Killer viruses in “King of Thorn (2009)”

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While I love manga/anime with a medical-thriller vibe (think Naoki Urasawa’s “Monster”) this killer virus flick, “King of Thorn” totally escaped my radar. In fact, I hadn’t heard of this anime or the manga until last night while dicking around on YouTube for something to review. If you’re familiar with the anime series, “Big O” (an adolescent favorite: mecha meets Batman) then you’ve already seen Kazuyoshi Katayama’s directorial style. That alone convinced me to give this movie a try. Although I sorta wished I hadn’t.

King of Thorn (2009)

Director and screenwriter: Kazuyoshi Katayama 

Original writer: Yuji Iwahara (Manga) 

Voice actors (Japanese — English dubs generally SUCK donkey balls) Kana Hanazawa, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Misaki Kuno, Akiko Yajima

The first one-third of the movie was what I expected (in a good way). To survive a pandemic virus, humankind’s last hope is to freeze a selected few for 100yrs until a cure is found. While asleep, mutant creatures attack the dreaming facility and those lucky not to have died while asleep, fight off crazy scientists, mutants, and other odd creatures through gory, pulptastic, action sequences. The animation isn’t terrible and I liked all the crazy characters. Even Kasumi. I wish the movie had stuck with its simple survival horror plot instead of veering left and getting lost in its metaphorical “Sleeping Beauty” message.

I thought the virus was a virus, but apparently the whole thing is just a dream, but the main character is also a figment of that dream, who is a clone of her twin and…yeah…what? Why couldn’t this just be a shoot’em up monster movie as advertised? “King of Thorn” tried way way way too hard to be philosophical and just sorta fell flat by the second-third of the movie. It’s so convoluted I can’t really tell you what the ending even means.

All in all, I’d give it a “C.” I’ll try to review other anime horror movies in the future. This one was just OK.

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Danger World (zombie short)

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This little zombie flick won “Best Narrative Short” at both Pan African Film Festival and Bronzelens Film Festival. For a running time just under 20min, the movie packs quite a punch and features a both a diverse cast and a female director! *happy dance* I never know what to expect when I watch a short indie film (Damsel Bruja and I suffered through some terrible ones at Austin Comic Con last year) and so I’m happy to say I really enjoyed this one.

Directed by Luchina Fisher (female horror director, hurray!) 

Starring: Frankie Faison and Saorise Scott

Written by  Steven Barnes and Tananarive Due, based on their novel “Devil’s Wake.”

Little Soldier and Grandpa survive the zombie-infested woods by sticking close (they drive past a pregnant woman and her wailing children) and fleeing for cover when the going gets tough. However Little Soldier still doesn’t see the zombies as “monsters” and has a hard time shooting her rifle. Her childlike naivety exasperates Grandpa. He snaps at Little Soldier to pick up her gun after she throws a tantrum and flings it to the grass. The tension between the characters came through right away. Little Soldier does not agree with Grandpa’s ruthless decision to leave the pregnant woman by the side of the road. She doesn’t want to face reality and kill to survive. However Grandpa remains firm and warns her that he won’t always be there to protect her. She’ll have to “learn not to be small.” And predictably just that happens. I’m not going to spoil the story for you, minions, but the ending is well-handled. There’s a few “gotcha” moments, as far as horror is concerned. This movie relies more on story and voice than special effects, makeup, or gore. Don’t go into it expecting to see buckets of blood.

Overall I recommend you check it out. It’s a simple story, but well-told. Worth the 20 minutes.