The seventh episode of the third season of The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs brings us the modern classic Train to Busan (2016) and the cult classic, Spookies (1986). It is another one of those bizarre pairings that we’re growing used to, though that is not a bad thing at all. It keeps the double features fresh, week to week. You never know what you are going to get on Shudder on Friday night.
Train to Busan (2016)
Opening: Indecisiveness with a menu.
There isn’t much I can add to the discourse surrounding Train to Busan. it is one of the greatest zombie films ever made, let alone within the last decade. It is a film that manages to be scary, packed with action, and carries a strong heartfelt message. It is a movie you could honestly argue to be a perfect example of the craft of filmmaking. If you haven’t seen the film then you absolutely should. Yeon Sang-ho’s zombie thriller stars Gong Yoo, Jung Yu-mi, Ma Dong-seok, and Kim Su-an. The premise is deceptively simple: passengers aboard a train deal with a zombie outbreak as the train makes its way to safety. The simplicity of the plot makes it a perfect vehicle for tense performances, a series of claustrophobic set-pieces, and a delightfully satirical exploration of class difference. It is also, incredibly, incredibly sad. I cannot stress that enough.
I’ve written about class-conscious horror before, and Train to Busan is one of those movies that does a lot to establish a kind of canon for that sort of horror. The movie absolutely runs with the themes of wealth and status and how it renders people with too much of both as inhuman monsters – which is a fair assessment. It just happens to position that argument against frequently crushing tides of zombies. The zombies themselves are fantastic. Their contortionist movements are creepy and are contrasted by the almost fluid nature of zombie bodies in a horde. They become a gnashing, scratching wave that breaks and crashes against surfaces in satisfying ways. World War Z, a far worse film, had a similar scrambling zombie, but they do not really have the same effect like those on Train to Busan.
The film’s heart, however, is the rebuilding of the relationship between Gong Yoo’s Seo Seok-woo, a distant father, and his daughter Seo Su-an (Kim Su-an), one of the only acceptable child characters in horror films. However, their relationship is just one of several in the film which prove affecting. Tough guy Yoo Sang-hwa, played by the magnetic Ma Dong-Seok, has a touching plot with his pregnant wife with a sad, but ultimately beautiful ending. Even the film’s human villian, the greedy COO of a bus company, Yon-suk, gets a humanizing moment before his death – desperate to return to his mother. No character is wasted and no interaction feels possible to cut out of the film, every set of relationships, from the two eldery women to the rapidly diminishing baseball team, carry great emotional weight.
Joe Bob Briggs seemed particularly effusive with his praise of the film. His pronunciations of Korean names may be a bit rough, but his sentiment was clear. It seemed as though each break came with Joe Bob praising a preceding segment of the film, specifically some of the more technical set-pieces, such as the train depot or the fight through the train cars. He also shared some history regarding Yeon Sang-ho and his background in animation. Yeon Sang-ho’s background in animation certainly informed many of the scenes and as Joe Bob pointed out, seemed as though they could only have come from the mind of an animator. With any luck, Joe Bob mentioning adult animation is a sign that perhaps Seoul Station, the Busan prequel, might be shown one day. Hopefully the first in what might be many future horror-adjacent animated films.
Joe Bob Briggs handed out another four-star rating this week, but it feels entirely appropriate for Train to Busan. The movie is just that damn good. I may also be a bit biased because the film is in my top five zombie films ever made. For me, I would give Train to Busan five out of five Cthulhus. It is one of the best films ever shown on The Last Drive-In, and one which was long overdue to be shown.(5 / 5)
Best Line: “Dad, you only care about yourself. That’s why mommy left.” – Su-an laying the emotional smackdown on her dad
Opening: Alpacas and Llamas
Ooof – where to begin with Spookies? This independent horror film is, to put as fine a point on it as possible, a mess. The movie is incoherent, cheesy, and poorly acted. It is just barely on the verge of “so bad it’s good” territory as well. I missed the showing when it was airing on Friday, but when watching it on Sunday I started to drift off – that never happens to me when watching something on Shudder.
The movie, or perhaps, movies, given the troubled production, was directed by Brendan Faulkner and Thomas Doran, with later footage added by director Eugenie Joseph. The film was originally supposed to be a “dark house” style of a horror film, dubbed Twisted Souls, carved up and edited together with an entirely different concept, resulting in a movie where two plot lines run adjacent to one another and nothing makes sense. Thus, Spookies, named as such for who knows what reason. The film follows an inextricably mixed group of teens and adults exploring a mansion owned by a warlock who wants their lives to preserve his bride, as he has been doing for seventy years. The film stars Felix Ward, Maria Pechukas, Peter Dain, Nick Gionta, and Charlotte Alexandra.
Spookies is a cult film these days, and while I can understand how it can be, I can’t say I really enjoyed my time with it. The monster effects are pretty fun. Well, most of them. The Grim Reaper was comical, like a fancy costume from Spirit of Halloween. Also, the sheer variety of creatures, while kind of neat, ultimately feels unnecessary. Only a couple of them really have any presence and they are gone nearly as soon as they are introduced – and that is pretty specific to the 45 minutes from what was originally going to be Twisted Souls. The zombie horde at the end is fun, but again, smacks more of excess than anything else. The film also feels cheap, particularly the material that was added later, such as the basement set. Also strange was the fact that Felix Ward’s Kreon sounded like he was speaking into a cardboard tube throughout the runtime of the film. Just a confusing mess, honestly.
Also… why the fart noises?
I think Joe Bob said it best during the night when he said “Man alive, this thing is just a mess.” Joe Bob’s background on the film was welcome, of course. particularly the odd connection the movie has to John Jay, co-author of the Federalist Papers and first Chief Justice of the United States. Ultimately Spookies, shot in his historical home, helped preserve the historical site in a few ways. It’s just an odd little note, best explained by Joe Bob Briggs. Perhaps most amusing was the revelation that Spookies was the first and last acting job for a number of the crew – it is not hard to understand why. The best part of the second half of the night was the Spookies rap, put together by John Brennan and the folks at the Drive-In. it was a lot of fun and a nice follow-up to the Maniac Cop 2 discussion about rap songs for horror films.
Joe Bob Briggs gave Spookies two stars. Even he admits he was generous there. As for me, Spookies is less of a movie and instead more of something I would have on in the background at a Halloween party while some music was being played. Just some visual interest and not a whole lot else. I give Spookies two out of five Cthulhus.(2 / 5)
Best Line: “Boo, look at me, I’m Duke the horny ghost.” – Duke, being a horny ghost.
Haunted MTL Drive-In Totals
As always, thanks, Shudder, for those official totals.
As for our own totals?
- 3 Levels Deeper
- 15 careers starting and stopping with one movie
- 1000 Zombies
- Zombie Double Feature
- Class Warfare
- Farting Monsters
- Exploding Reaper
- Skull Splitting
- Yuki sighting
- Runaway Train (never going back)
- Fanfiction Fu
- American History Fu
- Gratuitous Monsters
- Gratuitous Llama and Alpaca discourse
- Gratuitous 90s Rap Sequence
- Darcy Cosplay: Isabelle, the bride from Spookies
- Silver Bolo Award: Ghastly Grinning
Another fun night at the drive-in. it would take more than Spookies to ruin the show for me, personally. So far this season seems to be bringing in movies that you would think would have been on the show earlier. It’s cool that we’ve not really dipped into the well of the obvious films you would expect on the show. While Spookies was a miss for me, the rap was great. Of course, I can’t praise Train to Busan highly enough either. Overall, I think it averages out to a strong episode.(4 / 5)