Posts tagged ‘Film Review’

December 4, 2011

A Seoulful Effort


Fear Eats the Seoul debuted in the United States last night to a quaint group of twenty-to-thirty-somethings, who could not have known what to expect from the cherubic NJ Calder on his maiden feature film effort.  With a budget of $4500, Calder skillfully pieced together a horror flick, ripe with depth and subtle original twists to the genre.  Set in Seoul, South Korea, it is about four English teacher transplants trying to survive a sudden zombie apocalypse, while facing their own unsavory character flaws.  Mirrors are a prevalent symbolic presence, representing a forced reflection that the protagonists must have of themselves if they are going to deal with the “demons” and get along with each other.  After locking themselves into a safe haven, the foursome find that, aside from hunting for food and debating what their next move will be, there’s not a whole lot to do.  The stress and tension build as the realtime vignettes pull viewers into a setting saturated with conflict.

In the spirit of 28 Days Later, Fear Eats the Seoul is better characterized as a drama with zombies as opposed to a traditional gore fest, like Dead/Alive and Dawn of the Dead.  With expected budgetary constraints, Calder knew he had to piece together images that suggest devastating violence instead of putting it on gratuitous display.  The result proves Calder a prodigy in that often overlooked editing portion of the filmmaking skill set.  Couple the quick cuts with near seizure-inducing focus shifts, throw in a sickly tense score, and voila: a highly entertaining, gripping movie emerges.

Another applaudable aspect of the film is Calder’s awareness of the need for the zombies to be stylized.  He challenged himself to be original.  Though inspired by Freddy Krueger, the “demons” as they are called (a play on the “inner demons” that the characters must face), are different from the monster predecessors that fans of the genre have seen countless times before.  Once transformed, the demons develop a predatory tool with their fingers having turned into elongated root-like claws.  The faces of the demons resemble a somehow even more horrifying version of Heath Ledger’s Joker of The Dark Knight fame and these zombies are fast and smart too.

Calder appeals to the horror die hards though by lifting the premise that once a human’s skin has been broken by a demon, they too turn into one.  This sets up the inevitable moment where a character must choose to become malevolent towards someone who, moments earlier, were quite dear to them.  Perhaps the best example of Calder’s ability to be true to the genre, yet unique is the kill method that must be employed, which involves pinpoint blows to an undead head, originating from the unquestioned foundational film Night of the Living Dead, but with a symbolic variation that astute viewers will find themselves pondering in between late night shuddered looks around their apartment.

Opportunities to view NJ Calder’s Fear Eats the Seoul may be limited, but should you over the course of the next year or so find it listed on the queue of a local indie film festival, a download of a couple of etickets to your smart phone should happen as quickly as you can say “Soju Hangover.”

December 23, 2010

True Grit – I Told Ya So


The latest of the Brothers Coen was released nationwide today and it did not disappoint.  True Grit had a lot in it that was expected, but some very pleasant surprises as well, the first being Matt Damon’s performance.  The LaBoeuf character presented a lot of challenges for him; there’s a paradoxical confidence about him, trimmed with an awkward dorkiness due to his pride in being a Texas Ranger.  But Damon pulls this off wonderfully.  If you see the film, you’ll find it shocking that I’d list Damon’s part here over the newbie Hailee Steinfeld’s offering as Mattie.  She is perhaps more impressive than Damon considering, obviously, her age and the fact that she took on what is essentially the lead role in the film.  However, Damon’s character could have easily been a throw-away and he saw to enrich the piece as much as the script would possibly allow with a high degree of success.

Then there’s Bridges.  He is the main reason why viewers will call this movie “character-driven.”  He won the Oscar for his role in Crazy Heart-a great performance in a not-so-great movie-just last year.  I wish the Academy had waited 12 more months though.  I doubt they will give him back-to-back statues and I argue that he would be more deserving of one this season as opposed to last.  Bridges masterfully mixes subtle movements and one-eyed looks with blatant comedic timing, bringing Cogburn’s flawed, yet heroic character to life.  I’ve heard some commentary on how well-written the film is, but that Bridges delivers a lot of great dialogue with an excessive garble.  Not so.  Just pay attention and you’ll catch some lines that could turn out to be legendary.  And Bridges’ speech patterns are there for a reason: to characterize Cogburn, which he does most deftly.

Lastly, as anticipated, and without giving too much away, Mattie’s character (maybe all the characters, come to think of it) certainly does find herself embattled with excessive desire.  I was in awe of her strength of character (again, incredibly well-delivered by the actress).  The Coens make this overtly apparent in the opening sequences of the film.  This made me a bit anxious to see if my prediction from my previous article on this film and filmmakers would prove correct.  I’ll simply say that it does.  To find out how, go see the flick.  I would strongly urge you to do so.