Archive for category Vampires

Alien 0? Tweenlight 4-1 and K.Smith’s attempt at Horror.

Since its been few months since either of us have had the time or drive to type anything short of an Amazon search query, I thought I’d take a look back at what we’ve missed.

Prometheus…After a bunch of comic-booky garbage, popularly known as the AVP films, Alien’s orginal director Ridley Scott returns to the franchise with a new vision that ambiguously holds the title of prequel, in the sense of an origin story, to the once beloved Sigourney Weaver space opera. Scott, and others involved with the project, have provided conflicting reports as to how much Prometheus will actually tie into the  franchise, but the  inspiration seemed to be to tell the story of the “Space Jockey” and his  derelict space vessel where the alien was initially encountered in the first film.

However, recent interviews with Scott provided further  confusion as he played down any connection with the Alien franchise saying that, “the keen fan will recognize strands of Alien‘s DNA,” but basically seems to suggest that it will have little to do with his signature acid blooded beasts. Despite all that noise, the marketing department seemed to not hesitate to use the classic slow forming ALIEN-style font in the trailer. Also, anyone who has 70 seconds to spare to watch the teaser might notice a few other familiar sights: people in Cryo-chambers, Giger style architecture, diseased crew members, and even the Space Jockey’s ship itself.  I wonder if we’ll all  be surprised if someone is secretly an android.

Even if it has as little to do with the sci-fi giant as Ridley seems to want everyone to believe, how can you go wrong with the guy that directed Alien, Blade Runner, and that oh so Witty 1984 Apple Macintosh Computer Superbowl ad.

Check out the trailer for yourself Here

Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1… Yeah, I saw it. And as to be expected they dragged out a lot of the film’s teeny romantic aspects, especially the wedding and honeymoon, which droned on for a grueling while, but I must say that many aspects were done with a great deal more skill and grace than I would have expected. A perfectly controlled hyperbolic bloodbath dream sequence paved the way  for a darker film waiting to emerge, and as the tone soured the illustration of Bella Swan’s “sickness” was executed with a convincing transformation to an emaciated body  usually reserved for Holocaust victims. Unfortunately, one of the most painful exceptions to the rule was the presentation of the wolf-telepathy between Jacob and his pack which looked like a drunken argument between angry muppets after a long night of Kermit’s Green Jager shots.

Objectively, I would say the film was well done and probably a welcome entry for its fan base, albeit as hokey as usual.

Red StateI heard Jay and Silent Bob Fight God Nuts was the original title, but didn’t have quite the same ring. After seeing Smith’s fad-style of direction go out of favor and his originality wavier with it, I had been skeptical of Kevin’s Smith ability to direct anything well anymore let alone horror.  However, Red State had some merit to it . The plot follows three exaggerations of  high school boys that decide they  should all go do the same chick that they met on the internet at once. (Cause we all knew lots of straight Teen boys that would be cool with a Pseudo-homosexual experience for no good reason in the confines of the most judgmental  age bracket.)  Regardless , and unfortunately for them, the whole setup happens to be a ploy by an extremist church to kidnap the three of them and execute them in their church for being sexually unwholesome, I guess.

Enter-Abin Cooper…an interesting mix of bible-literalist, radical extremist, and cliche all wrapped into one. While Smith does a good job of creating tension with one of the boys  locked in cage, watching as Abin and his congregation mock and murder a homosexual man they’ve captured, every character in the room is pretty cookie cutter bible nut.  In all fairness, though, the piece is hardly intended as a character study.

Shortly after things are looking bleak for the ill-fated teens, the film shifts POV to John Goodman’s character, Joseph Keenan, an ATF agent that’s prepped for the audience as a red blooded typical American from the second he rolls out of bed and onto the screen. His cigarette smoking and coffee drinking self receives a call from his high ranking government superior while his wife cooks him a hardy breakfast of eggs and processed ham.  We soon learn that ATF has had their ever-watching eye on Abin’s cult for some time, and they want Goodman to perform a raid on their church. Despite Goodman’s warnings and concerns that ATF’s track record is a little tainted in such operations his superiors force him to mobilize a team to surround the church.

The rest of the movie carries out as you would expect: all hell breaks loose in a manner that heavy handedly criticizes events like the Waco assault. As the ATF starts killing Abin’s followers more brutally than this film attempts subtlety, the remaining hostages dwindle away and the movie works its way to a  deus ex machina ending that’s sort of clever but sort of just pulled out of someone’s ass also. I guess Smith never heard of Chekhov’s gun or maybe it was just out of bullets.

Most offensive is the outro, where Goodman has to debrief with two high ranking government officials that make over the top “hot button issues” jokes about terrorism and how they can subvert due process because they’re the government. (PATRIOT ACT Blah Blah TERRIORISM Blah blah ENTER YOUR FAVORITE ANTI-USA BUZZWORD HERE.)  Smith myswell have given them black handle bar mustaches to twirl while they bellow out deep laughs. However, Goodman shuts them up by rambling off childlike dog metaphors in a manner eerily similar to the one-speech-a-movie Silent Bob used to give.  Curious.

Even though I sound like I hated it, Smith does pull off suspense, drama, and discomfort at a level that I enjoyed, but subtlety is not his forte. While the film’s commentary is a bit BIT too TOO much, I agree with most of what he trying to say. The theme that any extreme leads to evil is a timeless and good subject, especially when these acts are perpetrated by those in power, its just when you approach it with the skillful tact and subtlety of Donkey Kong tossing a barrel the message loses a smidgen of power, But I guess in a movie where you’re expected to believe that anyone could shoot at John Goodman from an elevated position less than 100 yards away and miss, you need to suspend disbelief a little.

Final thoughts…honestly that’s really all I’ve had time to watch on the horror front these days…If you feel like you were cheated a Paranormal Activity 3 review then it probably would have went like this.

Matt: “It’s the best thing ever”

Chris: “It’s the worst movie ever “

Post to Twitter

, , ,

No Comments

Dead Time Stories Vol.1

Well, Romero’s latest project, Dead Time Stories Vol. 1 has recently hit the VOD market, and it doesn’t exactly have me dying for Vol.2. For the most part, Romero has has left the direction up to Savini, et al, but his MO kind wafts from each vignette, and perhaps its just the segmented short films format that reminds me of Creepshow, however parallels to Romeros other fiction keep surfacing like old zombie hands.

The initial “Really?”-moment that has the piece off and running like a three legged horse is Romero establishing himself as the Crypt Keeper-esque narrator, which ends up turning out like someone’s pedophile Uncle Chester trying to act like a friendly harmless adult. While most fans that know Romero will realize that George is just being George and isn’t really trying to act it’s still too hokey to watch. The segments themselves have an interesting off-beat style, but most of the stories and characters are pretty forgettable. While I don’t think I’ll ever forget Steven King’s portrayal of  the newly “fertile” hick named Jordy Verill, the cockroach plagued Entomophobic Upson Pratt, or Adrian Barbeau’s Shrewish “Billy” I couldn’t name a single character in any of the “Deadtime” stories I just watched yesterday.

With that said, the three segments do all have some redeeming quality. The opener is about a determined woman trying to discover the fate of her husband in a jungle with hostile natives, which has an interesting twist on the fate of the narrator, but is peppered with too much cartoonish gore. Its follow-up has the creepiest portrayal of a mermaid since Daryl Hanna got cosmetic surgery, however the tone is a little too reminiscent of  Creepshow’s “Something to Tide You Over” vignette. Then again, how many ways can vengeance from the sea be pulled off? The final piece is a vampire tale directed by Savini that reminded me of Romero’s old vampire tale Martin, but maintained its own unique dark direction and utilized it setting, a turn of the century peasantry naivety, to execute its narrative seamlessly.

Perhaps I’m doing Deadtime Stories Volume 1 an injustice by comparing it to Creepshow, which paired King and Romero both in the prime of their careers, but on its own merit it does have seem to be missing something. Still, the tales are enjoyable for what they are if you’re in the mood for this format. Or if you need a good laugh a you can just watch the transition segments when Romero does his best work as the over the top narrator. Either way, it’s not a terrible watch. Let’s call it a B- and hope for Vol 2 to wow us.

Post to Twitter

,

1 Comment

New Moon’s “Darker Edge” Tries to Tap New Markets

new_moon2110Last month’s Fangoria’s cover sported the Twilight Saga’s dreadlocked pseudo-villain, Laurent. His menacing expression and a headline “A Darker Twilight” were accompanied by an article quoting screen writer Melissa Rosenberg telling fans to expect “something for everyone this time around.” New Moon (2009) is the second film adaptation in Stephanie Meyers’s four part series of novels about a young girl’s love for an eternally teenage heart throb, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson).

Twilight (2008) introduced the saga to the big screen with a typical human/non-human romance plot that builds in clichéd fashion until it brings a trio of villains on screen.  The movie asserts one of these antagonist vampires is the toughest bad-ass to grace the silver screen since Darth Vader and then he goes out like bitch in under two seconds with dismemberment scene that occurs off screen. WTF?

New Moon shows the result of a similar vampire death on screen with-in its first twenty minutes at the hands of the Volturi, the darkest, oldest and most powerful; the royalty of vampires in  Meyer’s universe. Unfortunately, this is merely a carrot to be dangled for the better part of two hours in which you will wait to see them again.

The purpose of New Moon is to essentially build the back story of Bella’s (Kristen Stewart) best friend Jacob (Taylor Lautner) and his abilities as a Lycan, “Werewolf,” Kate Beckensale would specify. If the Underworld saga has not gotten you sick of high flying werewolf antics then New Moon’s dog boys do create some appealing visual effects and generally make themselves more likable and interesting than the bloodsuckers. This conflict essentially fuels the narrative as Bella, Jacob, and Edward find themselves in a growing love triangle while Victoria (Rachelle Lefevre)—the mate of the “ultimate” vampire that got owned in Twilight—appears once or twice; and may as well wave at audiences with a T-shirt that says, “Don’t forgot about my subplot, it’ll matter next movie.”  Eventually, all this clutter triggers a series of events that has Bella running through the streets of Italy trying to prevent another clichéd tragedy re-write of when Bill Shakespeare “laid his scene” there in Verona.

Once that silliness is over, we finally get back to the Volturi who are creepy, amusing, and interesting but by no means groundbreakingly original. Most compelling is seeing a maturing Dakota Fanning portray one of these darkest of blood suckers with an ability to crush even her own kind with a thought and squint of her crimson eyes. However, this scene only actually provides a Matrix-style fight sequence and the revelation of another plot point that might matter later (see Victoria’s T-Shirt). The only chilling image involves groups of families being lead on tour of the building, basically lambs; the doors slam behind them and the screaming begins, but the audience only the hears their terrified screams. Remember folks, the PG-13 rating is the tug on this cash cow’s utters.

To answer Fangoria’s question, “Is it darker?” yes, it is darker, but lavender is also darker than pink, and that does not make this film easily accessible for wider audiences or horror fans. If anything, this film is more complex, harder to soak up than its predecessor, and more of just a visual representation for book readers. After the film, I had to ask to my girlfriend—who has read all four novels—dozens of questions to just get up to speed on what the characters’ motivations actually were.

New Moon is entertaining, visually stimulating, and a lot of fun, but don’t allow any magazine to convince you that’s it blacker than blacker the blackest black and brutal, to paraphrase Nathan Explosion, because it’s just not. At the end of the day, it’s there so Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner can walk around with their shirts off and a crowded theater of teenage girls can scream like it’s 1965 again and the Beatles have just taken the stage at Shea.

Post to Twitter

, , , , ,

4 Comments

Movie Review – Thicker Than Water: The Vampire Diaries Part I

Thicker Than WaterLet me start this off with a disclaimer – when I was contacted by Phil Messerer, the writer, director, and producer of Thicker Than Blood: The Vampire Diaries Part I, I was at best skeptical.  I’ve watched a lot of bad low-budget horror movies over the years and let’s be honest, they usually suck.  They’re riddled with cliches, lousy acting, and miserable production quality.  I’m always willing to give things a chance but to be completely honest, I do tend to go into most things with a bias one way or another.

Also, vampires are everywhere these days it seems.  From Twilight to True Blood to Let the Right One In, everyone is competing for a place in this sub-genre, some with more success than others.  The point is, as a writer/director it is difficult to say something about vampires that hasn’t already been explored to death (no awful pun intended).

Surprisingly, what I found with Thicker Than Water was completely unexpected – a competent narrative, solid acting, creative art direction, and some genuinely funny moments.  Messerer succeeds by crafting his tale less around scares than around the changing dynamic of a dysfunctional family thrown into a moral dilemma when 16-year-0ld Helen Baxter (Devon Bailey) becomes a vampire.

The film centers primarily around Helen’s twin, Lara (Eilis Cahill), a socially-awkward goth girl who literally prays to an Anne Rice shrine, tries to cast Wicca spells and secretly wishes to be accepted by her peers.  We are introduced to the family’s world through a series of often funny monologues from Lara.  What I like about this is that Messerer instantly begins to give his characters depth, which unfortunately is usually lacking in the genre.  And beyond Lara, The Baxters all have their quirks.  Helen is a beautiful, blonde goody two shoes whose personality stands in stark contrast to Lara’s.  Their brother Raymond is a scientific genius and closet homosexual with a stockpile of gay porn hidden under his bed.  The family’s matriarch is a former Ukrainian Olympic figure skater who gave up her craft to marry, which she sadly regrets.  And the father is a typical American man who “likes to take the bull by the horns”.

The Baxter family dynamic goes from dysfunctional to insane after the parents decide to separate and Lara’s jealousy of Helen continues to mount.  After Lara casts an “ancient anal acne” spell, Helen begins gushing blood from her nose and subsequently dies from blood loss.  Oops.  Later that night, Helen shows up back at the house covered in blood and screaming incoherently about killing someone.

Thicker1

Raymond analyzes Helen’s blood and discovers that it is infected with an unidentified virus that feasts on red blood cells and is destroyed by ultraviolet light.  Apparently, Lara has made Helen a vampire.  The family is then challenged by a heavy moral dilemma.  Do they become serial killers in order to feed Helen or do they let her starve?  I won’t delve into plot details much further, in order to avoid spoiling anything.

However, there is an interesting sub-plot (that ultimately ties in with the Baxters) about how the Mayans sacrificed humans to a female vampire held captive in one of the temples at Chichen Itza.  Once the Mayan civilization crumbled, the vampire escaped.  The legend and life of this vampire was researched and made into a book by an author who apparently committed suicide after its publication.  He was found missing multiple limbs.  Strange suicide method, no?  Following his death, all of the books were destroyed except for one, which just so happens to end up in a store called The Freakatorium in Lara’s hometown of Sugar Loaf, NY.  While this story adds depth to the plot, it also acts as a vehicle for Messerer to show off some damn cool etchings done by artist Rostislav Spitkovsky.

Thicker2

Aside from its unconventional vampire plot, Thicker Than Water really derives its strengths from solid dark humor.  Messerer does an excellent job of making the viewer laugh at a pretty awful situation.  There’s something undeniably funny as the family sits down to Christmas dinner in a basement room where the walls are covered in blood, Helen is rocking and twitching uncontrollably due to lack of nourishment (blood), and holiday music plays in the background.  It’s an awesome juxtaposition of convention and dysfunction.

GW539H316

While Thicker Than Water is not based on gore, visual arts director Randall Leddy manages to pull off some impressive effects with a minimal budget.  There are some amputations, stabbings, face removals and decapitations that look better than some effects I’ve seen in big-budget films.  I admire effects artists who don’t rely on computers to make us squirm.  Say what you will, but the best gore effects are almost always done with latex and fake blood.

Thicker5

Thicker Than Water does have its weak points – an over-the-top Cajun vampire and some last minute revelations that seemingly come from nowhere – but overall, it’s a solid movie.  There are a few awkward audio transitions between shots, but nothing that detracts from the film as a whole.  The score throughout is well executed, particularly the classical music.  If you’re interested, the film can be viewed on demand at Amazon or check out the official site.  Clearly, Messerer has a knack for screenwriting and the ability to infuse an often stale sub-genre with some new life and laughs.  Next time he releases something, I’m going to be less skeptical.

Post to Twitter

, , , , ,

2 Comments