Lionsgate // 2009 // 87 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Brett Cullum // October 6th, 2009
The gates of hell are open in China!
The Ghost House Underground line of DVDs are a collection of titles chosen by director Sam Raimi and horror producer Rob Tapert (they both started off with cult horror classic The Evil Dead) that are launching in October of 2009 with eight titles. They represent undiscovered gems of the independent horror world, and each one seems to be above the norm for low budget horror. Seventh Moon is a production headed up by one of the directors of The Blair Witch Project, Eduardo Sánchez. It retains the shaky cam made popular by that faux documentary, but it is scripted and has a more linear plot. Seventh Moon is a zombie film from China that actually works quite well given the independent film roots. It's a surprisingly effective spook house ride that works its own brand of Asian horror on DVD.
An American couple take their honeymoon in China. You see it's the groom's homeland (Tim Chiou, L.A. Proper), although he grew up in America mainly speaking English. His wife (Amy Smart, Crank) is just along to meet the ancestors. One night their tour guide (Dennis Chan, Knock Off) mysteriously strands them in a field near a very creepy cemetery adjacent to a village, with ritualistic sacrifices littering the ground. Soon the couple tries to flee, but a car accident where they hit a man stops them. The hurt Chinese villager barely croaks out "They're coming! They're here!" and soon everybody is attacked by creepy white Asian zombies. And so begins a bizarre chase as a pair of Americans have to fight their way across the Chinese countryside while being pursued by something evil that wants to eat them.
Seventh Moon is a horror film that has a lot going for it. It is tense, well acted, and the monsters are flawless. This film knows how to work a monster or zombie, and it's amazing to witness how inventively it uses them as an integral part of the story. The creatures in Seventh Moon are creepy Morlock types that should have been what Will Smith faced down in I Am Legend. They work so well because they are hardly ever seen in close-up focus. We only get them slapped up against a car window, or creeping through brush lit from behind. They are what makes Asian horror so unique: practical effects rather than CGI that look otherworldly all the same. I dare you to watch the very last scene and then tell me any computer could ever generate something so truly frightening.
Kudos to the script for allowing our lead couple to be smart rather than your average silly horror heroes. They make decisions I could see coming to myself if I was trapped in a similar scenario. There's a language barrier, and zombies are coming after you. These two actually fight back; even the blonde girl is allowed to scrap her way through this rather than just scream and cower. These aren't your typical horny teens who get picked off all too easily. It's remarkable to have only two people carry a horror film, and it makes the tension unbearable as we actually care what happens every step of the way.
The DVD is nicely appointed with a thoughtful transfer and well executed extras. They made this release a Blu-Ray title as well as a DVD, but I suspect the regular disc's transfer is about on par with the high definition version. The shaky cam doesn't allow for too much clarity, so what are you really expecting? It's sometimes blurry and hard to see on purpose. Otherwise color and black levels are great, and the surround sound adds to the effect. For extras we get a very insightful commentary track which finds the director and his lead actress talking through the film. Also included are three featurettes which explore the production behind the scenes, the making of the ghost zombies, and a look at Chinese myths that became the basis for this script. Each one is well produced, and together they offer insight in to the process and source material for the tale.
Will somebody please buy Eduardo Sánchez a tripod? "Shaky cam" works well for creating tension, but it also makes me want to reach for an Advil. If you found Cloverfield or Quarantine nauseating, get ready to take it all to a whole new level. This is camcorder shaky at its worst! I have to give them props for style, but man does it get annoying.
This title is definitely worth your time seeking out, and I'm excited to see what else the series Ghost House Underground will unleash for us. Seventh Moon is a great little horror movie with a twist on the idea of China as a spooky threat to Americans. This is perfect Halloween viewing, or any other night you want a spooky zombie tale to go along with your takeout order of Moo Goo Gai Pan and Egg Fu Yung. Just make sure the delivery guy isn't pasty, white, and out to eat you.
Guilty of being an inventive horror flick that reimagines the Asian ghost
genre one more time.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 87 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Ghost House Underground