that at every opportunity, the citizenry at large and especially anyone in a position of authority continuously portrays the crazy people who are running around biting folks as the homeless gone wild, to the extent that anyone who is still alive but also homeless is considered just as dangerous as the actual zombies are, and always to their detriment.

(There is an actual plot to this movie that I have not even slightly addressed, if the above sounds like spoilers. I mean, it probably still does, but you should know.)

I wonder if anyone in the target audience, such as people who can afford TVs or movie theater excursions, listened to the angry undercurrents. US audiences wouldn’t have, so I can’t really have a lot of faith that it was different somewhere else. But maybe!