I Am a Hero (DIR. Shinsuke Sato)
I Am a Hero is long. That is not often how a review will start, but that may be the most remarkable thing about this new zombie film from Japan – running at over two hours, it is needlessly long. Otherwise, it doesn’t reinvent or make any new addition to the zombie mythos, it doesn’t have anything interesting to say, and it doesn’t really pick up until the third act.
I Am a Hero tells the story of Hideo, a manga artist who won a best newcomer award fifteen years ago and has done nothing of worth since. As his life begins falling apart, so does the world around him. The problem with this film, ultimately, is that it is not a cohesive, coherent narrative strand; instead, it is a series of well made sequences attached by long, meandering connective tissue. There are honestly a handful of memorable sequences that could be named: Hideo’s fight with his wife, the realization of the apocalypse and a scene with a zombie athlete, but there is no substance connecting them to each other. The only thing that seems to connect them is the snivelling protagonist who makes so much of this film a slog.
The film also seemed to have a difficult time writing women. The men in the film had plenty of backstory and motivation, but the women—at least those who weren’t namelessly slaughtered—seemed to be lacking that. The two women who had any significance to the ongoing plot seemed to lose their characters at some point, losing their badass quotients and just becoming people for Hideo to protect, somehow.
Despite all of that, the film did have some substance—that substance was blood—and perhaps could have worked if the filmmaker cut a solid thirty-to-forty minutes of it.
Satan’s Slaves (DIR. Joko Anwar)
Joko Anwar’s Satan’s Slaves is a remake of a similarly-titled Indonesian horror film from 1982. Keep that in mind when you watch the film and the whole production makes so much more sense; there is a certain 80s horror aesthetic that runs to the core of this film; everything from the subject matter itself to the music and credits font choice. However, what is fascinating about this film is that it does not need to give in to pastiche like so many others. Instead, it has that 80s sensibility because of its own stylistic choices. In other words, Satan’s Slaves is just pure horror: both in the sense that it embodies those horror elements as well as the fact that its horror seems to be untouched by outside influences.
Satan’s Slaves begins with the illness and death of the family matriarch, which leads directly into paranormal activities when the dead individual seems to have returned. While the film isn’t particularly terrifying, there are definitely some inventive scares peppered throughout, including one of the most unique such sequences in recent years. The film is also aided by its adept young cast and perhaps one of the strongest female leads in a horror film in some time (Tara Basro’s turn as Rini).
The film is a bit slow in its second act, but that is mostly due to a very deliberate sense of pacing, leading to a third act that is unnerving to say the least. One criticism that can be leveled against Satan’s Slaves, however, does come with the third act and it is not a common complaint, especially not from yours truly: this film really should have done a bit more explaining. This terror…what does it actually do?
Beyond that, you could do so much worse for a scary yet fun film.
For more information on the festival, visit the official Toronto After Dark website.
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