Reviews Video Vices

Review Bites: Kids vs Aliens, Unlocked and Gangnam Zombies

Unlocked (2023)

Netflix’s Unlocked is the stuff nightmares are made of as most of us would freak out if we lost our cell phone considering how much private and vital information is on them these days. That’s exactly what happens to Lee Na-Mi. Chun Woo-Hee stars as Lee, a marketer who bounces between her own career, working for a start-up company, and helping out her dad at the family cafe. Lee loses her phone on public transit but as fate would have it, it is found and returned to her by a courteous stranger.

What Lee doesn’t know is the good Samaritan isn’t good at all. Im Si-Wan as Oh Jun-Yeong, installed a ton of spy software before returning the phone so he can monitor every aspect of her daily life. Oh befriends Lee and then begins to slowly but surely force her to cut ties with her close friends until he is the only shoulder left to cry on. On the trail of a serial killer who might or might not be Oh, Detective Woo Ji-Man (Kim Hee-Won) factors into Lee’s plight as well.

Unlocked is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde production in the sense that it begins quite well as a stable story. It doesn’t take long though for it to totally go off the rails with one screwball twist after another. Some may not mind and actually might expect that shake-up as part of the “psycho-stalker” genre while others may wish things had remained more grounded. Whether you will enjoy Unlocked or not depends on what your expectations are.

Watch on: Netflix

Gangnam Zombie (2023)

Usually you know a genre has reached its Best Before date when the parodies take over the genre. Gangnam Zombie is an insult to the entire zombie apocalypse genre which has totally played itself out by now. Even as a black comedy Gangnam Zombie is ridiculously and embarrassingly stupid.

Here’s yet another film staged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sigh. A new virus emerges in the Gangnam District of Seoul, South Korea, that turns people into blood-thirsty zombies. The problem is the producers haven’t put much thought or effort at all into the actual zombies. They are the most average looking undead you will ever see. Even in the early days of his zombie renaissance George Romero tried to distinguish one featured zombie from the next. The undead in Gangnam Zombie are all just regular people acting silly with a bit of blood around their mouths. The zombies feasting on their victims is just as tame too. There’s no gore. The actors pretend (very badly) that they are gnawing on people and have a little bit more blood on their faces when they raise their heads for the camera. For the special effects crew, if there was any, Gangnam Zombie was a walk in the park. Whatever they were paid, it was far too much.

The plot, which focuses more on the humans than it does the zombies, has a martial arts master Hyeon-seok (Ji Il-joo) working as part of a very small streaming team who produce goofy videos in the hopes they will go viral and attract followers. He has a crush on his co-worker Min-jeong (Park Ji-yeon) but their unscrupulous boss has the hots for her too. While the boss sees the outbreak as an opportunity to gain more subscribers and views, Hyeon-seok and Min-jeong just want to escape their ravaged office building, survive the apocalypse.

If you are looking for another Train to Busan in Gangnam Zombie you are going to be severely disappointed. Gangnam Zombie has none of the intensity, none of the imagination and none of the energy.

Watch on: VOD, darkside of the internet.

Kids Vs Aliens (2023)

Hailing from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canadian filmmaker Jason Eisener has finally been able to form his own Rock and Sock Connection by combining two of his favourite things: pro-wrestling and horror movies. The Hobo with a Shotgun and Darkside of the Ring creator, director unashamedly pays homage to eighties cult classic The Monster Squad and other R-rated kids’ films with his latest effort: Kids Vs Aliens. Even with a substantially lower budget and therefore a smaller scope, Eisener and his Darthmouth tag team partner (writer John Davies) recapture the fun of that unforgettable quirky film which still inspires cries of ‘Wolfman’s got nards!’ from fans today.

Eisener’s group of foul-mouthed, ass-kicking kids are pals Gary (Dominic Mariche), Jack (Asher Grayson) and Miles (Ben Tector), an inseparable trios tag team who spend most of their time shooting their own backyard movies like Davies used to do as a kid in Nova Scotia. Their current project is a sci-fi/fantasy epic with the wrestling ring in the family garage as the backdrop. Gary is the director, Jack is the techie and Miles is…well, dependable Miles. Joining them is Gary’s teenage older sister Samantha (Phoebe Rex), who aspires to be the next Charlotte Flair, Britt Baker or Trish Stratus.

The ‘kids’ doing their best Mulder and Scully. Courtesy: Shudder.

These kids are fantastic handling themselves and the subject matter with skill and maturity well beyond their years. They are a lot of fun to watch. Rex, who surprisingly only has a handful of credits on her cinematic resume, is the real standout though. She provides much of that vital dynamic energy that pull us in and pushes the film along. Perhaps this will be that breakthrough role that Rex needs to take her career to the next level.

The amateur Lucases, Fords and Fishers’ latest magnum opus runs into production hell in the form of the local scumbag, Billy. Billy is Rex’s new boyfriend and everyone but Rex herself can see that Billy is just using her to have a place to throw his big Halloween kegger. Billy ridicules Rex’s wrestling dreams and mocks her for hanging out with the three twerps. Billy’s played by Calem MacDonald who we last saw as Young Dave in Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy. Another Nova Scotia native, MacDonald is so slimy you wish The Monster Squad‘s Gillman would show up and slash, maul that crooked smile right off of his GQ, chiseled face and you don’t have to wait long for that to happen.

The aliens melting hearts and other body parts in Kids Vs Aliens. Courtesy: Shudder.

Billy eventually gets his way and his party demos the family home much to the dismay of Samantha and Gary who dread the return of their wealthy, absentee parents. The ‘aliens’ of the title soon arrive to crash the party, dragging away hordes of screaming teens so they can turn them into living breathing batteries by melting them down into puddles of florescent Nickelodeon slime with their Xenomorph-like acid. Think Herman Dietrich’s infamous face melting scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark and you will have some idea of the gore you are in for. The aliens themselves are your typical, grey-skinned, lanky humanoid extra-terrestrials with their oblong heads and eyes, looking like they stepped right out of Whitley Strieber’s Communion or The X-Files.

All of the teen angst and childhood shenanigans lead to the big main event, a triple threat brawl between the kids, the aliens and Billy. The outrageous action results in some bloody good battles and gore. Kids Vs Aliens is a very low-budget love letter to R-rated kids’ horror so there are times when the alien masks don’t quite articulate as they should, when we see only lights from the alien ship but not the actual ship itself because those kinds of effects were clearly out of reach for the filmmakers which makes you really wonder what Eisener could do with a decent budget. Still, like those amusing and outrageous direct-to-video Full Moon Features such as The Puppet Master and Demonic Toys series that inspired Kids, all of that adds to and is part of the charm of Kids Vs Aliens. Kids Vs Aliens is legit fun if you aren’t a big time, gnarly, lame barf bag.

Watch on: VOD, iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Shudder.

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