We received a good response to the first impressions feature, so I’m back with a second installment. As I mentioned last time, we’re still in the process of growing Daily Dead and receive too many movies at this point to dedicate a full review to every film. So, as often as I can, I will post impressions of a few films at a time, so readers can read my thoughts on recent releases. Today, I’m covering Kill List, The Revenant, and Juan of the Dead:
It’s hard to avoid spoilers these days with the amount of trailers, photos, and clips leading up to the release of a film. In many cases you’re safe with the basic plot synopsis, but I’d suggest knowing as little as possible before checking out the fascinating genre mash-up Kill List.
Directed by Ben Wheatley, Kill List focuses on Jay, whose life is crumbling around him. His marriage is falling apart, he hasn’t worked in over 6 months, and he’s run out of the last of his savings. The first act of this film focuses on the relationship between Jay and his wife, while the rest of the movie deals with a seemingly straight forward way to make money that doesn’t go as planned.
An interesting script that relies on character development and fantastic performances from Neil Maskell and Michael Smiley elevate this film from what could have been a very campy movie into a successful character piece. Rather than dedicating the film to horror elements, Ben Wheatley does a great job of weaving moments of horror, intensity, and brutality into a movie that is mostly dialogue.
With smart directing, a script that isn’t afraid to take its time, and quality performances, Kill List stands apart from the pack as one of my favorite releases of the year. I know this is a film that will not appeal to everyone, but if you’re looking for something a little bit different and don’t mind slow-building films, definitely give it a try.
The Revenant is an undead story that doesn’t worry about an outbreak or taking itself too seriously. Instead, it all revolves around one question: What would you do if your friend came back from the dead?
In this case, recently deceased Bart isn’t exactly a zombie or a vampire. He’s a little bit of both and works with his friend to use this “dark gift” to their advantage. This is a buddy horror comedy that does quite a few things right. The character interaction and comedy works for the most part, and the premise keeps your interest for the majority of the film.
The biggest issue here is the lack of budget and the fact that they tried to pack too much into a single film. With this being an independent production, you can tell that the budget was stretched a bit too far when it came to the use of CG, police, and locations. As far as the story is concerned, it started off strong, but unraveled toward the end when they tried to wrap up everything quickly. The character development works and the first two acts are interesting enough that this could have been split up into two films.
While I don’t think your average moviegoer is going to love this film, I would give it a solid recommendation to fans of independent horror movies. There are so many zombie movies being developed these days and it’s nice to see an undead movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously or give us more of the same.
Juan of the Dead:
Juan of the Dead is being promoted as Cuba’s first zombie movie. At the very least, it’s the first Cuban horror movie to receive mainstream attention and director Alejandro Brugués gives audiences a very different zombie comedy than you were probably expecting.
Don’t go into this film looking for Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland set in Cuba. Instead, Juan and his friend are in the middle of a zombie outbreak and they don’t want to be anyone’s hero. You’ll quickly learn that these low level criminals have no problem killing and taking advantage of people during the zombie apocalypse.
While some zombie comedies mix comedy with a bit of horror, but it’s unlikely you’ll be scared of any of the zombies or situations this group runs into. The focus here is all on the comedy, which will make you laugh at times, turn away in disgust, and be surprised by the decisions the characters make. This type of comedy won’t be for everyone, though. It may prove too difficult to relate to the characters or the humor may be too crude or different from American comedies for everyone’s taste.
I can’t say that I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, as a zombie film or comedy, but there is also no doubt that this is an important step for horror filmmaking in Cuba. Similar to a George Romero film, this isn’t just about zombies and there is a social and political message weaved into the outbreak. If you’re a fan of zombie films and independent horror, you’ll find this an interesting look at how the zombie genre is viewed through Cuban eyes and will get in laughs in along the way.