My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.


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Movie Review: Train to Busan

Train to Busan Directed by Sang-ho Yeon. Written by Joo-Suk Park and Sang-ho Yeon. Rating 5/5

What? A perfect rating for a movie about zombies on a train? Absolutely. And it’s coming from a person who’s a devoted fan of both.

I’ll watch any train movie from classic to campy: Silverstreak. The Cassandra Crossing. Breakheart Pass. The Midnight Meat Train

Same with zombie movies: Rec, Pontypool, Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse

Some are good. Some are bad. Some are great. Train to Busan is great.

When heard about Train to Busan I was excited, but also fearful that zombies on a train would fall into a mediocre slot at best. Boy, I was thrilled to be proven wrong: Train to Busan combines the absolute best of both genres. It is like an even more amped-up version of 28 Days Later meets Unstoppable.

The story is set and filmed in South Korea, with a South Korean cast. The version I watched was dubbed in English but don’t let that put you off. Any initial weirdness you may feel about the voice-overs vanishes almost immediately as you’re sucked into the story.

Seok-woo, (Gong-Yoo) is a young father and a stock trader who is a little too absorbed in his business. He neglects his little daughter Soo-an (soulfully played by Su-an Kim). Realizing he’s been a jerk, he gives into her birthday wishes to see her estranged mother in Busan. Together they board the train to Busan amidst ominous signs of unrest in the city around them.

Things go badly, bloodily wrong from there. A leak from a bio-research facility has resulted in violent, instantly reanimated, extremely fast zombies. The outbreak spreads rapidly through the country—and on board their train. Seok-woo and his daughter band together with a husband and his pregnant wife, a high-school baseball player and cheerleader, and a few other unfortunates. They battle for survival as the train barrels along to Busan.

Several things set this movie apart and above other train and zombie flicks. For train buffs: this film does some highly original, over-the-top train action that I’ve never seen before. I won’t give it away, except to say it ramps up in second half of film: I was electrified.

The same goes with the zombie action. I know you’re thinking, “ah, seen one fast zombie, seen ‘em all.” Not so. The film does some clever camera work: teasing you with things barely seen and hitting you with things very graphically seen that makes these zombies truly frightening. Equally frightening is the film’s creative use of the sheer overwhelming mass of zombie attackers. And, additional kudos: these zombies are deeply alarming without exorbitant makeup.

Finally, the acting is excellent. There are bona-fide tear-jerker moments. Out-loud “oh no!” moments. The father-daughter pair is heartwarmingly portrayed. There is even character growth—in a horror thriller! Nice.

Train to Busan is impressive. It screams along, leaving you feeling pumped-up and in a weirdly positive mood: kind of like you just survived the zombie apocalypse yourself. I watched it last night. I’m ready to watch it again. Don’t miss this one: you’re in for a great ride.

rating system five crows


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Movie Review: Dead Silence

Dead Silence 2007. Directed by James Wan. Written by James Wan and Leigh Whannell. Rating 3.5/5

“Beware the stare of Mary Shaw / She had no children, only dolls. / And if you see her in your dreams / Be sure to never, ever scream.”

With a deliciously creepy legend, disturbing ventriloquist dolls, and a vengeful ghost who rips out tongues, Dead Silence delights viewers with classic chills. It reminds me of the horror comics I read obsessively as a kid: Fun. Retro. Atmospheric. Just enough scares.

Jamie Ashen (Ryan Kwanten) left Raven’s Fair long ago, but when his wife (Amber Valletta) is horribly murdered minutes after the arrival of mysterious package containing an old-school ventriloquist dummy, Jamie knows exactly where he needs to go for answers. Home.

We get echoes of Phantasm as Jamie drives his ’71 Olds Cutlass Supreme through his dying hometown to the old mortuary. There, the elderly mortician Henry (well-played by Michael Fairman), offers warnings and a few clues. Along with a seedy, Colombo-esque cop (Donnie Wahlberg, providing dry comic relief), Jamie confronts the ghost of Mary Shaw.

Wan indulges us with some beautiful classic horror imagery: spiraling staircases in a cavernous mansion, long halls with blowing curtains, a fog-swamped cemetery, a decaying theater filled with creepy dolls. The ominous use of sound–and silence–complements the spooky ambiance and ratchets up the suspense ahead of some effective jump scares. Charlie Courser’s eerie music-box score is equally goosebump-producing.

Dead Silence isn’t cerebral horror, here: it’s not Black Swan, or It Follows, or the original, awesome Suspiria, or Get Out. I love all of those. Dead Silence is a different beast, and I like it, too. Think: Harlequin romance vs. Jane Eyre. Both are enjoyable. It just depends what you’re in the mood for. Feel like some fun, old-school scares? Try Dead Silence.

rating system three and a half crows


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Film Review: Get Out

Get Out  2017.

Horror is not a genre known for exploring sensitive cultural issues, but writer/director Jordan Peele brilliantly makes racial tension the source of the terror in this highly suspenseful and marvelously creepy film.

Privileged white-girl Rose (Allison Williams) is bringing her African American boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), an art photographer, home to meet her parents. Rose hasn’t told her family that he’s African American, insisting to Chris that it won’t matter. Trepidatious but in love with Rose, Chris goes along and finds his fears realized, and then some.

The secluded family manor oozes wealth, and the family is study in privilege. Dad (Bradley Whitford) is a voluble neurosurgeon eager to show he is “with it.” Rose’s mother, Missy (Catherine Keener), raises viewer’s hackles as the eerily-calm, soft-spoken psychiatrist keen to hypnotize Chris and help him quit smoking. Twitchy, ukulele-strumming younger brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones) is a med student fascinated by Chris’ racial genetic makeup. Compounding the awkwardness, the house is maintained by African-American servants Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and Walter (Marcus Henderson), who are all bright smiles and sinister subservience. Chris endures the subtle racism for Rose’s sake, but is deeply disquieted.

Threaded inexorably together, the racial and horror tension ramps up at an uncomfortable gathering with the family’s older, wealthy, white neighbors who are a perfect hairsbreadth away from tipping into grotesque caricatures – which makes them even more disturbing. The party is an ordeal in thoughtless prejudice for Chris, who handles it with grace and good spirit, but can’t shake his growing unease that something even greater than blatant racism is wrong with all these people. He’s right.

The film’s creepiness derives from the cringeworthy racial tension and a magnificently-elicited sense of dread and wrongness. The cast elevates Get Out to an exceptional film: acting is spot on across the board. Kaluuya is perfect as the sensitive, strong, savvy photographer drawn into what becomes an unthinkable situation. Betty Gabriel’s performance as Georgina literally – and I mean literally – gives goosebumps. The ominously dark musical score by Michael Abels captures the film’s building sense of menace. According to an article in Splinter, Peele worked closely with Abels to incorporate blues and African musical influences in the music: the haunting theme song features lyrics in Swahili which translate into “Something bad is coming. Run!”

Get Out has distant echoes of film classics like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and The Stepford Wives, but Peele takes his film to a unique and truly shocking level. Get Out is chilling. Thought-provoking. Terrifying. Do not miss this one.


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Nachos to Watch Zombies By

These are loaded, meal-strength nachos. Perfect for a night in front of the TV watching your favorite horror flick. It has been a little dark and stormy here, and a nice campy zombie movie sounds great. Not hard core. These are nachos, after all.

Some of my favorite zombie-nacho movies? Dead and Breakfast. Not only does it star David Carradine, it is also sort of a musical! Zombieland. Arguably the best Bill Murray cameo ever. Dead Snow. Nazi zombies attack college students staying in a cabin in Norway. What?! You can’t go wrong with these. That is, if you enjoy more-than-slightly weird zombie flicks.

Back to the nachos. This is a free-spirit recipe: no real measurements involved. I’ll give suggestions, but you scale up to how many people you plan to serve, and how hungry you are. All ingredients are totally optional, but here is what we enjoy.

Ingredients:

Chicken strips – pre cooked. I’m using Trader Joe’s.

Bacon – try Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Ends and Pieces. Giant, thick-cut slices and chunks.

Tater tots – Yes, I’m using Trader Joe’s again, but use your favorite. You will cook them in advance and crumble them up on top of your nachos

Olives – I’ve got a spicy blend that contains extra jalapenos!

Avocado*

Scallions

Cilantro*

Corn – if it is summertime, use any leftover ears of corn you may have grilled or boiled. Scrape off the kernels. In the winter, frozen sweet corn kernels work great too: heat some up with a little water on the stove and drain.

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Jalapenos – Can’t beat Trader Joe’s Hot & Sweet Jalapenos, but today I’ve got sliced Hatch jalapenos. Also nice.

Roasted red peppers*

Cheese – LOTS of cheese. I like a blend. Today I’m using sharp cheddar, white cheddar, mozzarella, and Oaxaca. Pepper jack is also fabulous.

Chips – A blend of Sweet Potato Corn Chips and Doritos (Roulette, Nacho, Spicy Nacho, whatever spice level you like.)

Salsa – Your choice.  Make your own!

Sour cream – I actually went light, here. Which is patently ridiculous given the other ingredients and massive cheese level, but I can pretend.

Guacamole*

* Sadly, I didn’t have these ingredients today, but they are delicious on the nachos. I’m substituting in some chopped roasted garlic, and sliced cherry tomatoes.

How to make them:

At your leisure earlier in the day, bake the tater tots. Let them cool and store them in the fridge.

Heat up the chicken strips if they’re frozen.  Let them cool a bit, then either shred with a fork, or cut into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Cook up the bacon. If you’re using that Trader Joe’s pack of ends and pieces, you’re lucky! They’re awesome. Cut them down to bite-sized pieces and cook them up in a large pan on the stovetop for about 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they all get done but don’t get overdone.  Drain and set aside until you’re ready to top your nachos.

Grate your cheese ahead of time as well. We like a LOT of cheese.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. The paper will keep the nachos from sticking and make them easy to remove. Heat up the oven to 350F.

Spread the chips evenly over the cookie sheet. Liberally cheese your chips, saving some cheese for the top. Get cheese on every chip. Add in all the other ingredients you want, except the cilantro and avocado which you will save for a garnish. With the tater tots, crumble them up a bit before you sprinkle them on top. Unless you want whole tater tots. Which is fine. Top with the remaining cheese.

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No naked chips!

 

Bake at 350F for 15 minutes. You may want to put the oven on convect for the last few minutes to achieve desired meltiness. That is too a word. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with your cilantro and avocado.   Yum.

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Settle down and enjoy with your favorite beverage and scary movie. If you’re feeling really guilty, make a side salad. (Or not!)