Watch This Movie: Drug War (2012)

I absolutely love foreign action movies. Especially movies filmed in Hong Kong or Japan. My love for these movies definitely started with the work of John Woo. I’d still probably consider Hard Boiled to be my favorite action movie of all time. (I change my list of favorites frequently. Even if Hard Boiled wasn’t at the top of my list, it’s still incredible.)

While I am still a huge fan of John Woo’s work, the unfortunate thing is that his last great movie was Face/Off which came out in 1997. Since then he hasn’t really made any movie worth noting.

There is, however, a spiritual successor to Woo. His name is Johnny To.

drug war

Johnny To, unlike John Woo, is an incredibly prolific filmmaker who makes movies in a wide variety of genres. (This is something I was actually unaware of. I thought he had only made violent heroic bloodshed movies. I plan on investigating his other work in the near future.)

All the movies of To’s that I’ve seen are action movies and they’re incredible. They’re definitely violent. I think theĀ  draw is how the action is always clearly defined on screen. Even better is that To has a strong sense of style that makes the action always quite unique.

On top of that, To knows to give the character’s in his films a lot of care. Too many times an action filmmaker will forgo character work and pile on the action — much to a film’s detriment.

This all brings me to To’s latest movie, Drug War.

The story is about a high ranking anti-drug cop who makes an uneasy alliance with a high ranking meth manufacturer. It’s a tried-and-true premise, but what really sets it apart from other movies is the characterizations of the cop and criminal.

The cop is a no nonsense type who will do just about anything to stop the drug trade in his city. The thing is, he’s kind of a show off. He puts on this stoic demeanor but for most of the movie he’s adopting different personas while undercover. During the movie you get the sense that he might really enjoy that part of the job.

The criminal is also stoic. What sets him apart from being a cliche is a bit spoiler-ish. All I’ll say is that his character’s personality seems to be all over the map but it all comes from a place of consistency. He’s a wily one. It’s very entertaining to watch him look for all the angles in whatever he’s doing.

Another great part of the movie is how tense it is. The movie is pretty much one long series of encounters where the cops get themselves into a situation and barely scrape out. In an interesting creative choice, most of the movie’s most tense scenes play out in relative silence. There’s not much in the way of a musical score. The characters only seem to talk when they absolutely have to. In fact, two supporting characters are deaf. Silence is important stylistically and thematically.

Even the few action scenes in the movie play out to silence. Most of what’s heard on screen is dialogue and gunshots. The lack of musical score somehow increases the tension in the movie.

Drug War is an absolutely amazing piece of straight forward genre cinema. It’s a simple yet tense movie that has a surprising amount of depth to it.

Considering Johnny To has such a wide range of films under his belt, this could be a great introductory movie to watch if you’ve never seen any of his other work.

Wrapping Up the 2013 Fear-a-thon Spectral-tacular!

First of all, I’d just like to thank anyone who read any of the articles during the Fear-a-thon Spectral-tacular. I had a hell of a lot of fun writing them and I hope you had fun reading them.

Also this whole Fear-a-thon experiment is an homage to film critic Brian Collins’ Horror Movie A Day website that he ran from 2007 to 2013 daily. I discovered the site a bit too late, but it’s still a really fun website with great reviews.

This wrap up post will be presented in three parts. The first parts are my thoughts on the process, the second part is my rankings of the movies I watched, and for the third part I thought it might be interesting to list my five favorite horror movies of all time.


I hope this doesn’t ruin the magic but I didn’t exactly watch each movie the day an article was posted about it. Most of time throughout the month I was ahead of the curve by one to two days. I did really watch all the movies though. And it was the first time I had seen any of those movies. There’s 10 million articles online about The Shining and Friday the 13th. I figured it would be better to write about movies I hadn’t seen, even if they were movies that not a lot of other people had seen either (like Ghoulies).

I think about two weeks into the process I really hit a groove with how to write each post and what sort of info should be presented in the post. I kind of want to go back to the earlier posts and rewrite them. I didn’t want to do a dry plot recap. I wanted to hit the good parts and bad parts of the movie in a way that didn’t totally spoil said movie. For some movies like The Lords of Salem the most interesting part is the theme of the movie. So spoiling it is a little unavoidable. I hope I didn’t ruin any movies for anyone!

If I were to do this next year I think I’ll try to plan out the movie’s I’d be seeing instead of being at the whims of Netflix’s selection. They have a decent selection in the horror subcategory, but it’s not as robust as I’d have liked. Considering the direction Netflix is going, by next year they’re selection might exponentially increase. I also might try to expand it to a horror movie every day instead of just the weekdays. Although that might kill me. I’m not sure how Brian Collins did it for 6 years.

I think the thing that’s surprised me the most about this experiment is that I haven’t yet burned out on horror movies. I’m someone who very easily burns out on things. For example, I just went through a huge surge of reading comics. I still love comic books dearly but I needed to take a break from them for a bit. This happens to me all the time with my interest. I get a surge to completely envelope myself in, say, video games, do that for a month or two and then I need a break. But after watching nearly 25 horror movies I still have a desire to see them. Just maybe not at a daily rate!


I feel like the best way to rank these movies isn’t to put them all up against each other, but rather to separate them into categories (no particular order within the categories).


You’re Next
The Lords of Salem
Rosemary’s Baby
John Carpenter’s Prince of Darkness

Not only are these great horror movies, they’re just great movies in general. The Lords of Salem and Prince of Darkness were especially great. They were both these dark, moody, and creepy movies perfect for the Halloween season.


House on Haunted Hill (1959)
Dracula (1931)
The Innkeepers
The Mummy (1932)
Land of the Dead

Average to me always means that it’s a perfectly fine movie to watch but the good parts and bad parts equally balance each other out. Maybe the good parts give a slight edge to the movie as a whole. They’re not good, not bad, just average.


Evil Dead (2012)
The Serpent and the Rainbow
Maniac (2012)
Ju-On: The Grudge
No One Lives

Some of these movies are just forgettable. Others are actively bad. I’m trying not to contribute to the overly negative dialogue that happens with movies on the internet. All I’ll say is that if given the choice to watch these movies, you might want to skip them.


Silent House
Black Rat

These two movies are a bit frustrating to think about because they both showed so much promise! Especially Silent House. Up until the last 15 minutes I was absolutely convinced that it was this horror masterpiece. Then the ending unraveled all that good will. With Black Rat the movie petered out halfway through. It was less of a sting but they still squandered a really good mash up of genres.


Perhaps I should have done this before the Fear-a-thon Spectral-tacular started so the readers would know what my tastes were. A small oversight. This was the first year after all.

Anyway. Here are five of my favorite horror movies presented in alphabetical order.

Evil Dead 2

Sure, Evil Dead 2 is firmly in the comedy/horror territory, but it’s so chock full of gory fun that it’s hard not to hate. Maybe if you’re a horror purist and can’t accept goofball humor in horror, but come on. Seeing Bruce Campbell laugh maniacally as he chops off his own hand? That’s golden.

Not to mention Sam Raimi’s infectious sense of goofiness. You can’t help but enjoy the ride he presents in this movie.


I’ll admit. The first time I saw Scream I thought it was legitimately scary. Granted, I was maybe 12 or 13 when I first saw it (I was 10 when it was released). But I think that’s the power of Scream. Like You’re Next it perfectly blends horror and humor. It doesn’t hurt that it completely reinvigorated the slasher genre either. I’m really glad Wes Craven was the point man to take the genre in a new direction. I’ll be honest. I almost substituted out Wes Craven’s New Nightmare for this one, but I felt Scream was all around better.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

If I were ranking these five movies this would be at the top of the list. There’s no other movie I can think of that induced such a sense of disgust and fear that I never want to re-watch it. I mean, I’m sure at some point I will but I’m in no rush.

This movie seriously messed me up. And I was probably 17 when I first saw it! I’ll always remember two things. One, when Leatherface clunks the guy on the head with the mallet and the sickening thud that follows. Two, the sense of despair and creepiness when the whole family is sitting around the dinner table.

The Thing

I love this movie. I don’t even remember where or how old I was when I first watched this movie. Its scares have long since dissipated, but it speaks to the power of this movie that it is still watchable. Every time I watch this movie I want the research team to figure out the alien menace quicker and deal with the problem. But every time they fail and succumb to it.

And you can’t forget the ending. It’s such a nihilistic, hopeless ending. What’s great is that neither the characters nor the audience really know if the two humans left are truly human.

You’re Next

When I wrote about You’re Next I said it completely reinvigorated my interest in horror. That still holds true. I check weekly to see if the movie has been given a release date for its Blu Ray. It’s a fantastic movie with great characters, great fun, and great scares. It’s a modern masterpiece.

I think other critics have given a similar sentiment but I can totally see people slowly discovering this movie as its released on home video and it becoming a powerhouse cult hit. To give you an idea of how much I like this movie: I think it’s better than Cabin in the Woods. (Not that the two movies are similar or comparable.)

So that’s it. Will I do a Fear-a-thon next year? I sure hope so! This was a ton of fun. My goal between now and next October is to become even more well versed in the horror genre so I can speak about it in a more complete, in depth manner. Right now I feel a bit like a tourist. I really like horror movies so it shouldn’t be too hard to increase my critical skills in the genre.