Sunday, March 28, 2010

Day Two: To Kako (Evil) (2005)

After the sheer joy we experienced with Pontypool, both Dr. Girlfriend and I were a little apprehensive about jumping into what is billed as "The First Greek Zombie Film!"

First tries are rarely all that, especially in the world of zombie films, but since we really want to get an international feel to this marathon, we gave this a shot.

And to our surprise, we really enjoyed it!

To Kako, or Evil as it is titled in English, isn't the best zombie film we've seen. But it has enough good stuff going for it that it's nowhere near the worst.

In stark contrast to the confined anxiety of Pontypool, Evil, once the zombies start appearing, immediately takes it to the streets.

Here's the setup. Three construction workers (or something) accidentally discover a cave during the course of their day. Naturally curious, they lower a ladder down and check it out. This exposes them to a very Evil Dead approach of some sort of bodiless EVIL. The next thing we know, our "heroes" are continuing with their day. One is home with his wife and daughter getting ready for dinner. The second fellow is at the big soccer game. And the third is out at the club with his girlfriend (who he's ready to dump).

Then, at exactly the same time, all three of them begin gagging and coughing before their eyes roll up in their heads and they leap on anyone close and begin biting them for all their worth. The bitees are instantly infected and leap on someone close to them.

As you can imagine, the attacks in the club and in the stands of the big game are bloody and violent and within minutes we have zombie hordes running through the streets. The family man kills his wife, but his teen-age daughter runs away, finding help with a neighbor lady before both of them are chased down the fire escape and are forced to hide in an alley.

I really liked the open air threat, and Evil director, Yorgos Noussias (who also wrote the screenplay), dies his best to invoke films like 28 Days Later with the emptied-out Athens that our actual heroes have to survive in.

So the set-up is well done, and once we get our main characters introduced, I actually liked them, as well. They're kind of stereotyped, but each actor does a good job at making their character believable; even the comic-relief cabbie. The weakest link in the acting is the fellow who plays the soldier they stumble across later in the film. He's just not very good at making his character seem crazy, instead he just seems like a guy "acting" crazy.

And in a lesser-quality film it wouldn't be that problematic for me.

But then again, we do really have two types of films going on here. There's a lot of pretty serious moments that play well. However, at the same time, whenever our heroes are attacked by zombies, we start getting more splatterstick humor than realistic responses.

Which isn't a bad thing, really. But I had a hard time jumping back and forth between tones. When the bitchy girlfriend suddenly starts using kung-fu on zombies, it was just kind of absurd. And not in the good, Existential way.

But with that said, this was a very well-made film. Noussias isn't afraid to have some fun with the editing, giving us a lot of shock-inducing quick cuts and a few split screen shots reminiscent of what you'd see on 24. There were a few places where it was a little too "music video" but overall, it was a fresh and exciting piece of work.

Something that isn't really commented on, but seems to be a nod to vampire classic From Dusk Til Dawn, the zombies are not what you'd call stout. Their heads can be knocked off with a punch, arms come off if you pull on them, you can punch holes in them, and they die just like ordinary living people. You don't have to have a head shot.

This provides opportunities for some funny/violent moments and also allows for some very good gore effects. There was some money spent on the gore, from old-school ripping out of intestines and throats to heads being chopped down the middle or exploding in gunfire.

So, all in all, this is one that's worth checking out. The tone is a little uneven, but if you can get past that, there's some good work going on.

And it was successful enough that a sequel is in the works: To Kako 2: Evil in the Time of Heroes, starring the ever-genre-friendly Billy Zane.


And it looks like it takes up exactly where Part One leaves off. And jumps back to Ancient Greece, as well.


Here's the trailer!

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