Tag Archives: werewolves

An American Werewolf in London & An American Werewolf in Paris – Review

15 Dec

I gotta be honest, werewolf movies really aren’t my cup of tea. There’s something about them that just strike me as kind of silly, but I guess that can be said about a lot of classic monsters. One of the most iconic werewolf films is John Landis’ horror/comedy An American Werewolf in London. Over the years this film has become known as a cult classic due to its wit, blending of genres, and it’s outstanding practical special effects. Like many horror movies that have come before and after, a sequel was released, An American Werewolf in Paris, years after the original. This one has received the opposite kind of attention and it seems that people just want to forget about it. Today, I’m going to be looking at both of them and giving my own thoughts.

Let’s start with John Landis’ original film from 1981.

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David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are two American college students backpacking through England. After being warned by locals to “beware the moon” and “stay on the road,” the two end up getting lost and attacked by a large animal. Jack is killed and David is injured, waking up in a hospital three weeks later. At the hospital, David meets nurse named Alex (Jenny Agutter) and the two form a relationship with David eventually staying at her apartment. Throughout this time, David is plagued with bad dreams and is getting visits from Jack’s slowly decaying corpse who explains that he has been infected with the werewolf’s curse, and if he doesn’t die then all of the werewolf’s victims are doomed to walk the earth in limbo and more people will die because of David. David doesn’t know what to believe until the night of the full moon when he first transforms into a werewolf and begins a bloody spree throughout the city of London.

Horror and comedy often time go hand in hand. When I’m watching a really scary movie and something just frightens me more than I thought it would, I often find myself laughing at both myself and the incident that happened onscreen. This is why horror/comedies also blend dark humor and horror so well. An American Werewolf in London is one of the classics of the horror/comedy genre. This is a very lighthearted movie and at no time does it ever really take itself too seriously. Even when things do start getting more intense towards the end, the film adopts this over the top brutal slapstick that is more funny then actually scary. What is taken very seriously, however, is the outstanding make up and special effects work. Rick Baker, who previously worked on Star Wars, does amazing work with the famous transformation scene and also creating monsters and walking corpses that appear throughout the movie. Baker’s also the first person to win the Academy Award for Best Best Makeup and Hairstyling, which was a new award the year of this film’s release.

With all of the cool werewolf effects and dark humor at the forefront, there are some elements that get pushed aside. For one thing, the characters in the movie are nothing all that special. David and Jack are both fine characters, but what’s really memorable about them is the situation they’re in. The ending of the movie also can define the term “anti-climactic.” While I was being critical of how the story was being told with some scenes not seeming to go anywhere in particular, I had time to admire how much like a classic Universal monster movie An American Werewolf in London felt like. Everything from the foggy countryside to the pub in the beginning with the cautious villagers to the relationship that grows between David and Alex. You can really see how much John Landis was inspired by those movies to create a classic of his own.

An American Werewolf in London has become a shining example of horror/comedy and the work that can be achieved with practical special effects. It’s a darkly funny story of a fish out of water that also happens to be a werewolf. I only wish that the story could have been tightened up a little bit and the ending made into something more memorable. Still, any fan of horror movies or even comedies will have a lot of fun with this film and see why it’s considered a modern cult classic.

Final Grade: B+

Sixteen years after the release of An American Werewolf in London, the sequel titled An American Werewolf in Paris was released and was met with pretty overwhelming negative results. After seeing it for myself, I’m comfortable jumping on that bandwagon.

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Andy McDermott (Tom Everett Scott) and his two friends are traveling Europe looking for excitement and girls. When the trio arrive in Paris, Andy chooses the Eiffel Tower for his next base jumping stunt and ends up saving a woman, Sérafine (Julie Delpy), from jumping off and killing herself. After this heroic act, Andy and Sérafine get more involved with each other, but the relationship gets more than a little complicated when it is revealed that she is a werewolf who, along with her step father, has been working on a cure for their curse. On the opposite side of Sérafine are a group of werewolves, led by the vicious Claude (Pierre Cosso), who want to reverse engineer the cure and use it as a way to transform anytime they want to.

Compared to the original film, this one is completely outrageous. The positives of An American Werewolf in London that helped it become a cult classic is its charm, simplicity in story, and the remarkable practical effects. All of this is completely absent in An American Werewolf in Paris. This film has all the charm of a bargain bin sex comedy and special effects that are guaranteed to cause belly laughs. It’s hard to even call this movie a sequel because at first glance, there’s nothing to really connect it to the original film. It was only after reading up on the film a little bit did I realize there’s an absurd connection that is teetering a very fine line of making sense. What we have here is more of an absurd remake than an actual sequel, but calling this a remake would be an insult to the original. My best guess is that this movie is simply a cash grab that’s riding on the name and popularity of Landis’ classic.

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There really isn’t a whole lot to say that isn’t painfully obvious once you actually watch the movie. I’m not sure who thought that the idea of making the plot to this movie as contrived as it is was a good idea, but they couldn’t have been in their right mind. Amongst all of the negativity, I will say that Tom Everett Scott and Julie Delpy seem to be doing their best, but a lot of the lines they deliver that’s meant to be funny are cringe worthy at best. When people finally do start turning into werewolves, which feels like forever with the “character building” scenes, they aren’t anything impressive at all. In fact, the look unfinished and out of place. There are a few instances of practical effects which are welcome, but they’re so few and far between.

The bottom line is that this isn’t a movie anyone should see even if they are fans of werewolf movies. It takes the same ideas as John Landis’ film and presents them in a much weaker way without the wit and charm that should come with a movie that’s related to An American Werewolf in London. Just stay away from An American Werewolf in Paris and your brain cells have a better chance of staying intact.

Final Grade: D

There you have it. An American Werewolf in London is a cult classic that deserves all of the praise it receives whereas the sequel is a disaster disguised as a horror/comedy. Like I said before, I’m not a huge fan of werewolf movies, but An American Werewolf in London is just too much fun to pass up.

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Underworld: Awakening – Review

21 Jun

Well, this is it for the Underworld films for now. Here we are at number 4, with the medieval time period gone and returning to the modern day/near future metropolis that was the setting in the first film. But, unlike the other installments in this series, I have major problems with this one that almost ruined the entire movie for me.

Six months after the events of Underworld: Evolution, the vampire and lycans are discovered by humanity and a Great Purge begins to rid the world of their species. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is captured by Antigen, and evil corporation with mysterious intentions run by Dr. Jacob Lane (Stephen Rea). She is soon freed by Subject 1 (India Eisley), a found hybrid who is being chased by the lycans. Selene joins forces with another vampire, David (Theo James), and a human detective, Sebastian (Michael Ealy), to protect Subect 1 from the lycans and Antigen.

Now tell me, how different does this sound than all of the other plot lines of the Underworld films. The fantastic lore that surrounded the three previous films are pretty much gone. We get brief mentions of Alexander Corvinus and the other mythology that we’ve all come to really appreciate. Instead, there is pretty much beginning to end action scenes that are broken up with very short scenes of dialogue. Personally, I care more about the story, but I can’t say that I wasn’t entertained by the action in this film.

I was also pretty disappointed with the setting of this movie. The metropolis in the first Underworld was dark, rainy, and gothic. Instead of that, I was “treated” to visually bland city that had nothing special going for it. New York City in the first Spider-Man film looked more exciting than this fictional city where anything could have been done to make it cooler. The Underworld films have a great way of setting the mood with its settings and how they look, but the locations here are just bland and unoriginal.

Don’t get me wrong. This is an entertaining film. As I said before, the action really is exhilarating and might be the best of the whole series. The acting is typical for this series. Kate Beckinsale is perfect for Selene, giving off the right amount of coldness and emotion. Seeing Selene jump, shoot, hit, and all around kick ass is still as satisfying as ever. India Eisley gives a surprisingly good performance as Subject 1, and the scenes where she transforms into her hybrid state is really cool.

I really enjoy the Underworld movies, and despite all of my complaints, I liked this one to a point. I was just disappointed that the mythology was pushed to the back burner, Scott Speedman didn’t return as Michael, and that the setting was a little boring. That being said, I never lost interest. Underworld: Awakening was entertaining, but certainly didn’t blow me away. Fans of this series may be disappointed by this entry, but it was still a good way to spend my afternoon.

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans – Review

18 Jun

In my honest opinion, I wasn’t too thrilled to watch Underworld: Rise of the Lycans. I thought, “Really? A prequel? And no Selene!” I felt like a prequel wasn’t very necessary and the gunplay and technology of the first two are part of what makes the movies so cool. But, I had to watch this one, and I have to say, I’m really surprised.

It’s the Dark Ages and vampire elder Viktor (Bill Nighy) has the new race of lycans enslaved. Lucien (Michael Sheen), the first lycan, is in a secret romantic relationship with Viktor’s daughter, Sonja (Rhona Mitra), which serves as the catalyst for Lucien to rise up against the vampires and rally the other lycans to make their stand for freedom. This is the beginning of the war between the vampires and the lycans that has raged on for hundreds of years.

My favorite part of this film was being able to see, in full, what has been talked about or briefly shown in flashback over the course of the first two films. As I’ve said before, the Underworld films have a great mythology that was created, and now being able to see some of the mythology explained is a real treat. For example, it’s cool to see the origins of the lycans and how that changed the world of the vampires and werewolves.

Unlike the other films, I have absolutely no qualms about the acting. Bill Nighy kills it once again. He is cold, meticulous, and brutal which make him an excellent villain. He was only in the first one at the end and in the sequel in the beginning, but here he gets a full length movie to be evil. It was good to see Michael Sheen again. His performance is really powerful and heartfelt. I could tell that he was really into his role and not just there for a paycheck. Rhona Mitra was the weakest link here, but not bad by any means. She gave a solid performance without ever going beyond what was asked.

The look of this movie is stunning. Filming was done in New Zealand, but make no mistake, this film looks nothing like Lord of the Rings. There’s no green to be found here, rather what looks like a winter from hell. The castle of the vampires radiates gothic from every corner, chandelier, and bedroom. It looks absolutely fantastic, but that’s what I’ve come to expect from the Underworld movies.

Something that was a little disappointing was that some things didn’t happen exactly like what was explained or slightly revealed. I feel like I’m either nitpicking or completely wrong, but one scene in particular was different than a flashback that was shown in the first film. The basic event of this scene was correct, but the location and timing were wrong. The span of time that this whole event took place was longer than it was in the first and the blocking of characters was different. This is a very small complaint, but it really bugged me for some reason.

I will still say that, so far, the second film is my favorite, but Rise of the Lycans is a close second. It had great atmosphere, character development, revelations, and a surprising amount of emotion. As I said with the second film, this isn’t going to change any minds for the people who didn’t like the first two films. For those who are fans of the first two, this movie is just for you.

Side Note: I really don’t understand why these films aren’t more popular. I’d love to sit down and have a conversation about these films, but it seems like no one is really willing to. Where are all of you?

Underworld: Evolution – Review

17 Jun

I’ve been waiting years to watch this movie. Since I first saw Underworld , I’ve been left with that ending and so many questions unanswered. It isn’t like I didn’t have any access to this movie. I just never watched it for some reason. Now, finally, I have seen it and the story can continue.

Picking up exactly where the first Underworld left off, we have the vampire Selene (Kate Beckinsale) and the hybrid Michael (Scott Speedman) on the run. Back at the mansion, Markus (Tony Curran), the other vampire elder, is awakened and finds out what Selene and Michael have done, but this isn’t his primary concern. Markus wants to find and rescue his werewolf brother, William, who was the first werewolf and unable to change back, from his prison. This would cause havoc in the world with werewolves not being able to control their transformations. Now, Selene and Michael, along with some unexpected help, must stop Markus before he can do this.

This movie is an all around improvement over the first film. The action is cooler, the story and the lore is explained more, and Markus is a great villain who gets a lot of awesome screen time. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the occasional overacting that is sometimes distracting.

A lot of what I’m going to say  may sound familiar because I said it in my other review. The story, that was above average in the first film, is only improved in the second one thanks to flashbacks that explain more in depth how the war between the vampires and the lycans started. The audience is also treated to some major key players telling their side of the story. There are also interesting flashbacks that better explain Selene’s tragic and brutal past.

There are loads of action scenes here that aren’t just more cooler, but better shot. There were times in the first Underworld that had the potential to be cool action scenes, but unfortunately the techniques used to shoot it kind of dulled the intensity. Underworld: Evolution never has a dull action sequence, and I’d go so far as to say most, if not all, of them pushed me to the edge of my seat, which is the best place to watch a movie.

This film does a great job, once again, in creating an atmosphere that you will not forget. The gothic metropolis is changed to a wintry, sometimes desolate, countryside filled with mysterious architecture from centuries past. The lack of defining color not only adds to the gothic mood, but also to the feeling of coldness. This just goes to show how important non-diagetic methods are to producing a specific type of tone or feeling.

A small problem that this film suffers from is cheesy writing that the actors do their best in delivering. All of the actors here are competent actors who are able to deliver fine performances, but if the writing is weak than the acting will be weak. The writing here is not what I’d call weak, but corny and derivative. It’s a small complaint that hardly detracts from the movie.

Underworld: Evolution isn’t just a step above the original, but also beats out a lot of the action films nowadays. It isn’t destined to be a classic, but it is definitely an entertaining escape that is memorable and completely worthwhile. Fans of the first one will love this one, but it isn’t going to impress people who didn’t like the original.

Underworld – Review

14 Jun

I remember long ago going to a fantastic store called PrePlayed almost every Saturday to pick up a cheap movie. One of these movies that I got was Underworld. I remember being a kid and wanting to show this movie to everyone because I though it was just the absolute coolest movie. I haven’t watched it, until yesterday, for about four years, maybe even longer. I was worried that it wouldn’t be as good now that it was then.

There is a war raging between the Vampires and the Lycans (werewolves) for centuries. Selene (Kate Beckinsale) is a Vampire death dealer whose main task is to find and kill surviving Lycans, who are now almost extinct to the Vampires’ knowledge. The Lycans are actually thriving and Lucian (Michael Sheen), their leader has a plan to create a Lycan/Vampire hybrid using the human Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). Against orders from Kraven (Shane Brolly), the acting head of the Vampires, Selene rescues Michael and brings him back to their mansion and awakens Viktor (Bill Nighy), a Vampire elder. This only ignites further the violence between the two species, and consequent betrayal for both Vampires and Lycans.

Richard Roeper called this film a “Shakespearean werewolf/vampire movie.” That is a very accurate description of Underworld because of it’s language, attention to aesthetic details, and the conflict and violence that erupt between the two clans and even amongst members of the same clan. The movie has unfortunately lost a bit of its luster since the days of my youth, but it’s still a cool action/horror film that is guaranteed to entertain.

The look of Underworld is absolutely phenomenal with its gothic architecture, costume and creature design, and use of underexposed color. Everything in the film seems to be a in the color range of black, white, or a shade of light blue. Along with the color comes an a city that would make the citizens of Gotham comfortable. As a viewer, the city was almost the strange part, whereas, I felt more comfortable in the Vampire mansion or underground with the Lycans. The costumes look equally gothic with the Vampires dressed elegantly and the Lycans in old ragged clothes. Finally, the creatures. Vampires look appropriately deathly, but the real standouts are the Lycans. The only CGI used was for their transformation, everything else was a costume and animatronic mask. This limited use of CGI gives the film a bit more magic because they had to physically create these werewolves instead of just designing them on a computer.

Unfortunately, the acting is where the movie shines the least. Kate Beckinsale, Michael Sheen, and Bill Nighy all perform well, but a certain Shane Brolly gives a cringeworthy performance. Everything he did either felt flat or way too overacted. He had an interesting and developed character, but he was awfully played. Scott Speedman falls into a kind of weird category in the middle. Most of his acting was ok, but there were a few times where he lost his footing and fell into the cheese.

I was more into the lore of the film than I was the action that took place. The backstories and histories of all of the characters and how the war began is incredibly interesting and above average for this genre. The action is still pretty cool. In the opening scene, there is a subway firefight that I could rank in my favorite intros of all time.This action is greatly aided by the sound design which does an incredible job at making the gun fire explode and even go so far as to accentuate running foot steps to heighten the mood.

Underworld is a strange breed a movie. It has great lore, mood, and action to make it cool. But the acting and development of some characters is sort of weak. A lot may disagree, but I still recommend this movie because, hell, I have a great time watching it. So if all the intellectuals can forget for two hours that a movie can purely just entertain you, then I guarantee that Underworld will deliver.