Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula is Fun as Hell [Review]

What if John Wick fought zombies? That’s the question Yeon Sang-ho seems to be answering in Peninsula, the follow-up to his instant classic zombie flick Train to Busan. That film succeeded for much the same reason this one does: it knows what it is and it commits to being the best version of that it can be.

Peninsula opens with Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) driving his family toward a ferry out of zombie-infested Korea. Min-jung (Lee Jung-hyun) is stranded with her family on the side of the road. He slows down, but leaves her because he’s worried that her husband may be infected. She is stranded in Korea, while he and his family escape to the boat. Soon after, tragedy strikes.

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The Dark End of the Street is a Poetic Reflection [Review]

In Kevin Tran’s feature debut, The Dark End of the Street, he ostensibly tells the story of a pet killer wreaking havoc in a suburb. Really though, the plot of the film almost doesn’t matter because Tran’s focus is much more human. Rather than building toward a climactic moment, Tran’s story floods out sideways, showing the different ways the characters in his ensemble cast—all of whom live on the titular street—react to the pet murders over the course of a single night.

That ensemble cast is one of many similarities between The Dark End of the Street and the series defining Twilight Zone episode, “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street.” Both highlight the disconnection of neighbors as well. Despite having lived across the street for years, Ian (Anthony Chisholm) and Marney (Brooke Bloom) have rarely spoken before he comes over to comfort her after her cat is murdered. Other neighbors barely know one another, and also like in “The Monsters are Due on Maple Street,” this lack of familiarity quickly transforms into paranoia when the news gets around.

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La Llorona Frightens and Enlightens [Review]

If you need evidence for why Own Voices stories matter, try watching the Conjuring Universe’s middle of the road The Curse of La Llorona from 2019 and Jayro Bustamante’s excellent La Llorona from this year back to back. Both films are about the same folk monster: La Llorona, a woman who drowned her children in the river and searches for their souls. In the Conjuring Universe film, La Llorona is a typical series villain, shoehorned in as a vehicle for largely unsatisfying jump scares. Bustamante, a native Guatemalan, uses the same folklore to address the Maya Ixil genocide of the 1980s, making an important film that still manages to be scarier than the Conjuring Universe collection of jump scares.

La Llorona is focused around the fictional General Enrique Monteverde (Julio Diaz) who is on trial for committing genocide between 1982 and 1983. He’s a clear fictionalized stand-in for  General Efraín Ríos Montt who was convicted of committing genocide between 1982 and 1983. The film opens with Enrique’s trial. His men prepare, with one of them instructing, “Wear no badges. Dark suits, nothing shiny. Dark, not black. You must look flawless. You are heroes, not victims.” Enrique is found guilty early-on with his defense arguing that his mass murder targeted guerrilas who all happened to be Maya Ixil, not the Maya Ixil people specifically.

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Nothing But the Blood is Ambitious, Promising [Review]

Nothing But the Blood opens with Father (Les Best) walking to an altar shot in black-and-white. He reads the story of Judas’s betrayal and then looks right into the camera. Best brings a great intensity as he sermonizes, telling his viewers that, “Throughout your life, people will come to persecute you… If you fight hate with hate, who really wins in the end?” It’s a powerful opening, in large part because of Best’s stellar performance. He steals every scene he’s in.

The opening is better because of the contradictions in Father’s life as he opens a new chapter of his Emeth Church. Nothing But the Blood’s protagonist, Jessica (the film’s producer Rachel Hudson), is a reporter in the small western town the new branch is opening in. She begs her editor for the story, and soon she’s interviewing Father’s son Michael (Nick Triola) about the nature of the Church.

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