Tag Archives: vampire

Near Dark – Review

3 Feb

Kathryn Bigelow has had a very interesting career in Hollywood, and she has a fair share of really good movies supporting her filmography. Her most recent feature, Zero Dark Thirty, garnered plenty of controversy, but I can’t say that it wasn’t a very well made and designed film. I also recently reviewed Point Break, which was one of her earlier efforts but still packed enough over the top entertainment to keep me interested. Today, I’m going back even further to her 1987 film Near Dark. This is a extremely interesting and well thought out take on modern vampires, and this is easily one of the best vampire movies ever made.

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Caleb Colton (Adrian Pasdar) is a young farmhand that helps his father on their farm in a small south western town. One night, he meets the beautiful, yet mysterious Mae (Jenny Wright), who seems in a rush to get home and in her panic bites Colton on the side of the neck. Colton is then taken off the road by Mae’s travel companions. The leader of the group is Jesse (Lance Henriksen) and his girlfriend Diamondback (Jenette Goldstein). Along with them is the sadistically violent Severen (Bill Paxton) and Homer (Joshua Miller), a kid who is much older than he looks. It also turns out that these travelers are vampires who roam the countryside looking for easy prey. Colton now is being forced by these vampires to accept his new life and kill in order to survive. This leads Colton on a wild ride of murder and utter chaos.

If you look close enough, you might notice that the cast to this movie is pretty close to the cast of James Cameron’s Aliens. As many people know, Bigelow and Cameron were married for a while in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Cameron recommended these actors to Bigelow, and it worked out great. Henriksen is one of the most recognizable character actors working in film and television with good reason. He’s constantly bringing his best to every project he’s in and Near Dark is no exception. The same can be said about Bill Paxton, who really brings it in this movie. Because of Paxton’s excellent performance, mixed with Bigelow’s creative writing and direction, the character of Severen can easily be remembered as one of the great cinematic vampires. The rest of the supporting cast, along with Pasdar in the lead role are all very believable and do their jobs well, I just have to point out Henriksen and Paxton especially do great work.

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While the story of Near Dark is a pretty standard vampire tale, there are so many elements and scenes that put it a leg above the rest. For one thing, the vampires in this movie look like they could just be any person on the street. They aren’t pale or have fangs or anything like that, but they are just as vicious as any other traditional vampiric predator. There’s also a big focus on the affect that sunlight has on them. In fact, it’s one of the main components of the story. They don’t rest in coffins during the day, but they do have to take whatever precautions necessary not have a beam of light touch them. If it does, their skin burns and smoke starts rising off them. It’s really super cool. There’s also a now famous scene that takes place in a bar that really puts this movie up with other class-A horror films.

There have been so many vampire films made over the years that it’s hard to make the idea seem fresh and exciting. What Bigelow did here was take the vampire horror genre and mix it with the western genre to create a very unique feeling and looking film. There’s so much excellent imagery in this movie from the RV with the tin foil wrapped around the windows, to the vampires with blood dripping from their mouths in the bar scene, to an excellent shootout which results in lots of exposure to sunlight. These images are so well constructed and make this movie feel like such an original take on the lore of vampires. That’s really what I want to praise this movie for. Above all else, it is an original take on a tale that everyone knows so much about, but the newness and originality of this movie makes it feel so fresh.

Near Dark is a wonderfully original vampire film that grabbed me from the start and wouldn’t let up until the credits began rolling. It acts as a horror film, a western, and an action adventure movie all in one. I really tried my best to find something negative to say about this movie, but I had such a fun time with it that I don’t think it’s possible. This is one of those one of a kind movies that I could watch again and again without getting bored.

Final Grade: A

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Thirst – Review

12 Jan

Anyone who reads these reviews knows that I’m a huge fan of South Korean movies. South Korea is actually may favorite market for foreign film because of the amount of beautifully shot films that come out of there. Today we’re going to be looking at a movie made by Park Chan-wook who is prominently known for his cult classic Oldboy, but also for dabbling in the American market with Stoker. I’ve always found the majority of his movies to be beautiful but awfully pretentious. The same can be said for his 2009 film Thirst, although it is far more enjoyable than others like Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance.

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Sang-hyun (Song Kang-ho) is a Catholic priest who feels that his life should be dedicated more to than just prayer. To make himself feel more fulfilled both with his life and faith, Sang-hyun decides to volunteer to become a test subject to find a cure for the deadly Emmanuel Virus, which has been wiping people out all over the globe. While he does in fact die during the test, he is resurrected when a blood transfusion is performed, but with some unexplainable side effects. Sang-hyun is now cursed with vampirism and survives day to day by stealing blood from hospitals. Life after death becomes even more complicated when he is reunited with Tae-ju (Kim Ok-bin), a childhood acquaintance who insists on becoming a vampire.

This is just such a cool idea for a movie. When done properly, vampire movies can contain some of the coolest and most memorable scenes and characters. Interview With a Vampire is my go to vampire movie, but then there’s the comedic What We Do in the Shadows that also works great as a vampire movie. In Thirst, the biggest draw that separates it from the rest is the fact that a Catholic priest is turned into a vampire. This is an interesting plot point since Catholics believe so strongly in going to either heaven or hell after they die, and this priest is now stuck in this undead state and is forced to drink blood to survive. Another interesting thing is that Park wrote vampirism to be some weird biological side effect to the disease that Sang-hyun volunteered to help find a cure for. It puts an interesting and worldly twist on something that is normally considered supernatural.

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With his other films, Park Chan-wook has shown himself to be highly skilled at creating a visually beautiful movie. While his movies do look beautiful, I’ve always felt that they’ve lacked in terms of telling a story. In both these regards, Thirst is no different. There’s a lot of great looking scenes in this movie that deserve a lot of attention, but Park doesn’t really explore the narrative possibilities to their full potential. There’s a vampire priest that’s engaged in a sexually charged relationship with a woman who feels the need to become a vampire. That should open a lot of doors to utilize different vampire lore or character development, but that doesn’t really happen to the degree it should. With that in mind, there are also a lot of scenes where nothing really happens and just serve to drag the movie out a little bit intead of a scene that could include something that would boost the movie up.

Thirst is an example of a really good movie that gets weighed down by the pretentiousness of the film maker. Park Chan-wook obviously has a lot to say about a lot of things, but he’s conveying these ideas in broken sentences. It’s pretty clear that Park’s main goal was to make a beautiful piece of art, but the art of a movie isn’t just how it looks or sounds. To me, one of the most important pieces to a film is the story. Narrative should never be discounted as not important to making a cinematic work of art, even if it’s something more abstract or experimental. That’s just my personal taste anyway.

I don’t want this review to sound negative because I actually did enjoy Thirst and appreciate the work that Park Chan-wook put into it. It’s actually one of his best movies after Oldboy. I just wish more attention would have been put into the lore of the vampire and more detail added to create a flowing story. I actually highly recommend this film to people who love a good vampire movie, but just don’t expect a completely fulfilling movie.

Fright Night (1985) – Review

30 Aug

Imagine a world where vampires were still not the bud of jokes. Lets face it. Vampires are overused in the horror genre, and also have bled (no pun intended) into genres that they don’t even belong in. That isn’t to say that all modern vampire films aren’t cool, but they can be few and far between. Making light of the over usage of vampires can actually be a fun thing, too. Just look at Tom Holland’s 1985 film Fright Night. This movie has become a cult classic in the horror genre, but to call it purely horror would be a lie. It’s an excellent blend of comedy and horror mixed with a true love of everything terrifying, and is proud of its roots in classic Hammer films and anything worthy of a scream.

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Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) is nor stranger to horror movies, with his nights spent staying up late to catch cheesy horror movies on t.v., hosted by Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowell), an aging actor in Hammer-esque horror movies. You’d think that given the opportunity to face the supernatural would mean a lot to someone like Charley, but when his new neighbor, Jerry (Chris Sarandon), turns out to be a vampire responsible for dozens of murders, he is anything but thrilled. Charley doesn’t find any help with the police or his family, but his friends Amy (Amanda Peterson) and Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) gives him the benefit of the doubt and convinces Peter Vincent to help Charley, who has the utmost faith in the t.v. star’s ability to hunt vampires. What happens next is Charley’s and Peter’s showdown with the supernatural that won’t end pretty.

Sometimes I’ll watch a horror movie and enjoy it immensely for what it is. Most of these movies serve to startle or create some sort of reaction of fear with the audience. On the other hand, there are some horror movies that just seem to be made for fans of horror movies. What I mean by that is that there are some movies that are just so full of in jokes, references, allusions, and recreations that will make any horror dork squeal with delight. This is the case with Fright Night, Much like Tom Holland’s later film Child’s Play, this film is purely meant to bring joy to fans. It isn’t a particularly scary movie, but it’s one of the most entertaining “horror movies” you’ll ever see. I’d even go so far as to say that it’s a comedy more than it is a horror film.

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I’ve written quite a bit of reviews on Hammer horror films, and have firmly stated that they are some of my favorite examples of how to make a scary movie. It seems that Tom Holland feels the same way, as this movie quite literally looks and feels like a Hammer film from the 1960 or 1970s. Even the name Peter Vincent is not only a nod to Vincent Price, but also Hammer icon Peter Cushing. There’s another scene that takes place in Peter Vincent’s apartment where the room is filled with horror memorabilia. There’s a painting of Bela Lugosi in Dracula, a bust of Count Olaf’s head from the remake of Nosferatu, and if you look hard enough you can see the mask that Roddy McDowell wore in Planet of the Apes. There’s another scene that carefully recreates an iconic scene from The Exorcist. What I’m saying is that part of the fun of watching Fright Night is spotting all of the homages that Holland wrote in, but that’s not all, folks.

Where this film really succeeds, though, is putting it all together. It’s a fantastic combination of horror and comedy that can actually be a tricky thing to pull off. I’ve heard people say that all horror has a touch of comedy since laughter helps keep people unafraid, but Fright Night is legitimately hilarious. The acting is good across the board, but Roddy McDowell and Chris Sarandon (whose character I refer to as the Vampire Humperdink, thanks to The Princess Bride) really own their roles. You can see how much fun they’re having in the way they perform their roles. They both ham things up quite appropriately. Finally, while there may not be too many special effects shots, all of them are memorable and some of the make up is just downright fantastic.

Fright Night is an example of exemplary horror film making. While there was really only one scene that made me jump, it’s still incredibly well made altogether. What has to be remembered is that this film is a horror/comedy and is meant to be laughed at. For fans of horror, it’s a must see for so many different reasons. Hell, even if you hate horror movies, this one may just be worth your time.

Hammer’s “Karnstein Trilogy” – Review

20 Feb

I absolutely love the horror films that were produced by Hammer production company from the 1950s through the 1970s. Now me saying I love them means I love quite a few of them, while others are absolute crap and don’t even qualify as being so bad that they’re actually good. By the 1970s, Hammer was running out of steam and began to get tired of releasing sequel after sequel instead of creating something new. The answer to their problems (sort of) was found in a novella Sheridan Le Fanu called Carmilla. The result is the uneven, but totally Hammer-esque, Karnstein Trilogy.

The first of these films was released in 1970 and titled The Vampire Lovers while the other two were both released in 1971, Lust for a Vampire and Twins of Evil.

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While these movies are called a trilogy, it’s kind of hard to find any sort of continuity among them. The only real connection is that all three implement the Karnstein family of vampires as the villains. In The Vampire Lovers, Marcilla (Ingrid Pitt) is a bisexual vampire who begins to prey on the young women of Styria, turning entire households against the people who know what she truly is. After his daughter falls victim to Marcilla’s bloodlust, General von Spielsdorf (Peter Cushing) gets a band of men from the town together to march on Karnstein Castle and put an end to the evil once and for all.

Lust for a Vampire tells the story of the vampire Mircalla (Yutte Stensgaard), who may or may not be the same vampire from the first film. I really can’t be sure. Anyway, Mircalla finds her way to a finishing school where she once again(?) begins preying on the students. Meanwhile, the school’s new English teacher, Richard Lestrange (Michael Johnson) begins falling in love with Mircalla, which begins an unholy and forbidden relationship that can only end in tragedy.

In Twins of Evil we see twins Maria and Frieda (played by Playboy centerfold models Mary and Madeline Collinson) arriving in the town Karnstein after losing their parents. Their new guardian is the uncle Gustav Weil (Peter Cushing), a strict puritan who is also the leader of the “Brotherhood,” whose mission is to hunt the witches and other servants of the devil and burn them at the stake. While Maria begins settling in, Frieda becomes more and more attracted to the mysterious Count Karnstein (Damien Thomas), an evil count that has recently been turned into a vampire. As Frieda becomes mixed up in his evil, Maria must try and protect her from the wrath of Gustav and his Brotherhood.

Let’s start with The Vampire Lovers. Like I said before, at this point in time, Hammer was running out of steam and their ideas for their movies were getting stranger and stranger. Just look at Dracula A.D. 1972 which came out a few years later. The good thing about The Vampire Lovers is that it still has that classic Hammer feel to it. There’s plenty of great scenes and the atmosphere is spot on with the traditional town inns, to the foggy cemeteries, and the ominous castles lit in the moon light. That and also the obscene amount of sex and nudity. That was Hammer’s draw with this movie, and it works to a point but begins to get pretty silly with its gratuity. All in all, this is a good entry and a fine start to the trilogy.

Then there came the sequel, Lust for a Vampire and… oh man… it’s something. It’s almost as if the film makers didn’t know if they were doing a softcore porno or a horror film. I get that they were trying to draw people in with the promise of boobies, but this is just ridiculous. The movie starts off cool enough with the creepy architecture and vampire horror stuff, but it soon goes away. Instead we get a cheesy love story between man and vampire, horrible music, and a stupid amount of gratuitous nudity that was thrown in just to get people in to see the movie. This isn’t a horror film, it’s too funny for that. Some of the actors who worked in this movie have even said it’s the worst movie they ever worked in. I can believe that.

You would think that after a movie that bad, the third film would only be worse. What if I was to tell you that it’s not only the best of the trilogy, but one of the best Hammer films I’ve seen. Twins of Evil combines vampires and witch hunting and features Peter Cushing as a violent puritan who burns “witches” during the night. We also get a fantastic vampiric villain played by Damien Thomas who seems to relish hamming it up any chance he gets. This is a super entertaining horror film that actually poses a lot of good points about the gray areas in morality and also has two villains working at opposite ends of the spectrum. Cushing’s character is a zealot for God while Thomas’ vampire is a zealot for Satan. It’s surprisingly smart and has its fair share of creepiness and gore.

The Karnstein Trilogy certainly isn’t the greatest work that Hammer film studios came up with, but for the most part it certainly is entertaining. The first film is fun, the second is the closest thing to career suicide you could see, and the third is an un recognized masterpiece. Fans of Hammer films should really get a kick at seeing how far they were willing to go in the final days of their productions. These movies certainly aren’t going to convert anyone who doesn’t like their other films, but for those of us who do they provide the creepy, gothic atmosphere that we’ve come to expect and the horror and gore that we’ve come to love.

Blade Trilogy – Review

31 May

When the the company Marvel comes to mind, the first characters that come to mind are Spider Man, Iron Man, X Men, and Captain America. Those are prime examples of the Marvel universe, but we shouldn’t forget about the more minor characters, like Blade. Blade is a vampire hunter, who himself is a hybrid, who made his first appearance in the tenth issue of The Tomb of Dracula in 1973. Now, he is better known for the movie trilogy with Wesley Snipes as the title character. These are, for the most part, exciting films and a smaller, but fun part, of the larger Marvel movie collection.

Let’s start our reviews with 1998 film Blade.

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Blade (Wesley Snipes) and his partner Whistler (Kris Kristofferson) have spent their lives hunting vampires, a secret race of genetic mutants that feed on human blood. Their vampirism is described as a plague that must be wiped from the face of the earth. On one night, Blade comes across Dr. Karen Jenson (N’Bushe Wright) as she is being attacked by the vampire Quinn (Donal Logue). He saves her and learns that Quinn’s leader of sorts, Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff) has a plan to release an ancient vampire creature, La Magra, and use this entity to destroy the human race and create a society of vampires. This won’t be so easy with Blade, Whistler, and their reluctant new partner Karen hot on his tale and with plenty of motivation to stop him.

Blade is one of those movies where you have to know exactly what it is you’re going in to see. There isn’t much character development in this movie at all and the story could have been laid out a hell of  a lot smoother, but the movie really is a lot of fun. Part of this has to do with how much enjoyment the actors seem to be having. Snipes and Kristofferson both seem really into their roles and I immediately sided with them and their cause. The real scene stealer, however, is Stephen Dorff. He not only looks the part, but really dives into the whole persona of Frost and makes it his own. I feel like you can tell when actors really love their role, and this is one of those times.

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Blade also has great action, and a lot of it. When a vampire gets killed, it disintegrates into dust and bones, which looks really cool and remains that way for the entirety of the trilogy. There’s also gallons of blood to be seen in this movie, which is good because this is a movie about vampires. The narrative construction and character development may lack in a big way, but this film is a whole lot of bloody fun that makes me wonder what happened to cool vampires like the ones I’m seeing here. There’s no sparkling to be seen. Isn’t that incentive enough?

One of my favorite film makers, Guillermo Del Toro, would go on to make Blade II in 2002. This was a huge step forward for not only the series, but also for special effects and costume design.

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It seems like the last thing Blade would want to do ever is join forces with vampires. Well, unfortunately for him, that is exactly what he has to do. The vampire and human races are in danger when a new breed of vampire surfaces that feeds on both. These “reapers” pass on the virus to other vampires when they are fed on. Blade and Whistler, and their new partner Scud (Norman Reedus) are commissioned by the vampire overlord Eli Damaskinos (Thomas Kretschmann) to join a team of vampires called the Bloodpack to go out and hunt these reapers and take them all down, especially their leader and origin of the virus, Jared Nomak (Luke Goss). The Bloodpack was originally formed to hunt and kill Blade, so tensions are pushed which makes for a dangerous time for everyone involved, perhaps even more dangerous than the reapers.

I absolutely love everything about Blade II. This is one of the most fun action movies I have ever seen and it is shot so well. The story is an improvement from the first in terms of character development and complexity, but that’s only the beginning. The special effects and make up all look really fantastic. There are times when fights seamlessly become computer generated to show us angles and action that we otherwise would not have been able to see. The make up for the reapers also look outstanding, and appropriately fit in with any other monster in Del Toro’s films.

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Blade II continues the story and builds the universe of this trilogy very well and basically improves on the original in every way. Some of the make up seems to have inspired the creature design in the later Underworld films and the special effects add a new layer of awesomeness to the entire thing. The only thing that isn’t as good is the villain, but Dorff’s Deacon Frost is a tough act to follow. Blade II is a blast of a movie that shouldn’t be missed out on. It’s the most fun I’ve had with a movie in a long time.

Finally, the trilogy comes to a close with the 2004 film Blade: Trinity.

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A group of vampires led by Danica Talos (Parker Posley) finds a ziggurat tomb in the Syrian desert that is the resting place of Drake Dominic Purcell, better known as Dracula. Meanwhile, Blade is having a hard time with the FBI since they caught on to what he was doing, but believes he is a sociopath killing human beings. While dodging the FBI and other officers, Blade has to team up with vampire hunters Hannibal King (Ryan Reynolds) and Whistler’s daughter Abigail (Jessica Biel) in order to take down Dracula, who might be his greatest adversary yet.

What can I say about Blade: Trinity? Simply stating that it’s the weakest entry in the series would be an understatement. Not only is it the weakest entry in the trilogy, it’s a pretty dumb movie all together. This is hardly even a Blade movie since the film makers seem to be interested in his co-starts than they are about Blade, himself. Jessica Biel doesn’t really do anything of interest in the movie except look nice and Ryan Reynolds… ugh Ryan Reynolds. I have nothing against the guy as an actor, but his performance in Blade: Trinity was almost too much to handle. David S. Goyer, who wrote all three Blade films and directed this one, obviously forgot what the concept of comic relief really meant. Every snarky line of dialogue that Reynolds says feels out of placed, forced, and not funny.

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The action sequences are also really unremarkable and edited in a way that makes them feel slow and repetitive. The other Blade movies had editing which really made the viewer feel like they were in the middle of a hectic situation, and the fights in Blade II were choreographed by Donnie Yen, which is a plus there. In this film, they’re sloppy and slow. I can hardly call this a Blade movie. Even Wesley Snipes had major problems with it and stayed away from Goyer for most of the shoot. Bottom line, it doesn’t bring anything new or exciting, nor does it uphold what made the other movies so good. It’s a huge disappointment and I would recommend you stay away from this.

This trilogy is pretty cool for the most part. The original Blade is a welcoming start to the trilogy with a villain that steals the show. Blade II is one of the better action movies I have ever seen and I’m very excited to watch it again. Blade: Trinity is a stupid mess of a movie that I could have gone my entire life without seeing and been a better person for it. Two out of three movies aren’t bad and the first two shouldn’t be missed. Even though Marvel only produced the last film, Blade is still a Marvel character, making these pretty interesting pieces to the Marvel universe. If you ever find yourself in need of a break from Tony Stark, check out the Blade Trilogy, well… at least the first two.

Vampyr – Review

12 Jan

An unusual feeling washes over me during each viewing of Vampyr. It’s a feeling I get after waking up from a bad dream and I start piecing together everything that happened, even though it doesn’t make too much sense. Like my bad dream, this film follows a different sort of logic. It’s a type of logic that only exists to disorient and confuse. Vampyr may not have the best plot or characters, but that’s not really what the movie is about. It’s about a superstition brought to life or it’s about a man experiencing a real life nightmare. Whatever it is, it can not be forgotten.

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Allan Grey (Julian West), a man very interested in the paranormal, arrives in the village of Courtempierre and finds a lot more than he thought he would ever come across. Dancing shadows lead Allan to a mansion where the master of the house (Maurice Schutz) is shot and his daughter is afflicted by a mysterious ailment. Grey begins reading a book left by the deceased master in which he learns of the vampire, a evil being who survive on the blood of the living. Matters are made worse when the village doctor (Jan Hieronimko) arrives and corrupts the young woman even more. Allan is forced to face the terror to save the girl and her family from the curse of the vampire.

From the very beginning of the movie, the viewer is bombarded with strange imagery and creepy figures who serve a purpose unknown, and will never be figured out. Like the purposes of these mysterious figures, the whole universe of the movie is hard to figure out. The story starts almost immediately, and we along with Allan have to slowly try to piece together everything that is happening. Too bad it’s like trying to piece together a nightmare that you had when you were sick with a 102 degree fever.

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I find the special effects in this movie much more interesting than the big blockbuster films of today. For 1932, these effects are out of this world. The most impressive scene is a party of dancing shadows that seem to fill an entire wall. To this day, I can not figure out Dreyer pulled this off so well. The other effects are also brilliantly executed, including one character having an out of body experience that was shocking the first time I saw it. I don’t know if I would call this a “special effect”, but to create the otherworldly atmosphere, a thin layer of gauze was put over the lens. That would be easy to fix in post production nowadays, but back then I can certainly recognize the ingenuity.

Speaking of ingenuity, let’s talk about the camera work. The panning and tracking shots are so precise and interesting, especially compared to the quicker editing style of the 20s and 30s. Instead, Dreyer prefers the long shot method and instead of cutting he simply pans to or tilts. It certainly fits better with the slow pace of the movie and is easy to love. This is also a very early sound film, and this is both good and bad. It’s bad because the audio when someone (rarely) talks sounds pretty terrible. I will say that it does kind of add an unintended creepiness to the entire movie.

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I would put Vampyr in my top 5 favorite movies for a number of different reasons. It’s creepy atmosphere has held up great for the entire 81 years it has been around, and the audio/visual advancements that this movie displays are beautiful. If you aren’t a fan of silent films or films that have a pretty loose plot, than Vampyr probably isn’t for you. If you can enjoy these kinds of movies, than Vampyr is one of the best of its kind.

 

 

Hammer’s Dracula Films – Series Review Part 2

15 Nov

After Taste the Blood of Dracula, the films in this Hammer series took a wrong turn and left them in a really weird place. From this point on, all of the movies had easy to follow continuity and I never felt confused about where the story was going. Let’s be honest, these movies aren’t very difficult. Then Scars of Dracula was released in 1970 with the intention of being a reboot, but at the same time it wasn’t a reboot. This causes a great deal of confusion and sort of sours the movie experience.

 

After being reanimated by blood dripping from the fangs of a bat, Count Dracula (Christopher Lee) is back to his bloody business with the help of the bat and his servant Klove (Patrick Troughton). Soon Dracula preys on a passerby, Paul (Christopher Matthews), leaving his more responsible brother Simon (Dennis Waterman) to go to Castle Dracula himself and have his revenge on the undead Count.

If you’re looking for gore in this franchise, then this is the film to look at. It’s pretty over the top for the time period and the beginning is especially shocking. Christopher Lee also has a lot of great dialogue and delivers his lines in such a way that I thought I would overdose on the menace. Those are really the only two redeeming qualities of this movie leaving the bad outweighing the good.

 

Scars of Dracula is such a disjointed mess. The beginning scene with the vampire bat was tacked on at the last minute so I can’t really tell for sure if this is a reboot or a sequel. Klove is in it, but wait… didn’t Klove die in Prince of Darkness? But wait, according to the prologue, this is a sequel and not a reboot. What is this movie supposed to be? The characters are so uninteresting that anytime Dracula wasn’t onscreen, my interest flew right out the window. I don’t even want to get started on the ending. It’s preposterous. Watch this movie only for some awesome Dracula scenes and gore, but prepared to be confused and bored for a good portion of the film.

In 1972 the series really went off the rails with the release of Dracula A.D. 1972.

 

 

After a fatal duel between Lawrence Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) in 1872, Dracula’s ashes are buried by one of his servants by the church where Van Helsing was buried. Cut to 100 years later where a group of bored partiers led by Johnny Alucard (Christopher Neame) conduct a black mass at the very same church where Dracula’s ashes are buried in order to resurrect him. Soon the group is started to be hunted by Dracula with only  the descendent of Van Helsing (also Cushing) to stop him and save his grand daughter.

Well, what do I have to say about this? The major plus is the retro vibe that radiates from the screen. What’s not to love about watching Dracula chase Van Helsing through an old gothic church to funk music? It’s also great to see Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee together and at each other’s throats once again. Saying that this is a quality movie on the other hand would be a flat out lie.

 

A lot of stuff happens really quickly in the middle without a lot of Dracula screen time, which is a little disappointing after the massive amount of time he had in Scars of Dracula. There are also a few characters in the young group of friends that just disappear without any explanation, which is a little weird considering they’re main characters. Why even have them in the story at all? There’s not a lot of specific things I can call out to critique. The movie is just not solid whatsoever, and the retro vibe almost turns it into an unintentional comedy. I would classify this in the category of so bad it’s good. For the Peter Cushing/Christopher Lee finale and the silliness in between, it may be worth a watch.

1973 brought a whole new layer of awful, however, with what I and most people consider the last of the Dracula series, The Satanic Rites of Dracula.

 

When a British secret service agent discovers a group of societal elites engaging in black mass rituals, the police once again bring in Lorrimer Van Helsing to help with the investigation. He ultimately discovers that these rituals were performed for Count Dracula, who is back and planning to release a new strand of the bubonic plague with the goal of painfully wiping out the human race.

Wow. Really?

Yes, really. Dracula can now be compared to a Bond villain. I have no idea what Hammer Studios were thinking when they passed this movie to be shot and released. I almost don’t even consider it a Dracula movie since he’s only in it for like 7 minutes, and the rest of the time is spent talking about espionage and science. I was shocked when I saw this out of the sheer audacity of it all. You think Dracula A.D. 1972 was strange? Well believe it or not, there were times during this movie that I wished I was watching Dracula A.D. 1972.

 

The only time this ever felt like a Dracula movie was at the end when Van Helsing and Dracula have their show down. Thank goodness Peter Cushing is in most of the scenes, and Dracula’s monologue at the end is great, but the rest of the movie is absolutely terrible. It’s not scary, unintentionally funny, or even that rewarding. It is, without a doubt, the worst entry in this series, and quite possibly one of the worst Hammer films.

Well that’s Hammer’s Dracula series. All in all, it’s a mostly positive series with an excellent beginning, shaky middle, and an unfortunate tragedy of a movie as its finale. For any horror fans, this is a great series to watch for Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and also the emphasis on blood and gore that was never really in any Dracula fins up until then. If you haven’t seen any of these films, give them a watchband enjoy the gothic horror that is Dracula.