Friday, March 22, 2013

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles


Skip to the end for a SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Plot
The film opens in a modern-day (but judging by the ponytails, really the early 90's) San Francisco, reporter Daniel Molloy (Christian Slater) interviews Louis de Pointe du Lac (Brad Pitt), about his life as a vampire.

Louis discibes his life in Spanish Louisiana in 1791, where at the age of 24, he was turned by the vampire Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise). Lestat teaches him how to live as a vampire. At first, Louis rebels against hurting humans, drinking animal blood instead. He finally succumbs and kills his faithful house slave. Guilt ridden, he tries to kill himself by setting fire to his house; but Lestat rescues him and they flee.

Wandering the streets of New Orleans, a midst an plague outbreak, Louis finds a sick child in a house with her dead mother. He bites the girl, Claudia (Kirsten Dunst), whom Lestat later transforms into a vampire "daughter". Lestat teaches Claudia to live as a vampire and prey on humans. As thirty years pass, Claudia becomes a sadistic killer and closely bonded to Louis and Lestat. But, when she realizes she will never grow up, she is furious with Lestat and kills him. Claudia and Louis dump Lestat's body in a swamp; but he returns, having feasted on swamp creatures to survive. Lestat attacks them, but Louis sets him on fire and is able to flee to Paris with Claudia.

In 1870, Louis and Claudia live in Paris, but Louis is still bothered by the question of how vampires came to be. One night, Louis encounter vampire Armand (Antonio Banderas); Armand invites Louis and Claudia to his coven, the Théâtre des Vampires. Louis makes inquiries about vampires and learns that the greatest crime for a vampire is murder.

Claudia rightly accuses Louis of wanting to leave her and join Armand. As punishment for Lestat's murder, the Parisian vampires abduct them both; they imprison Louis in a metal coffin. When freed by Armand the next night, he learns Claudia has been executed by sunlight. He returns to the Theatre and avenges Claudia by burning the vampires in their coffins as they sleep. Armand arrives in time to help him escape and once again offers him a place by his side. Louis once again refuses, knowing that Armand choreographed Claudia's demise to have Louis all to himself, and he leaves Armand for good.



As decades pass, Louis explores the world alone, still grieving for Claudia, before returning to the United States. In 1988, he returns to New Orleans and finds Lestat, a mere shadow of his former self. Lestat asks Louis to rejoin him, but Louis rejects him and leaves.

At this point, Louis concludes the interview, claiming that his experiences have resulted in his becoming the "very spirit of preternatural flesh; detached, unchangeable, empty." Malloy is shocked by this statement and openly declares his desire to have had Louis' experiences as a vampire. He asks Louis to transform him. Louis is immediately outraged by Malloy's complete disregard for the pervasive suffering caused by vampirism outlined in the interview. Louis vanishes and as Malloy drives away he is attacked by Lestat.



The Good, the Bad, and the Gory

The Good
Cinematography
Have you ever heard of Philippe Rousselot? No? Well, have ever seen Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Sherlock Holmes I&II, Remember the Titans or Planet of the Apes? If so, then you've at least seen his work. Rousselot is a legend of cinematography, having worked on some the most visually stunning movies in all of cinema. He has a style of extravagance and grandeur, while remaining grounded and believable.

Interview with the Vampire has exactly this feeling. It has many shots that are wide, used to create an environment  At the same time the furniture and set are very detailed and realistic. In a period movie it's essential to create a believable setting. No one is going to buy a period movie all shot on set or lacking in detail. If nothing else, this is a good looking movie.

Mood
I'm a traditionalist, I'll admit it. I like to try out new movie concepts, but at the end of the day I want my Frankenstein to have bolts, my werewolves to howl at the moon, and my vampires to be classy. Interview with the Vampire harks back to the classic motifs of Dracula(1931) and Nosferatu(1922). The idea that vampirism was sensual, elegant, refined as well as gruesome and torturous. Something about that contradiction appeals to the human psych  It fits in with our bad-boy complex along with James Bond and Italian Mobsters.

Whatever the reason, I love how vampires are shown as these tortured souls. The whole film feels dark and depressed. Juxtaposed the dark mood with the character's vain attempts to find happiness, and it creates a beautiful contrast.

The Acting
Interview with the Vampire boasts some big name actors, but two stood out in my opinion. While I'm no fan of Brad Pitt, he does a good job as the vampire Louis. The character didn't call for much beyond being depressed and one scene of outrage, but Pitt is able to bring a believability to the role which Tom Cruis clearly could not. I found myself actually feeling sorry for poor Louis.

The pre-teen Kirsten Dunst was easily the best actor on screen. Now, it's easy to hold children to the a lower standard of excellence because of their age, but in this case I think she earns the praise. It was great to see this little girl acting circles around Tom Cruise. Her role called for her to be both child and adult, and she is believable as both. 



The Bad
The Acting
Yep, in this movie you gotta take the good with the bad. I'm not much of a Tom Cruise fan, and am even less so after seeing this movie. Just visually, I thought he looked ridiculous the whole time. A 5'3'' vampire is neither scary nor intimidating. Watching him bouncing around in his wigs and puffy sleeves never looked quite right. His character almost seemed cartoon-ish with polarized emotions. It was like someone was holding up cue cards for what emotion he was suppose to be acting. Simplistic and uninspired.

I actually like Antonio Banderas. Evita was great, but he was lacking in this movie. I feel like the director said, "All I want you to do is whisper your lines and show no expression." He had a cool character as the most ancient vampire, but he doesn't add anything to it. I know vampires are dead, but jeez, add a little emotion.

The Pacing
I know that this movie is an adaptation of Ann Rice's book, and such adaptations are bound to have some trouble with pacing, but they should have tried harder on this one. Interview is told using mostly flashbacks, and I wonder why they flashed back on some things and not others. It feels like we are stuck in New Orleans far to long. By the time we get to Paris the movie isn't left with enough time to do anything cool. There were plenty of times I wanted a blue-uniformed cop to pop up on screen as say, "Alright, move it along. Nothing to see here."

The Point
There have been several novels that I have enjoyed which took long, meandering routes with no particular destination. There are very few movies I've enjoyed with the same structure. And I get it, this is suppose to be look at the internal turmoil and suffering of the vamperic world, but give me some story please. This was like reading memoirs  There is no true villain, no true hero, no dynamic characters, and no resolution. I feel like there are three different parts to the movie, Louis's transformation, Louis and Claudia, and Louis in Paris. All three have different plot objectives, but none of the three are strongly connected. 

The movie ends with the end of the interview, and Lestat lively as ever. Nothing was resolved, nothing was accomplished, and the interview was pointless. I was just left saying, "What was the point of this movie?" 

Homoerotic
Ok, started sending in your hate mail and calling me homophobic, I'm still gonna say it. This movie is gay. Any good vampire movie should have sensuality in it, but watching Brad Pitt and Tom Cruse suck on each other's necks was gross. Everyone in the movie had huge wigs of long, pretty-pony hair, two inches of make-up, and European clothes. It is hard not to acknowledge the homosexual air around Lestat and Louis relationship. Vampires can be suave, but should stay manly. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to have Tom Cruise carry around a Chiwawa and a Prada bag. You'd get the same product.


For any Lonely Island fans, enjoy this mash up.


The Gory
There is a good deal of blood in this movie. Throats ripping, goblets of blood, and lots of red faces. The effects are well done and the deaths via sunlight and scythe are very cool. Vampire movies are generally high on the gore scale, but that shouldn't be taken as a negative at all

My Take on it All
Interview with the Vampire is an often held classic in the vampire sub-genre. I picked it up because it was on the list of "Must See Vampire Movies." And in the end, I'm glad I did, just to have a better understanding of the genre, but this was not a movie I enjoyed.

The poor acting and homo eroticism throughout the movie was off putting. And while this movie did a good job at creating an environment and mood (most because of the superior cinematography), that wasn't enough to over come the plot. This movie seems to meander through different plot lines, with no clear direction. It ends up with an unsatisfying conclusion that left me wanting back my hour and fifty-seven minutes.

If you are a die hard vampire fan, it is a must see simply because of the prestige it holds in the vampire sub-genre. If you are a horror fan, it worth a watch on a slow night. If you are just a movie fan, don't bother (unless you like Tom Cruise as a gay vampire).

SPOILER FREE REVIEW
Interview with the Vampire is the life story of a vampire coming to understand the intricacies of his new dark life. As a big budget movie the film brings in great visuals, sets, and effects. It's biggest appeal is it's big name cast (Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt), but don't be fooled. Most of the acting in this film is poor. Add to this a disconnected plot and poor resolution, and it makes for a frustrating watch. If you really love vampires in all their suave  sophisticated glory, then this is a good pick your you. If you are simply hoping for a good flick to watch, then I'd say pass on this one.

Final Score: C-


Trailer!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fido - Zombie is Man's Best Friend


Click here to jump to a SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Plot
The film takes place in a 1950s-esque, alternate universe where radiation from space has turned the dead into zombies. This resulted in the "Zombie Wars", where humanity battled zombies but ended with humanity's victory. In true Romero fashion the radiation still leads to zombification regardless of death. In order to continue living normal lives, communities are fenced with the help of a governing corporation named Zomcon. Zomcon provides collars with accompanying remote controls to control the zombies' hunger for flesh. Zombies are domesticated as slaves/servants. 

In the town of Willard, housewife Helen Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss) buys a zombie in spite of her husband Bill's (Dylan Baker) zombie phobia. Bill has had bad experiences with zombies in the Zombie Wars. Their son, Timmy (K'Sun Ray), befriends the zombie as a loyal pet, naming him "Fido". One day, Fido's collar malfunctions and he kills their next door neighbor, who in turn becomes a zombie. Timmy "kills" the zombified neighbor later, but not before she kills and infects another person, causing a small outbreak. Zomcom security forces quell the situation and then investigate what caused the outbreak.

When a pair of local bullies are blamed for the missing neighbor, they capture Fido and Timmy. Fido escapes and runs to find Helen, who comes and rescues Timmy from the now zombie bullies. During all the excitement Fido acted without his collar on, overcoming his hunger for human flesh.

Several days later, the neighbor's body is found and the murder is traced back to Fido, who is taken away to Zomcon for destruction. But Timmy learns that Fido is simply working in a factory at Zomcon. Timmy sets out to rescue him with the help of Mr. Theopolis (Tim Blake Nelson). After causing a small zombie outbreak at the factory, Timmy locates Fido, but is captured by Mr. Bottoms. Mean Mr. Bottoms attempts to throw Timmy into the zombie-infested "wild zone", but Papa Bill comes to the rescue. Bill is killed by Mr. Bottoms and Mr. Bottoms get's killed by Fido. The film ends with Fido as a surrogate father and husband to, Timmy and Hellen. They, along with a few neighbors happily enjoy their new domestic lives together, including the zombified Jonathan Bottoms who is now more attentive to his daughter.

The Good, the Bad, and the Gory

The Good
Satire
I bet a few people out there would call this movie a comedy, but a movie with zombies is automatically classified as Horror, which I'm fine with. I love zombies and wouldn't want to push them any farther away from my Horror-filled heart. While low on the horror side, Fido is rich in comedy.

The film's setting is great. I grew up watching TV Land reruns of Leave it to Beaver, The Andy Griffith Show, and I Dream of Jeannie. I understood the concept of the idealistic, innocent portrayal of the 1950's. It was the image of a wholesome time, when life was simple, without scandal or tragedy  Back when men were men, and women were content. This false-reality America is a great place for writers and directors to contrast the harsh reality of life, as seen in movies like Pleasantville and The Stepford Wives. So why not throw in zombies?

This whole movie is hilarious.  Kid's practicing shooting at school, zombies doing yard work, paying extra for a 'head coffins'  at your funeral. It's great to see the morbid, cruel realities of a zombie apocalypse so dismissed as trivial in cheery neighbourhood.  Kids sneaking into the zombie-shoot simply get a stern talkings-to when they shoot a cop. I think it's all so funny because we tend to accuse the past of trivializing the ugly truth to meet their simplistic vision of life. And I don't care who you are, it is always funny to see people living up to their own stereotype.

And, on simpler note, I love that they treat the zombies like dogs. Putting them on leashes, tying them up at night, only able to respond with grunts (zombie bark). The obvious analogy of Timmy and Fido to Lassie is funny enough. I'm sure you could pick out any number of Lassie episodes in the movie. I just love watching Fido put on his big puppy dog eyes when he's sad.

The Setting
I found that throughout this whole movie my eyes didn't stop darting around the screen, trying to take in every little bit of detail. Everything looked so authentic and life like. Now that might be due to the fact that all the other 50's-set shows I've seen were sitcoms made in the 70's, and I was now just now seeing a 50's portrayal filmed in HD. But whatever, it looked cool to me. I think the dynamic use of color was also used to accent the falsehood and superficiality of the period.

The Casting/Acting
This movie had a dynamite cast (note their movies). All of them were experienced and all of them understood acting in a satire. Henry Czerny (Mission Impossible, Clear and Present Danger) pulls off the stern, militaristic, misogynist excellently. Tim Blake Nelson (Lincoln, O'Brother Where Art Thou) steps in as the creepy neighbor,  Mr. Theopolis, but manages to bring humor and even sympathy into his bizarre role. Dylan Barker (Spider man 2 & 3, The Cell) has had an amazing career as a supporting actor, and shows off his acting chops in Fido. He plays the dumb and distant father. The Father to son talks are so awkward, and Barker manages to look physically uncomfortable throughout the whole move. It's perfect. 

Kesun Loder hasn't done much since his break out roll as Timmy, but he was perfect for the part. He was a small, skinny, smart looking boy. He was able to pull of victimization in a sympathetic way. But the star of the show has to be Carrie-Anne Moss (The Matrix, Chocolate, Disturbia). She plays the mother. And I'll just say this with no same, even as she has gotten older, she has entered a whole new stage of sunning beauty. She's hot enough to make corpses turn heads, and literally does in the movie. Moss plays a dynamic character going from a shallow, plastic, always-smile mom to an understanding, independent, fight-for-what's-right mom. A fantastic performance. And of course Billy Connolly (Boondocks Saints, The Last Samurai) does a wonderful, albeit quiet, job as Fido. Go listen to him off set, he's got a huge Scottish accent.



The Bad
Ok, honestly, I couldn't think of many bad elements in this movie. Now that doesn't mean this is a perfect movie. Just because it doesn't have as many bad's stacked against it, doesn't mean it outshines other movies with some bads.

Plot
Some people will take issue with the plot of this movie. The plot starts out strong and has a good direction, but kinda fizzle out towards the end. It doesn't have the solid A->B->C plot line formula that lots of people expect. But that being said, I've seen a lot of movies with much better plot lines that were much worse than Fido.

The Gory
If you were hoping this movie would bring all the brain splattering, skull cracking, gore of Shaun of the Dead, then you will be disappointed. In fact this is probably the least graphic zombie movie you could find from the last 30 years. With no nudity, no drugs, and only minimal blood and a couple rubber severed limbs, I'm kinda hard pressed to find any reason for the R rating. This could easily be PG-13.


Canadian Director Andrew Currie, answers some questions about his film.


My Take on it All
I am a lover of all things zombie. Hand's down, my favorite Horror Subgenre. I grew up watching all the zombie apocalypse movies, and loved them, but then as an adult, my tastes changed. While I still enjoyed the classic 'zombie outbreak' movies, I really enjoyed the 'after the apocalypse' concepts like Zombieland, I am Legend, The Walking Dead, and of course the soon to be movie WWZ. I don't just want to see how people survive zombies, but how they live in a world of zombies. Probably because I'd always wonder what the horror hero's did after the credits rolled.

I explained all that simply to say I loved Fido because it showed a post zombie-apocalypse world that returns to innocents and good cheer.  Most films show a hardened, rugged group of survivors and this film shows a fatter, happier group of survivors. I love the contrast.

I love the era too. Even if you took the zombies out of this movie it would still be a funny, sarcastic look at the 50's. Timmy tells his mother about bullies pointing a gun at him, but she is quick to point out the more pressing issue of his dirty shirt. Father Bill has to ask for 'propriety' after receiving his wife's kiss in front of their son. Bill gives his son some sagely advice, "to get over that", 'that' meaning his feelings. Fido gives you what's great about the 50's while making fun of what we hated.

And if you really don't like the 50's, then there is a little string of social defiance just for you. The character of Helen show's a growth of persona in coming to understand her son, their zombie, dancing to the radio, ordering men around, and other such improper things. She is clearly set up as an independent, firm-minded, defiant women.

But the thing that makes this movie is the casualness of it all. I love to imagine a world where the zombie-apocalypse is no big deal. Zomcom officers watch a murderous zombie attack from the comfort of their cop car. While Helen says this isn't normal, she calmly burns the bodies of Timmy's class mates. Little girl Cindy actually prefers her dad as a zombie on a leash. The contrast is funny, and bizarre, and awesome.

The flick is lacking in the scare and gore department, but hey, your nerves could use a rest every now and then.


SPOILER FREE REVIEW
Fido is a comedy/horror about a 1950's world after a zombie-apocalypse where mankind won, and zombies became pets. This film is a satire of the classic, 50's Leave it to Beaver/Lassie story-type. It pokes fun of the era while poking fun of zombies. The humor is dry, and ironic, so slapstick fan's beware. While there are zombie attacks, the gore is low, and I'd be hard pressed to even call it bloody. The movie could really pass for a PG-13. If you have a friend who is terrified of horror movies, this might be a good one to ween them in on. A must see for all zombie and humor fans alike.

Final Grade: A-


Trailer

Leave your thoughts bellow!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Sequel Spectacular! - Horror Leftovers Reheated One More Time

I've reviewed some great and lousy films for the blog. But I don't want you to think that the movies on the blog were the only terror flicks I was watching. The problem was that I didn't want to watch the next horror movie in my "To Review" list without getting the previous review posted. These days my mind has a hard enough time keeping my normal thoughts straight. It doesn't need any extra movie-review trivia clogging my neural highways. But I still wanted something to watch. So I started searching Netfilx and the net for the seldom-heard-of, sequels, trilogies, and series of the movies I've reviewed.

What I got was a long list of (generally) terrible movies. But hey, this is horror. One of the only genres that embraces B-Reels and low budget production. If they are bad enough, they become funny at least. So I set out to get you the the most basic reviews of these sequels so you don't have to sit through them. Don't say I never did anything for ya. The reviews are short and cursory, mostly because they weren't memorable enough for anything more. Enjoy and yell at me in the comments. 

Sequels and Series Bellow: 
Hellraiser 1-4
[Rec] Series
From Dusk Till Dawn Series
The Return of the Living Dead Series
30 Days of Night Sequel
Carrie Sequel
Ginger Snaps Trilogy

All Kinds of Spoilers Bellow

Hellbound: Hellraiser 2

A poor, disturbed Kirsty is once again the target of Pinhead, his cronies, and the undead Julia. We get a little more background on the Cenobites and the cube in a very Labyrinth-like setting. If you liked Hellraiser because of the cool effects and gore, then you will like this movie, there is lots. But the movie gives you three different plot lines and fails to bring them together. I even found the lore about the Cenobites and the cube disappointing.

 Basic Review: Skip It

Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth

In number 3 we lose all main characters except for Pinhead himself. A club owner with a love of the macabre buys artwork containing Pinhead. After some killing and resurrecting, Pinhead goes on a rampage until his timely banishment via the cube. I liked this flick more than 2 simply because it has a crazy massacre at its climax. A whole night club gets ripped up. And pinhead makes more Cenobites, which is cool. The plot and the dialogue are weak, but over all I think it makes a good B-Reel movie. If you like classic gore effects you'll like this movie.

 Basic Review: B-Reel.

Hellraiser 4: Bloodlines

 I know that there are nine Hellraiser movies, but this is the last one I could stomach. It follows the blood line of the original makers of the cube. It starts in the 1700's, jumps to the 1980's, and ends up in future. After making the cube, the maker's descendants are constantly trying to destroy it. I liked the beginning, showing the creation of the cube. The meat of the movie, the 1980's section, is boring with lame Cenobites and mediocre gore. The future part is on a space station and is really just stupid. It's like watching Alien, but you don't give a crap what happens. Honestly, I think my brain tuned out for the last 15 mins of the flick.

 Basic Review: Skip It

[Rec]2

If you loved [Rec], but were left wanting more, not to fear because [Rec]2 brings back everything you loved to begin with. A SWAT team, lead by a priest, enter 'The Quarantined Building' to discover the source of the infection. It's found footage style once more with multiple cameras, shoulder cams, and night vision. We are in the exact same building/set as the first movie, but with some extra hidden passages and tunnels, it doesn't feel stale. A few of the original characters pop up too, which is fun. The zombies in the film are a little different than the first. The director chose to play up the demonic/possession aspect of the zombie virus. It creates a different feel entirely, but just as scary. 

My Opinion: See It

[Rec]3: Genesis

This movie really deserves a complete review of its own. The story follows the wedding and reception of Koldo and Clara. The introduction is found footage style, but once zombies start popping up, it switches to straight filming. I think it was a great choice, because it gave the director a chance to really strut his stuff. And the cinematography is beautiful. Throughout the movie, there are stunning tablos, almost like still frames, that leave an impression. Seriously, this movie just looks good. The zombies are still of the demonic variety, but a little dialed back from [Rec]2. The setting is at a wedding reception hall, so we get to stretch our legs a little more than we had in the apartment building. I really liked this movie and really think it is a classic zombie movie in the making.

My Opinion: See It (really, go see it).

From Dusk till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money

This movie follows a group of bank robbers pulling off a heist in Mexico. Throw in a couple of vampire bites, and chaos ensues  This movie lacks the two best parts of the original, namely George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino. It lacks a lot of the humor that the first film gave us. The acting is bad, the effects are bad, the dialogue is bad. The final scene, a standoff between vampires and tons of police officers, is pretty cool, but not cool enough to redeem this movie.

My Opinion: Skip It

From Dusk till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter

If you've always wanted a vampire movie set in early 1900's Wild West Mexico, good news, there is exactly one in existence. I was actually hopeful when I saw Bryan Cranson was in this flick, but my hopes were quickly dashed. While I'm glad they tried to add the over-the-top gore back into the series, it wasn't enough to make up for the plot. There are like 4 different plot lines dumped on the screen that never come to a satisfying conclusion (Seriously what is the deal with Cranson's character?). If you are a pure action-gore fan, you might enjoy this one.

My Opinion: Skip It

The Return of the Living Dead Part 2

If you took the original The Return of the Living Dead, took out the nudity, added a little more humor, and gave it happy ending, you would have exactly this movie. Both Thom Mathews and James Caren play the exact same roles as the original. This time they are grave robbers, but they still freak out the same and turn into zombies. This is obviously on purpose because the film makes a joke about it. The humor in the show is a little more on the nose. More slapstick comedy instead of the satire comedy of the first film. Its got lots more of those great 80's special effects and yes, Tarman gets some more screen time. I don't think it's as great as the first film, but it's still pretty good.

My Opinion: B-Reel

The Return of the Living Dead 3

Now, if you liked the zombie motif of the original The Return of the Living Dead, but hated all the humor and comedy, then this is the film for you. It follows a teenage couple exposed to the zombie virus and military's attempted containment. It brings back the nudity and teenage rebellion of the first film while delving a little more into the un-killable zombie universe. The movie has great and graphic special effects and some pretty good acting.

My Opinion: See It

The Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis

This movie kinda has a Resident Evil feel to it. A group of teens attempt to rescue their friend from a secret zombie-weapons lab. Needless to say, zombie outbreak ensues. The effects are okay, but this is the first film in the series with CGI gore, and I'm just not a fan. The dialogue is bad, the characters and acting are boring, and I find myself unable to recall much about it even though I just watched it 4 days ago. Forgettable would define it pretty well.

My Opinion: Skip It

The Return of the Living Dead 5: Rave to the Grave

Wow, it's not often I hate a movie, but I hated this movie. It follows some kids who get their hands on a zombie-barrel and use it to make a drugs to sell for a party. Do kids make drugs out of unknown military chemicals these days? I'm I just out of the loop? When the premise of your movie forces you to lower the intelligence of all your characters, you're gonna have a bad movie. The best way to define this movie is to take a classic 70's horror movie, with all its stereotype characters and cheesy dialogue, and re-shoot it with modern camera. Clique doesn't even begin to describe the writing in this movie. It's like being a senior in high school and watching a 7th grader try and tell you jokes. It just doesn't work.

My Opinion: Skip It

30 Days of Night: Dark Days

The original 30 Days of Night is to its sequel, what the original Alien was to its sequel (well, that is, if James Cameron was a terrible director). In both cases, the scary factor was replaced with an action-adventure factor. And that's a bad thing in my opinion. This movie is set in California, with the previous love interest joining a vampire-killing crew. It kinda feels like Blade or John Carpenter's Vampires, but not as good as either one. There is plenty of blood and gore, but the plot is full of holes, the acting is bad, and it feels like they are trying to hard. With no Alaska and no 'days of night' this movie ain't worth the time.

My opinion: Skip It

The Rage :Carrie 2

I almost want to call this movie a loose remake of the original. It goes though a lot of effort to show contemporary (90's) teenage life to contrast the original. And it does feel like a teen movie, despite the fact that all the actors look to be in their thirties. The lead girl, Rachelle, is a forgotten step-sister of Carrie White, and goes on a similar killing rampage. The rampage scene is cool and the bullies are more deserving of death. But the movie isn't scary, is poorly written, poorly acted, and has a plot line that is awkward and forced. Save yourself the time and just youtube the last scene.

My Opinion: Skip It

Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed

The story follows Brigitte, who's werewolf-virus was never cured, simply controlled by an elixir. She ends up in rehab, forced to make new friends as she is stalked by another werewolf. I'm not gonna say this movie is good, but I did like it better than the original. It's quite a bit darker with some good physiological scares thrown in at the end. It is beautifully shot and has good effects. Still, the plot feels directionless and the acting leaves much to be desired.

My Opinion: B-Reel

Ginger Snap Back

Don't you hate it that there aren't any 1600's French-Canadian Frontiersmen Werewolf movies? Yep, that's right, they did it. In the most bizarre logic, the series took the iconic sisters and sent them back in time to their Canadian Pilgrim ancestors. I suppose it was an attempt to make an origins movie for the Beast of Bailey Downs, but it didn't even do that. I have no idea what the plot of this movie was. The acting is mediocre and the dialogue is dripping with cheese. I'm almost positive that the creative idea for the werewolves was 'gorillas with wolf heads'. Wow. They spent a lot of money to make a terrible movie.

My Opinion: Skip It

So there you have it. All the sequels and series you don't have to watch. If you like B-Reels, watch the B-Reels, or just get back to watching some Horror Classics.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Last Exorcism Part 2 - Demons and Possesion


Click here for a SPOILER FREE REVIEW

The Plot

The show opens with a couple in New Orleans discovering the demonic-looking Nell in their apartment. Nell is taken to a doctor. She's catatonic and barely has any memory of what happened to her. As she's given a bath, the nurse drops some plot-foreshadowing and cuts a lock of Nell's hair to keep.

Nell gets placed in a home for girls, run by Frank Merle. She quickly makes friends with the girls and gets a job working at a motel and even manages to catch the eye of a boy named Chris. Nell and the girls go to a Mardi Gras parade, where several masked and hooded figures appear to be watching Nell. She encounters a living statue who remarks "You've been missed". At one point, Nell even believes she sees her dead father, Louis.

Nell's nights start to fill with frightening dreams, strange noises, and shadowy figures. Chris takes Nell to the zoo. When they sit on a bench together Chris asks if Nell's ever had a boyfriend, but she gets defensive, although she still tells him of how she was pregnant. As they come close to kissing a Gorilla throws a tire in the background, ruining the moment. Stupid monkey.

Another evening, Chris throws rocks at Nell's window, asking her to come outside. She goes out and doesn't find him, but hears what sounds like several demonic voices speaking to her all at once. She runs back inside and discovers her father there, very much alive. He holds her and says he never should have trusted Cotton, and he pulls out his shotgun. Claiming its the only way, he aims his gun but Nell's roommate Gwen comes in and whacks Louis over the head. Her eyes turn black, and she tells Nell, "No one can have you but him". Nell is locked outside the room as Louis screams. Frank comes downstairs to investigate but finds nothing and Gwen comes back innocent and oblivious. Frank tells Nell he will have her committed to a hospital if she doesn't stop acting out.

During work the next day Chris tries to console a shaken Nell and gives Nell her first kiss. Nell does some levitating in her sleep, but wakes up the next morning to find the girls watching a youtube video of her first exorcism. She leaves and goes to a church where she starts praying. A pastor comes in and at first seems welcoming, but then grows darker saying, "he has great plans for you." Birds slam into the windows as shadowy figures surround the place. She runs out and on the street and is grabbed by Cecile, the nurse who had cut off some of Nell's hair.

Cecile tells Nell of a prophecy of demonic destruction should she invite her demon into herself. But not to worry, her mystical The Order of the Right Hand has been watching out for Nell. Cecile takes Nell to her place to get a sense of her possession. Cecile quickly realizes she needs backup. The demon pays boyfriend Chris a visit and when Nell comes to check on him, Chris tells her how he could never love Nell more than "him". He slits his throat in front of Nell and dies.

Nell goes back to Cecile's home that evening and meets two men from The Order of the Right Hand. They strap Nell down to a table and they perform a ritual to exorcise Nell and put Abalam inside a chicken. During the ritual, Nell struggles as something moves inside her and they are unable to control the demon. Nell sees a masked and hooded figure that she previously saw at the parade, which turns out to be herself standing before her. She sees more apparitions as they inject her IV with a needle. An apparition of Louis tells Nell it's a lethal dose of morphine. Abalam takes Nell's form again and tells her to accept her fate. Nell appears to flat-line and die. Suddenly, she springs up and takes the demons hand. The next thing we see is one of the men flying out the window while blood sprays up against the window. Nell leaves the house covered in blood.

Back at the home, Frank is calling around to look for Nell. He finds her sitting in his office where Nell tells him she's decided who she really is and thanks him for being so kind. Then she kills him before setting fire to the house.Nell goes outside, and via Frank's truck, she drives off into the night, leaving a trail of fiery destruction and Carrie-esque chaos behind her.



The Good, the Bad, and the Gory


The Good
The Acting
Really I should be more succinct and say The Actor. While all the cast did okay, it was Ashley Bell (Nell) who stood out. Bell was happy enough to pick up her previous role as Nell and we are happy enough that she did. I'm so sick of seeing horror movies with a female lead that acts about as well as a lingerie billboard (And that's coming from brainwashed Religious Republican). Horror is a genre of drama and mortal peril and needs female leads that can convey depth and complexity. Bell does this in spades. Nell's mild, quite manner hides the terror and self loathing inside. In order to understand her terror, we have to understand her wants and hopes. Bell is able to bring all of this to the screen while remaining completely believable. My favorite scene was the Mardie Grua Parade. We watch this poor, sheltered girl absorb the life and the happiness all around here. It was precious.

I also really like Spencer Clark as Chris. As the love interest/hope for normality to Nell, Chris is important in establishing a happiness that the demon could steal away. I love that Clark played the role almost as socially awkward as Nell. It made their affection that much more innocent and sweet. 

Ms. Bell herself


The Cinematography
Maybe it is just because I saw it on the big screen, but I really liked the way this movie looked. It reminded me of David Boyd's work for Dark Skies. All the shots were very wide and really established the setting. Not many tight, confining shots that leave the viewer suffocated. I also thought there was a great dynamic of color. Great contrasting and bold colors. I was annoyed that they re-sampled a few shots (motel cleaning) and that they began three nighttime scenes with exactly the same-framed bedroom shots. But I'm willing to overlook it.

The decision was made to diverge from the original by not shooting the movie as a found footage flick. While I do love found footage as a style, I think they made the right choice to shoot this one straight.

The Bad
The Scares
Have your friends ever shown you that youtube video? You know the one with the car driving serenely down a green hill under some soft contemporary music, then a screaming zombie jumps up covering the whole frame? Yeah, you know it and like me have the pee stained pants to show for it. Well I hate that video and hate anyone who thinks it's funny. Half the scares in The Last Exorcism 2 are just like that. A dream, or scene will be settling down, and then they blast you with some bloody image and a scream clearly meant for the hearing impaired. The whole scare lasts about .5 seconds and serves no purpose to the story. I don't watch horror to be startled, I watch it to be terrified. It ruins a movie if I have to watch the whole thing all tense, waiting for the next random scare. I grew out of that kind of entertainment after playing with my Jack-in-the-Box and haven't looked back.

In all fairness, this movie does boast some genuinely creepy moments. When Nell is outside calling for Chris and the demon replies, "We aren't Chris." That was great. 

Daddy Issues

It's not a death-blow to the film, but what was going on with Nell's Dad, Louis? At first he seems ethereal like some spirit appearing to Nell. He vanishes behind traffic, he's in her room then gone. Pretty standard ghost stuff. Then he appears to Nell and tries to blow her head off. Luckily the demon, via Nell's roommate, bashes Louis over the head. Louis then gets horribly murdered only to have all evidence of it vanish. I'm just not sure if he was alive or dead to begin with.

The Gore
The Last Exorcism 2 comes in as a PG-13. Now that's not a condemnation, lots of good horror is PG-13, but that does eliminate excessive gore, nudity, and language (Note: although no nudity, there are still some erotic scenes). Chris does slit his throat and there are a couple of seizures, but that's about it.

One thing that was seriously lacking were the physical contortions. Not only are they a hallmark of most possession movies, but were a main element of the first The Last Exoticism (I know, that sentence makes little sense). Ashley Bell was cast in part because of her experience in contortion. The contortion scene was one of the scariest in the first film. This new movie relied more on special effects and I think it suffered as a result.

Also, those were some weak-sauce CGI fires that Nell lit with her mind.



My Take on It All
I really should say, I love The Last Exorcism (part 1). It's the only possession movie I've seen to come close to The Exorcist  It was a found footage style that starts off on an intriguing,  if not humorous  topic. As the movie progress it slowly becomes creepier and scarier, but the whole time you are never sure if it is real or fake. We watch a skeptical pastor actually grow in faith and belief to confront a demonic power. In the end we don't know what happens to the pastor, or Nell, or the cultists. In the end you still don't know if it was all real or fake.

That point of ambiguity is a terrible place to start a sequel. By starting there the director had no bases or framework to build from. As a result we have sequel with none of the same elements as the original. Sure we get Nell and the demon, be we don't get any of the great elements that made the original so powerful. This movie had to establish its own plot, own setting, and own story line. And frankly, all of the new elements it created were boring.

I can't think of one scare, motif, or element in this film that I haven't seen in another possession movie. Creepy radio = White Noise, demonic priest = The Devil Inside, evil phone calls = The Mothman Prophecies, levitation = The Exorcist, birds crashing into windows = like 300 different movies. 

My main take away is that this movie failed to bring anything new to the genre when its original brought so much.


SPOILER FREE REVIEW


The Last Exorcism 2 picks up the story of Nell Sweetzer as she tries to rebuild her shattered life, but old demons die hard. This movie has some great actors, but it is hard to act your way out of a limited plot. The scares and story line aren't anything new to the horror world. Lacking the creativity and mystery of the original, this film falls upon the landfill heap of 'Horror Mediocrity . If you were a fan of the first The Last Exorcist don't bother with this film. If you are new to the horror genre, watch the original and then watch something else. I give it a pass.

Final Grade: D-
Trailer

Monday, March 4, 2013

Ginger Snaps - Werewolves during That Time of the Month


Click here for a SPOILER-FREE REVIEW


Plot
Except for a few mangled dogs, Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald live in happy suburbia. These two teenage girls, with a love of the macabre, stage several gory deaths for a school project. The girl's antisocial behavior and morbid interests make them high school outsiders. After a scuffle with the highschool's hottie Trina, they decided to kidnap her dog.


On their way to dog-nap, they find the mutilated corpse of another dog. Brigitte notices Ginger is bleeding from her first period (gross). Then the Beast of Bailey Downs (a werewolf)  attacks, and drags Ginger into the woods screaming. Brigitte rescues Ginger. As the sisters flee, they narrowly escape being hit by an approaching van, which does hit and kill the Beast. Since Ginger's wounds are healing, the girls decided to stay silent about the whole affair.


After a few days, Ginger starts becoming more wolf-like and has unprotected sex with Jason. She finishes off the night by killing a neighbor's dog. Frightened by what is happening to Ginger, Brigitte turns to Sam. Sam was the guy driving the van and is an amateur drug dealer/lycanthrope expert. Sam suggests monkshood, a special flower, as a solution for Ginger's illness. Problem is that monkshood only grows during spring.


Later, Trina goes to the Fitzgerald house claiming Ginger kidnapped her dog. As Ginger and Trina fight, Trina slips, hitting her head on the corner of the kitchen counter, and dies. The sisters narrowly cover up the crime scene and bury the body in the yard. Brigitte doesn't want Ginger going out anymore.


On Halloween, Brigitte takes her mother's monkshood, which was purchased from a craft store, to Sam. They make the cure and fate permits Brigitte to test it out on a werewolf Jason. She witnesses his immediate change in behavior, which proves the cure's success.


Brigitte finds Ginger at school, in the office, with a dead guidance councilor. Brigitte calms Ginger down, and goes to find cleaning supplies, but returns to see the janitor with his throat torn open. Ginger runs off to find Sam. Brigitte follows to find Sam rejecting Ginger's advances. In despair, Brigitte infects herself as Sam pleads with her not to. As the sisters leave, Sam knocks Ginger out with a shovel. Brigitte and Sam then take her back to the Fitzgerald house in his van, and prepare more of the cure for Ginger.


Ginger fully transforms into a werewolf on the way home and escapes the van. Aware that she has transformed, Sam and Brigitte hide in the pantry as he makes the cure. The Ginger-Wolf gets hold of Sam and kills him. Brigitte with the cure-filled syringe, follows the blood trail downstairs. She tries to drink Sam's blood in an attempt to calm Ginger-Wolf, but it doesn't work. Bridgette ends up stabbing Ginger with a knife by accident. Some sobs, and then it's credits.



The Good, the Bad, and the Gory

The Good
Unique Angle
I often make the cases that women in horror movies are portrayed as some of the most empowered women in all of cinema. I mean, at least one women always survives by killing the evil monster herself. That's empowerment. But that being said, these surviving women are usually dainty, quite, pure girls who call up untapped strength and courage. Rarely do you find a horror flick with strong, confident, women full of attitude. Well welcome Brigitte and Ginger Fitzgerald.

Ginger Snaps gives us a much needed heroin. The Fitzgerald sisters are Gothic, morbid, counter-culture, teens looking to stand out from the crowd. With a suicide pack and hobby of faking their own deaths, any other horror movie would have killed off these two in the first 15 mins. But instead we get to follow the strength of sisterly bonds through crisis. It's interesting to watch how crisis draws the girls together and how changing personalities drive them apart.

This film is a great look at dynamic and changing characters. Ginger transforms physically and emotionally as she becomes a werewolf, but we also get to see Bridgitt's journey as she becomes bolder and more confident trying to help her sister. It's a great study in personality. And a study in hardcore high school chicks.

Puberty Analogy
Ok. I'm a guy and even with the exposure a house full of sisters gave me, I still get grossed out by monthly lady issues. On top of that I just watched Carrie so I'm sick of watching teenage girls get their period. *Throws hands up* I'm out.

But despite my personal ick-factor, I have to acknowledge that Ginger Snaps takes a crack at a very universal milestone in life. One of the reason so many movies are made about teenagers and high school is because it's a dramatic period of change. Perfect drama for any story. But this movie takes it to a new level. We see how Ginger enters womanhood and wolfhood at the same time and how the changes of each affect her. She goes from an outcast to the high school sex idol. She  pushes away from her sister and family as she tries to understand her new self full of urges and impulses (the impulses to mutilate dogs that is). Most anyone can relate to the themes of personal change in this movie.

The Acting
I almost put this section under The Bad because of Emily Perkins (Bridgitt). Personally, I think she is one of the most homely girls I've ever seen. In general it is a bad idea to make your lead someone unappealing to look at. She didn't even get the customary ugly duckling to swan transformation. That would have helped a lot.

Also, I felt that the Bridgett character was rather stale. But I don't hold this against Emily Perkins because I think the director wanted it this way. He didn't let her develop and grow in her expression over the course of the movie. Seriously, it was like she had three pre-set faces she cycled through the entire movie.

But Kathrine Isabelle (Ginger) was a top notch actor. Made a dynamic and believable character. Plus she was hot.

Behind the Scenes


The Bad
The Split Plot
I think there are two standard ways most people would look at this movie. As a teen movie and as a werewolf movie. Sadly, it fails on both accounts. As a teen movie, I wanted a better look into the high school. There could have been a ton more story if we were introduced to more teachers, students, social structure, etc. I think all we meet really are two students and a guidance counselor. A missed opportunity.

Werewolf movies have a stigma for their generally poor quality, and this flick sadly renforces that stereotype. The werewolf attack is cool, done in classic flashing, non-reveiling shots. But then we proceed to see no werewolf until the final 15 mins. Come on. Ya gotta give me something. Plus Ginger Snaps is completly devoid of the classic werewolf transformation scene.

I don't mind the non-traditional werewolf ethos (no silver, no full moon, virus based) but I do mind the fact that werewolves are nowhere to be seen.

The Soundtrack
At one point I could have sworn they played the background from PBS's Wishbone

The Gory
To sum up, the gore, make up, action, puppets, and werewolf are all terrible. Some of the 'fake deaths' the girls make for a school project are cool, but everything else sucks. There isn't much action to give you any good gore. Ginger rips up a dog, but all the gore is really saved for the last 20 mins or so. One character gets chewed up pretty good, but you don't even realize it because you are watching the terrible excuse for a werewolf.

For a period of Ginger's slow transformation she looks more like a Klingon from StarTrek. But eventually Ginger transforms into a werewolf. And by werewolf I mean a puppet of a a balding bear with down's syndrome. It looks fake, weird, and just wrong in general.

What crap is that! 


My Take on it All
While this movie was a unique attempt on a werewolf movie, it wasn't good enough to redeem it from the horror landfill of B-reel movies.

Ginger Snaps is a great choice for the strong, independent women who loves horror. It is a story of teenage puberty and angst set against the backdrop of a werewolf flick.

Ginger Snaps is a terrible choice for anyone wanting a werewolf movie. Now I know that when it comes to werewolf movies, beggars can't be choosers, but just skip this one. You won't get much gore or action, and you certainly won't get a cool looking werewolf. It's a lot of movie to sit through for 15 mins of action. Skip. 

Ginger Snaps follows the teenage Fitzgerald sisters as they turn from girls into women and into a werewolf. It's a cool film if you enjoy analogies to female puberty and empowered  Gothic girls. But I you like werewolf movies, you'll be nothing but disappointed watching this flick. With bad effects and almost no action, there are hardly any scares in this movie at all. I say skip.


Final Grade: C

Trailer