The Western has enjoyed enduring popularity for decades. Its heyday was probably the 1960s but that hasn’t stopped many directors from continuing to try their hand at the genre. Ti West is the latest director to give it a go, departing from his usual suspense and horror fare that he’s known for. His new film In the Valley of Violence is a classic revenge story starring Ethan Hawke in his second Western of the year. It’s the kind of story that has been done many times so it’s bound to be difficult to find a fresh angle that breathes new life into it. Unfortunately for West, he is unable to find that spark that gives us something fresh and exciting, instead producing something that feels like it has been done before and better.
One of the best vampire films of the past decade was an indie film called Stake Land. It tied together a gritty, desperate post-apocalyptic world with a solid road trip story of survival and frightening vampires that carried zombie-like tendencies. The film was a great alternative to the more popular Hollywood vampire films such as the Twilight franchise. So when it was announced unexpectedly that a sequel to the hit film had been finished without anyone outside the production team even knowing it was happening, anticipation immediately skyrocketed. Dan Berk and Robert Olsen return us to this world in the follow-up titled The Stakelander. However, while they have put forth a noble effort, this one fails to live up to the incredibly strong original.
Zombie films have been a staple of the horror genre for decades. They have an enduring popularity that is prevalent across the world. As a reflection of this, we have what is perhaps the best zombie film of the year coming from South Korea. Sang-ho Yeon’s Train to Busan is an exciting take on the genre that places the story in an interesting setting. While it does use many of the rules we’ve seen plenty of times before, the film presents them in a way we haven’t seen before.
Humans often have the inherent need to be in control and to make sense of their surroundings. A sense of arrogance can come from this behaviour that can lead to disaster. When you combine those elements while living in a world of a zombie outbreak, you end up with an idea like Steve Barker’s The Rezort. The smugness of the world’s population has lead to herding the last remaining zombies to enclosures on a secluded island where people can pay to hunt them down. People come for a variety of reasons — power, aggression, anger, entertainment — but the audacity they have believing everything is completely under their control of course leads to mayhem.
The Iran-Iraq War, fought between 1980 and 1988 over borders and social revolution, was a long and deadly conflict. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed and displaced. War itself is terrifying enough but what makes Babak Anvari’s film Under the Shadow unique is that it sets a story about evil Iranian spirits known as the Djinn against this backdrop. The director has effectively blended simple scare techniques with the horrors of a war-torn reality and the result is a highly compelling and efficient film that unnerves the viewer.