76 Horror Bookstore – Tin Can of Fear (dir. David Chuang & Hung Tze Peng, 2019) – An anthology of four horror short films.
There is no telling what you will get with movie anthologies. Taiwanese production 76 Horror Bookstore is no different. While adapted from web novels by the same author, the four segments share few similarities, mismatched in tone, style, and even subgenres within horror.
That said, this one starts off strong. Set in an old apartment building, Rent (4/5) conjures the disquiet that comes naturally with its unsettlingly mysterious history. All this spells bad news for its latest tenant, lone and unable to afford a different place. More disconcerting than her new home is her landlord, who seems to hoard secrets of his own. Not every revelation makes sense, yet this detracts little from the excellent build-up.
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The New Mutants (dir. Josh Boone, 2020) – Superpowered teens fight to escape the secret facility keeping them against their will and unexpectedly, their darkest fears.
What can you say about a movie that never really had a chance to truly begin? Taking more than an hour to settle into any semblance of a coherent story, The New Mutants turns out as bland as rumoured, squandering the huge potential of a supposed horror-skewed X-Men chapter.
Laying bare its lack of interest in storytelling, the opening scene launches straight into the eye of an unnatural storm, as though its leading mutant needs no introduction. Young Native American Danielle Moonstar (Blu Hunt) comes into the picture screaming and confused as she witnesses her father’s death during their attempted escape.
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Army of the Dead (dir. Zack Snyder, 2021) – A hardy team ventures into the zombie-infested quarantine zone in Las Vegas to pull off an impossible casino heist.
Army of the Dead starts off in a more comfortable place than most on-screen zombie apocalypses. For starters, the flesh eaters in question have already been contained within the city of Las Vegas, not long after the opener. The government has also planned a nuclear strike that will clear out the infected once and for all.
And so survivors who stay behind aren’t doing it out of desperation. Former mercenary Scott (Dave Bautista) makes that choice willingly when casino owner Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) tasks him to recover $200 million from a highly secure vault. In the diverse team that Scott puts together for the job, they come aware of the risks to varying degrees and ready to rush swarms of zombies for their share of the reward.
What insane and stupid things Man would do for money, though not all is in it for the greed. His daughter Kate (Ella Purnell) has a different quest in mind, setting her heart on rescuing her missing friend Geeta (Huma Qureshi) along the way.
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Homunculus (dir. Takashi Shimizu, 2021) – A homeless amnesiac awakens from an experimental medical procedure with the ability to see people’s innermost traumas.
From Tetsuo to Tokyo Gore Police, Japanese horror cinema seems to have few boundaries. Bizarre fetishes or shock brutality are often liberally shown on screen, driven by absurd plots and brought to life in lurid colours with confidence.
Tending to ignore the conventional arc that Hollywood directors are prone to, these filmmakers celebrate oddities and dare to manipulate reality in ways never done before. As long as one can put the concept to paper, they can put it to screen. Case in point: Homunculus.
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The Priests / Geomeun sajedeul (dir. Jang Jae-hyun, 2015) – A priest and a deacon investigate a young girl’s affliction that they believe may be caused by a demonic presence.
When Young-sin (Park So-Dam) starts to act out after awakening from a coma, Father Kim (Kim Yoon-seok) becomes convinced that she is possessed by a demonic spirit. He prepares for an exorcism with the help of the Catholic Church that assigns Deacon Choi (Kang Dong-won) to assist him on the job.
The inexperienced seminarian isn’t quite as well-equipped as Father Kim, nor he is as certain. He casts doubt on Young-sin’s predicament, suspecting grounded terrors instead of ghostly horrors. This ambiguity keeps the plot engaging, though it isn’t long before he sees the truth and falls back on his faith.
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Most of us spend a good bit of our lives with screens. More so in recent times, which had only heightened our reliance on Zoom calls and messenger apps. It isn’t surprising that our computer and phone screens have become a popular film set, especially in horror movies like Unfriended.
Add Vincenzo Nappi’s Filtered to the slate of similar found footage movies, invading our safe online space. In this 5-minute short film, Jasmine (Jasmine Winter) gets on a video call with Marco (Marco Carreiro) after a bad day at work. Hoping for a good cheering up, she soon gets that – and unfortunately, more than what she wished for.
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