Discover more from Horror Bulletin
28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, Atragon, Overlord, Monster on Campus, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Weekly Horror Bulletin Newsletter 236
We’ve got six more movies and a short film this week:
We’ll start with the early-2000s zombie classics, “28 Days Later” and “28 Weeks Later,” then we’ll watch the crazy 1963 kaiju movie “Atragon.” Finally, we’ll discuss “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” from 2017. Our bonus movies this week are:
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“Monster on Campus” from 1958
“Overlord” from 2018
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28 Days Later (2002)
Directed by Danny Boyle
Written by Alex Garland
Stars Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Megan Burns
Run Time: 1 Hour, 53 Minutes
Spoiler-free Judgment Zone
This was the movie that popularized the fast zombie idea. The basic premise is unique, showing the very start of the disaster then skipping ahead 28 Days Later as the title spells out. The cast, effects, and story are all excellent.
We get video feeds of some crazy carnage and rioting. A monkey is strapped to a table, being forced to watch a dozen monitors of ultraviolence. Then the animal rights terrorists break in to release him and others like him. A scientist catches them in the act and warns that the chimps are infected and highly contagious. They’ve been infected with “Rage.” They release one ape, which soon bites one of the activists. Within a few seconds, everyone there is either dead or infected with the rage virus…
28 Days later, Jim wakes up in the hospital. He’s hooked to a bunch of machines; he’s been in a coma for a long time. He gets up and sees that the hospital is a mess. He goes outside and finds everything in London is deserted. He shouts repeatedly, but there’s apparently no one in the city. He finds a newspaper with the headline, “Evacuation!”
He goes into a church and finds hundreds of bodies. He says, “Hello” and finally comes across someone who isn’t dead; it’s a priest who jerks and staggers towards him. The priest is clearly violently insane, so Jim runs outside. Other infected people chase Jim, but suddenly there are people throwing fireballs at the infected; Jim goes with them.
They’re Selena and Mark, two surviving humans. Jim explains that he was in a bike accident and just woke up to all this. Selena tells about the virus that infected peoples’ blood. They tried to evacuate the cities, but it was too late. The army was overrun. There’s no government, no police, no army, no electricity.
They agree to go look for his almost-certainly-dead parents once the sun comes up. They get to Jim’s house easily enough, and they find his parents’ dead bodies; they took poison. Mark tells his story, and it wasn’t pretty. That night, Jim lights a candle, which invites an attack, but he’s not injured. Mark, on the other hand, gets a cut with blood in it; Selena hacks him to death immediately.
Selena says that if someone gets infected, you get ten to twenty seconds to kill them before they go berzerk. As it gets dark, they spot blinking Christmas lights way up in a skyrise window. They go to that building and some infected chase them up the stairs. A man in riot gear stops the attackers. They meet Frank and his daughter Hannah. They live in an apartment in the skyscraper, which is easy to defend.
Frank seems nice, but he’s running out of supplies. They hear a voice on the radio claiming to be a safe place just north of London; it’s two or three days away. After a bit of debate, the four drive north. They break down in a tunnel and there are rats. The rats are running from the infected. They barely escape. Then they raid an untouched grocery store and continue on out of town.
They stop for gas, and Jim checks out inside, running into an infected child which he beats to death with a bat. A bit later, they stop at a farm for lunch. They decide to stay for the night, and Jim has nightmares.
They resume driving and pass Manchester, which is entirely burning. They stop at a military roadblock, but everyone is gone. This is where the radio signal told them to go, so now what? We see a crow eating a dead man’s remains up high. Frank looks up at it just as a single drop of blood falls and gets in his eye. It only takes a few seconds for him to become an infected maniac. Jim is about to swing the bat when soldiers shoot Frank full of holes.
Jim, Selena, and Hannah go with the soldiers. The soldiers take them to a compound where Major West is in charge. West is the one who’s been broadcasting on the radio, but this place isn’t what any of them had hoped for. At least it’s safe– the whole compound is surrounded by landmines and snipers. Jim sees right off that these soldiers aren’t strictly the disciplined type he was expecting. West even has an infected as a prisoner; he’s waiting to see how long it takes for them to starve to death.
They all sit down for a feast, but the eggs are rotten. Everyone talks, and it’s all pretty depressing stuff. Suddenly, a landmine goes off and a siren blares. There’s a one-sided battle that the soldiers quickly win. One of the soldiers gets all cocky with Serena and is disciplined by the sergeant. Major West and Jim talk about who they've killed in the past. West’s men were without any hope so he promised he would provide women. That’s what the broadcast was about. And there’s a woman in the place now. Or two actually. Eww.
Jim runs to get Selena and Hannah out of the place, but he’s knocked out by one of the soldiers. Jim gets handcuffed to a radiator along with the sergeant. The two are released and then led out into the woods, where somehow Jim gets away. He falls down and watches the contrail of an airplane flying way up in the sky.
The soldiers start having their way with Selena and Hannah. They get a minute alone and Selena gives Hannah a handful of pills, but a soldier stops them before Hannah can take more than a few. A siren goes off, and the soldiers stop what they’re doing to investigate at the big roadblock. Jim kills one of the soldiers, and Major West runs into the woods after him.
Jim returns to the soldiers’ compound and releases Jones, the infected prisoner. He infects another, and things go downhill from there. Not only are there a growing number of infections in the building, but Jim is there too, and he’s not happy.
West returns and finds that things have gone bad in his absence. JIm and Selena are reunited but then Hannah comes in and whacks him over the head thinking he’s infected. It didn’t hurt too much though. The three run outside to the car, where they find West waiting. West shoots Jim, but Hannah finishes off West. They ram the gate on the way out.
28 more days later, Jim wakes up in a bed. The dead are finally dying of starvation. Selena and Hannah have made a huge cloth banner to signal the overflying airplane. This time, the plane sees them. Will they be rescued?
This wasn’t the first film with fast zombies, but it was the first to really take off and popularize the idea. I wondered halfway through the film, what do these infected people eat? They’d have starved to death within a month, and these aren’t magically undead zombies. At least this idea was touched upon by Major West.
All the early wandering around in empty London sets the stage perfectly for later in the film. By having Jim wake up from a coma, they were able to bypass all the “virus spreading” part of the plot. The music really stands out as well, it really sets the mood for each scene.
The ending takes a bit of time to set up, but it’s very tense, and you don’t really know if any of them will survive.
28 Weeks Later (2007)
Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Written by Rowan Joffe, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, Enrique Lopez Lavigne
Stars Robert Carlyle, Rose Byrne, Jeremy Renner, Harold Perrineau
Run Time: 1 Hour, 40 Minutes
Spoiler-free Judgment Zone
Some time has passed since the last film, and things are getting back to normal, right? The infection only wiped out England and they’re bringing people back now that it’s over, so is it all okay? Well, not quite. This one was good, but not as good as the first one. The effects were still excellent, and it’s a blood fest. But we didn’t think the story was as gripping this time around.
Don and Alice talk about their food supplies that are running low. We then see that they are part of a group of survivors. They argue about one of the girl’s boyfriends and whether or not he’ll return. A child starts beating on the door wanting in. Don opens the door and lets the kid in. He says that his parents were trying to kill him, and there were loads of others. Who he led right to their hiding place. The girl from before sees her boyfriend outside and immediately gets infected. Things devolve quickly from there.
Only Don gets outside, but he’s being pursued by loads of infected by this point. He finally manages to jump onto a motorboat and get away from them that way.
15 days later, Great Britain was quarantined. 28 Days Later, mainland Britain was destroyed by the Rage virus. 5 weeks later, the infected have died of starvation. 11 Weeks later, an American-led NATO force enters London. 18 weeks later, mainland England is declared free of infection, and 24 weeks later reconstruction begins.
28 Weeks Later, Doyle is a soldier on the roof whining about not having anything to shoot. A group of returning evacuees arrive at the airport, even some children. Everyone coming in is screened for infection before they are allowed to return. They are heading for District One in the green zone. There are safe places and not-so-safe places throughout London. It is forbidden to cross the river and leave the safe zone.
The Major complains about families and what if the virus returns. It’s only been a few months since the last infected died.
Tammy and Andy get off the plane and are met by Don whom we met earlier. Don tells them that he keeps the power and water running; he practically runs the place and has full access. He tells what happened to his wife and their mother, and he lies a little to make it sound like he didn’t abandon them. Don still has nightmares about Alice.
At night, we can see from the lights just how small the “safe zone” really is. Doyle, Flynn, and the other soldiers keep watch over the safe buildings.
Andy complains that he doesn’t even have a picture of his dead mother, so Tammy suggests the two of them sneak across the river, go to their house, and get one. Doyle, still on watch, sees them cross the bridge. They get into the deserted, still trash-covered part of the city that still has bodies, get a scooter and drive through the same abandoned-type of scenes we saw in the first film.
They arrive at their former house and go inside. They get a photo and pack up some other stuff. And goes upstairs and finds… his mother, not dead art all. She survived that attack and went home afterward. The two kids run outside where the army is waiting for them. Alice is taken into custody as well; she’s panicked and half-insane.
Alice is screened and they do several blood tests. Scarlett says Alice is definitely infected, but she can't explain why she’s not a monster. She is, however, a carrier and can infect others. Scarlet says she could be the key to a cure, but her boss, Stone, says they can run tests on her corpse just as well.
Don is notified about what happened, and he doesn’t know what to think about Alice being recovered. Tammy accuses Don of lying about Alice’s death. Don goes to see Alice, who is strapped down to a table. They make up, and he kisses her. A few seconds later, he’s fully infected, and Alice looks surprised. He tears her apart. We then get a montage of Don infecting soldiers and other people on the way out, freely passing through security doors with the access badge he’s wearing.
Stone orders a lockdown, “Execute code red.” Tammy and Andy find out what a zombie looks like before Scarlet lets them out. She thinks they may genetically carry the immunity that Alice had, but they all get separated in the crowd. There’s a quarantine room, and Don breaks in. There’s soon pandemonium in the crowded room as everyone becomes infected. Andy gets away through the air vent.
Everyone runs outside to where Doye and snipers try to decide who’s infected and who isn’t from the rooftops. Stone eventually orders them to shoot everyone. The snipers do their job, and a whole lot of uninfected people die. Andy soon meets up with Tammy and Scarlet. Doyle is locked in with them, and he wants to get out of there.
Flynn calls Doyle to warn him that the air force is going to firebomb in a matter of minutes. The government soon starts destroying everything.
Doyle, Scarlet, Sam, Tammy, and Andy cross the bridge into the unsafe zone, leaving the hordes of infected behind them. They all go to a field to rest, but there are several dozen infected approaching. Flynn comes in in his helicopter, but he can’t carry that many people. Sam panics and grabs the helicopter. Flynn chops up a bunch of them in his copter blades, but not all of them.
There is much running and shooting as the four try to get away from the pursuing infected mob. Doyle gets them into a car and pushes it to get it started before he’s set on fire by flamethrowers.
Scarlet, Tammy, and Andy make their way through the subway. As Scarlet tries to lead the other two through the darkness with her night vision, there is much screaming– until Scarlet is beaten to death by Don, who has appeared from nowhere.
Don jumps on top of Andy and bites him. Tammy shoots Don repeatedly until he’s dead. She chases Andy for a short way, but he doesn’t turn crazy. Tammy lies and says he’s not a carrier.
The two walk into Wembley Stadium where Flynn has parked the helicopter. He lets the board and flies them to safety.
28 days later, we see another outbreak, this time in Paris. That’s not gonna be contained.
It was OK, but I never really bought the idea of bringing back civilians when so little of the country was under their control. Half the soldiers are jerks and the other half can’t follow orders. I also see no reasonable reason why the soldiers would blindly just kill everyone; unlike a normal zombie virus, you can tell if this virus has infected someone within seconds. A healthy-looking person who can stand still for thirty seconds is fine. Even more so if they’re driving a car.
The music was fine, although not up to the first one. The acting was decent, even though several of the characters weren’t acting rationally. The zombie makeup and effects were excellent, but overall the film focused entirely too much on the children.
Short Film: Worth the Weight (2023)
Directed by Vincent Dormani
Written by Vincent Dormani
Stars Cielo Gomez, Austin Pizza
Run Time: 7:33
A girl is on a diet. She is losing, but not very quickly. She wants to fit in that little black dress for the prom, but she’s not going to make it in time. Then she finds a mysterious package on her doorstep with a weight-loss drink inside. “Watch the pounds melt off!”
She tries it, and it works!
Was it worth the weight?
It’s always clear what’s happening, the lighting and sound are good, and the creature is disturbing, especially as it walks through the darkness. We’re not quite clear on why this is happening, but it’s still fun to watch.
Directed by Ishiro Honda, Shue Matsubayashi
Written by Shinichi Sekizawa, Shunro Oshikawa, Shigeru Komatsuzaki
Stars Tadao Takashima, Yoko Fujiyama, Ken Uehara, Yu Fujiki
Run Time: 1 Hour, 34 Minutes
Spoiler-free Judgment Zone
It’s a movie full of big ideas and bad science. There’s a lot going on with subs, sea monsters, freeze rays, and a lost civilization out for blood. It hasn’t held up well over time, but it was still a pretty fun watch.
A man touches his cab driver who doesn’t stop; the contact burns him.
A photographer works with a model. It’s a bikini shoot on the beach– at night. Something scary comes up out of the water and scares the whole group. Susumu gets a picture of the thing before it goes back into the sea. Suddenly, the cab from before drives off the end of the pier. It all steams and bubbles as if the water was acid. Credits roll.
In the daytime, they pull the car out of the bay. The detectives and reporters ask Susumu for his story yet again, but the police don’t believe him. Still, there is a photo. There’s a woman getting off a ship and Susumu thinks she’s got the look he’s wanted in a model. She drives off before he can talk to her, but he does get her license plate number.
An engineer was kidnapped this morning; the man last night was an engineer too. In both cases, the kidnapper was “steamy.”
A reporter comes to the owner of a shipping company and wants to talk. They talk about an uncompleted submarine project from the war. The commander of that final mission, Captain Jinguji, is still alive. Makoto, the shipping man’s secretary, is also Jinguji’s daughter.
Susumi comes to the same place, since Makoto is the girl he’s been trying to track down. Makoto tells her boss that a scary man has been following her, and she doesn’t like it. The car that is driving them has the same steamy drive from before– he wants the admiral. It’s another kidnapping, but this time Susumu and his friend get involved. They are taken as well. The man says they’re going to the Empress of the Mu Empire, a legendary country from 10,000 years ago.
The men fight back, and the kidnapper dives into the ocean to get away. There’s a big submarine way out in the ocean. But Susumu, the admiral, and everyone else gets away. As the detective questions them, Admiral Kusumi gets a package delivered from the Kingdom of Mu. It’s a reel of film.
The film contains evidence of the existence of Mu, a continent sunk beneath the Pacific. The A-403 submarine is in the film as well, and the tape says the Captain Jinguji is currently at work building an even more powerful submarine.
The military calls on the United Nations. They find the whole idea of Mu to be absurd and do nothing. Out at sea, a submarine uses a strange heat weapon to destroy a ship. Mu has declared war on the rest of the world. Venice and Hong Kong are completely wiped out. Now the U.N. believes it all.
Up on the space station, people push buttons.
The UN’s greatest submarine, the “Red Satan” pursues a Mu sub back to its undersea base. The Mu ship goes much deeper than the American sub can, so they have to give up and turn around– except the sub is crushed by the water pressure. The Japanese military is afraid to use an H-Bomb, but they have their “Terror Gun,” but they don’t know its limitations.
Does the Admiral know where Jinguji is? They need the captain’s new submarine. Admiral Kusumi says Captain Jinguji refused his orders and is dishonorable. They capture one of Jinguji’s agents, and the man says he’ll take them to the captain.
In the city of Mu, Agent 23 reports that everything is going according to plan. The admiral, Mokoto, Susumu, journalist Unno, and the rest are on a boat to go to see Jinguji. They disembark and soon, Makoto meets her father.
Jinguji says the first test run of the new super-sub will be tomorrow. They go to see the sub, and it’s huge. It also has a big drill on one end. Eventually, the sub launches. Then they all go outside and watch the sub come up out of the water– except it keeps going up. It flies as well. It’s a massive success! Captain Jinguji says tomorrow they’ll try the freeze gun.
The admiral tells Jinguji that Japan has formally abolished war, but the Captain takes offense to that. They argue about politics for a while, and it’s not clear that Jinguji is going to be a good guy. Makoto is disappointed in him, and that sways his opinion.
The reporter, Unno, turns out he’s an agent of Mu, and he kidnaps Makoto and Susumu. He’s planted explosives, and they go off before anyone even knows about them.
There’s a huge dance down in the throne room of Mu, and the Empress watches the show. Susumu and Makoto are in the center of it. They’re going to be sacrificed to Munda, their god. They look out the window and see Munda, a huge snake creature. Susumu and the kidnapped engineers are put to work.
Back on JinGuji’s island, they try to dig out the buried submarine. In Japan, a bunch of Mu fighter planes attack, and the world’s capitals are threatened. The new submarine is buried, but it otherwise checks out as OK. Jinguji gives the order, and the ship drills right through the wreckage. They fly to the location of the Mu Empire and then submerge to find it.
The clock strikes twelve, and Mu attacks in force. Whole cities collapse into sinkholes. Munda rises from the depths and shoots its laser breath at the warships, destroying them easily. As the high priest of Mu gloats, the new super sub approaches.
The Empress comes to the cells and says the prisoners will be sacrificed to Munda, but Susumu threatens to blow them all up. He gets the empress as a hostage. They put on pressurized suits, but Munda is out there. As the submarine fires at the huge snake, the characters swim to the sub in the confusion.
Empress Mu and Captain Jinguji argue over who is going to surrender to whom. The captain gives the order to dive and destroy the capital of Mu. Munda tries to grab the ship, but they electrify the hull. Then they fire the freeze gun at Munda, and that does the trick; Munda is no longer a threat.
The sub starts to burrow through the earth toward Mu. The priest wonders how they managed to get into their power generator room. The men from the sub shoot the Mu people and freeze them all solid. The soldiers set their explosive devices and run back to the submarine. The sub then backs out through the tunnel it made and surfaces.
When the explosives go off, Mu is destroyed. The Empress jumps overboard and vanishes into the smoke.
The miniatures in the film are really good for the time period. There’s a huge cast, especially in the Mu throne room scenes. It’s really ambitious, but it also drags a lot in the middle. What was up with that space station that appeared in just one scene and had no relevance to the plot at all?
It’s an interesting film. It doesn't hold up terribly well, but it’s fun to watch just because it has so much going on. Giant monster. Futuristic submarine. Freeze ray. Really, really bad science. It’s fun and awful at the same time!
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Written by Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthimis Filippou
Stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan
Run Time: 2 Hours, 1 Minute
Spoiler-free Judgment Zone
It’s slow and tedious, yet fascinating at the same time. A strong cast really helped a lot. There’s a strange element to the dialog, it’s very stilted and polite, which along with a few other strange things around the edges gives the whole thing a vaguely surreal feeling. Overall we liked it more than disliked it, though it felt a bit long.
We open on a scene of open-heart surgery. Credits roll.
Steven Murphy is the doctor in this operating room. He meets up with young Martin afterward. Martin apologizes four or five times for being late. Steven gives Martin a very expensive watch and Martin asks for a hug. They’re oddly formal. Martin goes home and has dinner with his family, and that’s weirdly formal as well. Youngest son Bob needs a haircut, as does sister Kim.
When they have sex, wife Anna pretends to be unconscious with a general anesthetic, just the way he likes it. He introduces Martin as one of his daughter’s schoolmates to Matthew, an anesthesiologist. Everything just seems a little off with these people.
Steven invites Martin to come to meet the family; he’s never met any of them before. Kim sings for Martin. They all seem weirdly friendly and polite to Martin. Steven tells Anna that Martin’s father died in a car crash, and he went to the funeral.
Martin invites Steven over for dinner tomorrow night. They end up watching a movie afterward until Martin goes to bed abruptly. Steven is left with Martin’s mother, who remembers his hands from the hospital. She soon starts kissing his hands and coming on to him, and he leaves.
The next morning, Martin is waiting for Steven at the hospital. Martin thinks his father should have come out of that surgery Steven performed. Martin says his chest hurts, and he’s afraid he inherited a heart problem. Steven orders some heart tests for Martin to make him feel better, there’s nothing wrong with him.
More and more, Martin stalks the doctor; he seems oddly obsessed.
At a picnic, Matthew tells Steven that he saw Martin hanging around Steven’s car. Kim says she saw Martin after choir practice.
The next morning, Bob says his legs are numb and he can’t move them or stand up. Steven and Anna rush him to the hospital. After an examination, Bob is fine. On the way out to the car, he falls down; maybe he’s not that fine. After even more tests, the doctors still say he should be okay. That night, Kim and Martin go riding on his motorcycle.
Martin comes to visit Bob the next day. Martin calmly tells Steven that if Steven doesn’t kill one member of his family, his entire family will die. Steven gets to choose which one to kill. It’s only a fair trade for Steven killing his father. Martin explicitly explains how they will all die. Steven has Martin removed by security.
Bob won’t eat. Steven tries to force feed Bob a donut. Kim still sees Martin every night, but her parents don’t know about it. She wants to have sex, but he prefers to leave.
The doctors think Bob’s simply got a psychosomatic disorder; it’s all in his head. He’s not eating, and he doesn’t look good. Steven takes Bob out for a drag, dropping him on the hard floor several times. Steven tells Bob a very weird story about his own father’s genitals. He then threatens to make Bob eat his own hair if this is all an act. Anna says, “It’s all going to be fine.”
At choir practice the next day, Kim passes out. Things are not going to be fine. She can’t walk and won’t eat either.
Steven goes to Martin’s house, but no one’s home.
Anna and Steven talk about Martin. Steven’s been seeing him for about six months; he knew Martin was unbalanced. Steven says he had been drinking a little before the operation on Martin’s father, but he didn’t kill him.
Kim talks to Martin on the phone, even from the hospital; she has no idea that Martin is behind all their problems. Kim gets out of bed and walks to the window to wave at Martin, but Anna doesn’t see him. After this, Anna forbids Kim from talking to him ever again, but Kim is argumentative. Anna takes her phone.
Steven gets the hospital to bring in nationwide experts to work on the problem. Anna goes to see Martin at his house. “Ever since your husband killed my father, he’s been flirting with my mother.” She asks why she has to suffer for something her husband did three years ago. “I don’t know if this is fair, but it’s the only thing I can think of that’s even close to justice.”
The hospital director says there’s nothing more they can do for the kids and that they should be transferred home.
Anna talks to Matthew and asks if he was the anesthesiologist on Martin’s father’s operation. She wants to see the dead man’s medical file. He tells her that Steven had been drinking that day, but that wasn’t unusual at the time. In return for the information, Anna gives Matthew something he’s always wanted.
The kids move home, hospital beds and all. Anna comments on Steven’s beautiful hands. She clearly blames Steven for the whole situation. He gets upset.
Steven now has Martin tied up in the basement. He shows Anna, and she doesn’t say a word. Martin says a clean slate is just one murder away. Martin is clearly psychotic, and he takes a big bite out of his own arm after he bites Steven. Just to be fair.
Kim and Bob talk, and they both seem to know exactly what’s going on. Bob drags himself downstairs and cuts most of his own hair off. Steven asks the school principal which of the two kids he likes best. Anna tells Steven to pick a child; they’re still young enough to have another one. Kim talks to Martin about sacrificing her little brother, and she’ll still run away with him. She drags herself out of the house and down the street.
The next day, Anna lets Martin go. Bob starts bleeding from the eyes, a sign that the end is near.
Later, we see Anna and both kids gagged and duct-taped with pillowcases over their heads. He pulls a stocking cap over his own head and spins around. Pin the tail on the donkey? He fires and doesn’t hit anyone. After the third or fourth attempt, he finally shoots Bob.
Martin comes to the diner and sees Steven, Anna, and Kim. We see that Kim is eating again. All three of them get up and walk out, not saying a word to Martin.
The entire movie is very awkward and slow, and the weirdly robotic, monotone dialog is off putting. None of them seems remotely human or realistic. Once both kids are in the hospital, it starts picking up, but the weird dialog continues.
I love how the kids drag themselves down the stairs, and the parents don’t offer to help them in any way. The shotgun thing at the end was just bizarrely stupid.
Anna’s not much of a mother. After a while, she knew exactly what was happening. Wouldn’t she have volunteered to be the victim?
How did they explain Bob’s death? There were far more natural-looking ways they could have killed him. No one went to jail at the end, so they must have done something with the body. They also never really explain how Martin did whatever it was that he did to the children. Poison? Black magic? Hypnosis?
It’s a horribly slow and tedious film, but it’s definitely disturbing, and there’s a lot to think about and question when it’s over.
Directed by Julius Avery
Written by Billy Ray, Mark L. Smith
Stars Jovan Adepo, Wyatt Russell, Mathilde Olivier
Run Time: 1 Hour, 50 Minutes
Spoiler-free Judgment Zone
It starts out as an intense war movie, coasts along for a while, then progresses into an action heavy horror movie. There were quite a few practical effects which were pretty great. The middle takes a while, but it was worth the wait.
We get the opening shot of CGI-enhanced D-Day near the end of WWII. A bunch of guys on an airplane talk about going home afterward. We meet a few who have names; Chase, Rosenfeld, Ford, Boyce, and a few others. Their mission is to blow up a German transmitter hidden inside a church. A mission crucial to the success of the D-Day Invasion.
Things start getting really rough on the plane, and people die. It’s time to jump out or burn up, so they all abandon the plane via parachute. We follow Boyce on the way down, and he doesn’t enjoy it at all. He lands in a pond and has to cut loose his pack and supplies.
Armed with nothing but a pistol, he goes off in search of other survivors. He meets up with Corporal Ford, who knows all about demolitions and can finish the mission. Tibbet, Dawson, and Chase join them, but Dawson doesn’t last long in the minefield.
The group finds some kind of dismembered animal, but they can’t identify what it is. They spot a girl running through the woods; Chloe offers to lead them to the nearest village. She takes them home, where they rest a bit and get organized to complete their mission. They all pick on Boyce for being too gentle and peaceful. Chloe’s aunt lives in the house, and she’s sick; Boyce hears her strange, inhuman wheezing. She’s also hideously deformed.
Captain Wafner, a German, comes to the door. He likes Chloe, but the feeling’s not mutual. He wonders why she didn’t cook him anything. He forces himself on Chloe as Ford and Boyce watch from the attic. This goes badly for Wafner.
Boyce goes out looking for Tibbet and Chase, but instead finds a scientist and some soldiers burning a bunch of bodies. He jumps into a truck carrying corpses and soon finds himself in an underground laboratory of some sort. He explores and sees lots of really strange stuff. He finds syringes full of red serum and pockets one of them. He then finds Rosenfeld with a weird tube stuck in his side. He pulls the tube out, and the two work toward finding an exit.
The pair makes it back to Chloe’s house and regroups with the others. “They’re doing experiments on the villagers,” he tells Ford. They ask Wafner about the syringe, but he plays dumb. He says they’re being given a purpose, like with Chloe’s aunt. Ford tortures Wafner, but Boyce doesn’t approve.
Later, Wafner gets loose and kills Chase before being stopped. Boyce injects Chase with the red stuff, just like he saw them doing in the secret lab. He almost immediately sits up; he feels much better now, great in fact, and the fatal bullet holes don’t even hurt. He starts getting all veiny and starts deforming as they watch. He gets out of control, and eventually, Ford has to shoot him. Wafner gloats, “The thousand-year Reich needs thousand-year soldiers.” Chase gets up again, and Boyce smashes his head in a hundred times with his rifle butt. Wafner gets away but is shot in the confusion. Ford wants to blow up the tower, but Boyce wants to destroy the labs below.
Wafner goes down to the lab and shoots himself with the medicine. The scientist yells, “We’ve never tried it on the living!”
Outside, Boyce, Ford, Tibbet, and Rosenfeld break into the heavily-guarded lab. Boyce and Chloe enter the “hatchery” and find Chloe’s brother Paul there. She runs into one of the drug-mutants and manages to slow him down but not kill him. She eventually uses a flamethrower, and that works. Ford runs into the drug-enhanced Wafner and it’s a one-sided battle.
Boyce comes in and fights with Wafner, but he doesn’t do well either. Ford injects himself with the serum, and then it’s more of a fair fight with Wafner. Ford locks Boyce outside as he goes back in to set off the explosives manually.
Boyce makes his way outside as everything explodes around him. He walks to the village where Rosenfeld, Tibbet, and Chloe wait for him.
Many of the special effects were of the practical variety, and they look a lot better than the usual CGI nonsense. The opening scene has a lot of action, but then it slows down quite a bit once they get into the village; it drags a bit. We’re almost an hour in before there’s any sign of horror elements.
It’s well-made, well-acted, but if you’re here for a horror film, it takes an awfully long time to get there. Once it gets there, it’s pretty good, but it’s all very predictable.
Monster on the Campus (1958)
Directed by Jack Arnold
Written by David Duncan
Stars Arthur Franz, Joanna Moore, Judson Pratt, Nancy Walters
Run Time: 1 Hour, 17 Minutes
Spoiler-free Judgment Zone
This was a sort of Jekyll and Hyde story with worse science. But bad science aside, it’s a decent movie. There are some thrills, chills, and suspense in a story that moves briskly.
At Dunsfield University, Professor Donald Blake makes sexist remarks to Madeline, who is in the process of having a face-mold made. He talks about evolution and says humanity is doomed if it can’t escape their ape-like instincts. Jimmy arrives, and he’s got a special fish from Madagascar. It’s starting to melt, and Jimmy’s dog Samson licks up the bloody melt-water and then barks at Madeline.
This species of fish is over a million years old. It’s immune to the forces of evolution. Samson attacks Jimmy, so they go to see Dr. Cole to patch up the student. It’s not rabies. Blake notices that Samson’s teeth seem bigger than they should be. “That dog is a throwback to an earlier age.” He lifts the old dead fish out of the box and cuts his finger on one of the teeth, which is then exposed to the old fish-water. Nurse Molly is there, and she helps him bandage the wound.
Molly drives Blake home, but he passes out before they arrive. Molly goes inside to call Dr. Cole, but someone with hairy hands comes in behind her and kills her. Madeline and the night watchman go into the lab to check on Samson’s condition, expecting to find Blake there. Samson is a good dog, and he’s back to normal.
Madeline goes to Blake’s house and sees Molly’s car outside; she thinks there’s some romance going on, but then she finds the place trashed. She calls the police and they find Donald in the backyard, along with Molly’s body hanging from a tree.
Blake recounts what happened that night to Lt. Stevens from the police. All the evidence points to Blake as the murderer. Stevens immediately has Blake arrested. On the other hand, they found a third person’s fingerprints on the scene– definitely not Blake. They release him.
Later, Blake gives a lecture about the ancient fish and talks more about controlling evolution. We could evolve past all morality to lengths unimaginable today. After the lecture, they put the fish away again. They look at Samson’s teeth, but they’re just normal dog’s teeth now. Jimmy wants his dog back, but Blake wants to do more tests.
Madeline asks if there was anything between Blake and Molly, and he clears that up. Stevens thinks someone is out to frame Blake, so he puts a bodyguard on Blake. He notices a dragonfly on the back of the coelacanth, but it flies away. He leaves the lab to show some strange fish bacteria to Dr. Cole, and Jimmy comes to the lab for his dog. There’s a giant dragonfly outside, and they let it in and capture it. Blake says the dragonfly is an old, extinct species. There must be a connection between the dragonfly and the old fish. He figures out that the fish’s blood is behind all this.
Blake, who is apparently the sloppiest scientist ever, accidentally drips dragonfly blood into his pipe and then lights up. He starts getting trippy and then gets hairy palms. His police escort, Eddie, comes in, gun drawn, and chases the monster across the campus. He calls in to Lt. Stevens just as he’s killed.
Stevens and the other cops arrive and find monstrous footprints. Blake sleeps it off and returns to his destroyed lab. The news people start calling it the “Beast of Dunsfield.” Dr. Howard, the head of the university, thinks the footprints could have been faked by an expert at modeling, such as Blake.
Madeline comes to see Blake, who’s been canceling his classes all week; he’s been working on the fish. Madeline’s father is Professor Howard, and he’s not happy with Donald. He calls Dr. Moreau in Madagascar about the coelacanth. Just the long-distance bill is enough to make Howard want to fire Blake. He tells Blake to take a leave of absence.
Blake describes his research to Howard and Cole. Howard offers to let Blake use his private mountain cabin to rest and get his head on straight. Blake believes that he is the murderer, in a different state. He records himself admitting everything and then he takes some of the coelacanth drug that he’s developed.
Jimmy and his girlfriend come to see Madeline, and they say that they saw the giant dragonfly too. He’s not as crazy as everyone is saying. She decides to drive up to the cabin to see her boyfriend.
Blake takes the drug and lets the recording roll. This time, we get a slow transformation scene. He looks like a cross between a caveman, a werewolf, and a rubber mask. He runs outside with an ax.
Madeline sees him in the road and crashes the car. The forest ranger is nearby and hears her scream. He sees Blake and runs away to call the police. “Blake” carries Madeline off into the hills. The ranger shoots Blake, but Blake throws the ax and kills him.
Madeline runs back to the cabin and finds Blake there, now human again. He looks at the cameras; he’s got photos of the monster now. Madeline still doesn’t get why the monster is wearing Blake’s clothes.
Stevens, Howard, and Cole arrive, and Blake decides it’s time to come clean with them. They go outside and find the forest ranger’s body. Blake gives yet another lecture on evolution and then injects himself one more time. He chases after Howard, and Stevens shoots him repeatedly. The group watches the ape-man turn back into Blake as he dies.
The first mask on Blake’s wall is that of the Gill-Man from “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” also directed by Jack Arnold. That old fish doesn’t spend much time in the freezer; how bad does it smell?
It’s essentially a variation on Jekyll and Hyde, but with an evolutionary sci-fi element thrown in. It’s fairly straightforward and predictable, but well done, assuming you ignore all the science, evolution, and moral speechifying.
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