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Only Lovers Left Alive – 8

February 4, 2015 Leave a comment

Director – Jim Jarmusch

Cast – Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Anton Yelchin, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Jeffrey Wright

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

When I think of indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch I do not think of the horror genre, so when I learned that he filmed a flick referred to as a “crypto-vampire love story” I was stoked to see what he could do. Starring Tom Hiddleston, who replaced Michael Fassbender, Only Lovers Left Alive is a dramatic experience that may be a little light on the horror, but is nonetheless one of the best horror films of 2014. It moves slowly, but the subject matter and acting performances were so engaging that I hardly took notice to that. Instead, I left with a new appreciation for Jarmusch’s talents.

In the abandoned sprawl of Detroit lives Adam, an underground musician who has lived as a vampire for centuries. With depression kicking in as a result of his displeasure over mankind’s insidious downfall, his wife Eve, living across the world, reunites with Adam. What happens next displays the beauty, and troubles, of eternal love.

I am not a fan of vampire films. I am also not a fan of “horror” films with very little horror. Only Lovers Left Alive is both, and I really enjoyed it. Jarmusch writes and directs this piece, and his story begins with a heavy emphasis on Adam’s character. We learn that throughout the last few centuries Adam has played a role in the careers of famous scientists and musicians, but these days he is withdrawn and suicidal. He has a strong contempt for the world that the humans, who he refers to as “zombies”, have made for themselves and feels that they have missed their apex by squandering opportunities for advancements in education and science. His life as a musician is his escape from such disparity, however he finds himself at odds over recognition and his fans discovering his terrible secret. He befriends Ian, a young musician whom Adam pays to attain rare instruments and handle his odd requests, which are bound by a confidentiality agreement. For the first 39 minutes Adam’s character is established, then Eve walks back into his life.

Their reunion is heartfelt, tender, tame, and never feels forced. Married for centuries, they have spent the latter years halfway across the world from each other. This couple is unlike the typical vampire, who ventures out at night to drink the blood of the living. Instead, they drink the “good stuff” from local suppliers, fearing that fresh human blood has been contaminated by poor diet and the degradation of their environment. Yeah, it sounds like social commentary to me too. It takes a long while, but conflict finally arises at the 80 minute mark, which means you could have watched all of REC before anything juicy happens. I did not necessarily balk at this because simply put, this is not that type of film. Sources say that when Jarmusch was approached about adding more action to the film he instead removed all of the action that was already in it (which took place early in the film). This does not mean that Only Lovers Left Alive is without horror. There are a select few scenes of horror, and while they do not hit overly hard I found them pretty effective. This is first a dramatic melodrama and then a horror film, so keep that in mind.

They snack on Type O Negative blood popsicles.

I have seen other viewers mention that “nothing happens” in the movie, and I understand where they are coming from. This is especially understood when you consider that this is a two-hour movie. I must say that a lot does happen in the film, but the developments are mild and therefore the flick feels like it does not offer much. That could not be farther from the truth. We watch a relationship that has stood the test of time, which includes moments of weakness, depression, despair, and heartbreak. That is hardly uneventful.

Jarmusch’s direction is top-notch, and played a huge role in keeping me engaged during this “slow” film. His atmosphere is incredible, and as a film junkie he did his best to employ different lenses and lighting to make this digital (due to budget reasons) film appear acceptable to his liking. I loved the sets used for Adam’s home, which was adorned with vintage guitars, amplifiers, and framed photos of history’s most notable minds, who he apparently had an influence on over time. Next come the acting performances, which are some of the best I have seen in recent time. Hiddleston is perfect as Adam, Tilda Swinton meshes wonderfully with him, and together they create one hell of a couple to view. The supporting cast also deliver good performances, with actors Anton Yelchin and John Hurt getting more screen time than the possibly underused Jeffrey Wright. So how is Jarmusch’s execution of the horror? It was good, but keep in mind there isn’t a whole lot of horror here. We see one major death, and most of the good stuff occurs off-screen. Much to my surprise, though, the death was shocking nonetheless and that’s because I knew it was coming. Jim’s execution was THAT good.

Overall, Only Lovers Left Alive is a sure that is sure to please those who enjoy a good story in a dramatic horror film. It is also amazingly well-shot, making it a visual treat I suggest you check out.

Rating: 8/10

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Odd Thomas – 7

June 3, 2014 2 comments

Director – Stephen Sommers

Cast – Anton Yelchin, Addison Timlin, Willem Dafoe, Ashley Sommers, Shuler Hensley, Leonor Varela, Matthew Page, Casey Messer, Nico Tortorella, Kyle McKeever, Patton Oswalt

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

When I came across Odd Thomas I was pretty stoked to give this a watch because it seemed relative to two other films I really enjoy, Constantine and Dylan Dog: Dead of Night. Films that involve a character that can see the dead and use that ability for “good” grab my attention, and this effort includes such a storyline. Directed by Stephen Sommers, who gave us the awesome Deep RisingThe Mummy,and the much hated Van Helsing, I was not sure what to expect with this piece. The way I saw it, the experience would be pretty good or really bad, and thankfully it was the former. While not as horrific as I wanted it to be, and pretty tame compared to similar efforts, Odd Thomas still provided a good horror experience that left me pleased in the end.

In a California desert town, diner fry cook Odd Thomas (Anton Yelchin) is a regular guy with a big secret: he can see dead people. When a creepy newcomer enters town followed by an entourage of Bodachs – creatures that feed on pain and death – Odd knows that something terrible is on its way. With his girlfriend Stormy (Addison Timlin) and her father, Police Chief  Wyatt Porter (Willem Dafoe), by his side, Odd takes on the brewing battle between good and evil to stop the impending apocalyptic disaster.

The film’s opening sequence tells us a lot. Odd was supposed to be named Todd, but a typo resulted in his odd first name, and he can also see dead people. His clairvoyant abilities are not like that of Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense, where they dead frighten him. Instead, Odd sees dead people moving all around society and going about their afterlife business. Some frequent places they remember, while others help him catch those that put them in the afterlife in the first place. His abilities aid Chief Wyatt Porter in solving these crimes, however they taint the legal process and prove tiresome in court. With mixed emotions regarding Odd’s abilities, Chief Wyatt knows he means well and has no problem with him dating his daughter Stormy. We learn early on that when Odd sees Bodachs there is trouble looming in one way or another, however they do not cause the trouble but merely feed on it. As the film progresses there are many twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing, and the Bodachs keep growing in number to tremendous levels. Sommers, who adapted the screenplay from Dean Koontz’s novel of the same name, brings lots of development to keep things interesting. I mentioned earlier that this flick is pretty tame, and that is because the horror is mostly supplemental. While the Bodachs provide some good tension, they only feed on trouble instead of causing it, and they are most horrific element of the film. So what does that mean? That means that the main conflict is not one of horror. The acts we see at the end of the film are horrific in nature, but that is the extent of the horror they provide. I do feel that this film has enough horror to warrant a review and inclusion in the horror genre, but it is not devoutly horror like the films it will be compared to, like Constantine and Dylan Dog: Dead of Night.

Sommers’ direction was pretty good and I found no major faults from this end. The acting performances were solid and every major character’s role was sold to the viewer. His pacing was tight and I never found myself thinking a scene was too long or that the film was dragging, and that is also a result of the screenwriting. Most importantly, though, his execution of the horror was good. I mentioned that the horror was a bit in the backseat for most of the film, but when it hit the screen it hit hard and delivered well. I will say that the horror was heavy in CGI, especially the Bodachs, but to be honest I did not find it detrimental to the experience. Blood and gore is minimal and the kills were tame, but in the end the horror was an accomplishment.

Overall, Odd Thomas is a positive flick that may be tamer than we’d like, but in the end still provides a good horror experience. The story is engaging and Sommers’ direction brings it to life, although expect lots of CGI to make that happen. This may not give you the nightmares you desire, but if all you need is a horror fix then this may be enough.

Rating: 7/10

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Fright Night (2011) – 7

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Director – Craig Gillespie

Cast – Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell, Toni Collette, David Tennant, Imogen Poots, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Dave Franco, Reid Ewing, Will Denton, Sandra Vergara, Sandra Vergara, Emily Montague, Chris Sarandon

Release year – 2011

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I admit that I was not very stoked when I first heard word of a Fright Night remake, mostly because I saw it as another needless remake of a horror classic and Hollywood has been butchering vampire films in recent years. When I heard that Colin Farrell was going to portray Charlie Brewster’s vampire neighbor my interest was peaked, and I figured “what the hell?” and decided to pay the substantial 3-D price for this ticket in hopes of seeing something worthwhile, and for the most part it was. I will say this now though, this Fright Night remake is a fairly good film on its own and gives us a fun experience, but fans of the original will have a hard time liking this if you compare the two.

Adam Yelchin stars as Charlie Brewster, a former dweeb geek who has acquired an insanely hot girlfriend and is having the time of his life while running away from his dorky past. When Jerry(Colin Farrell) moves in next door to Charlie he fails to listen to the warnings from his former best friend “Evil” Ed Lee(Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and soon learns that his neighbor is a vehement vampire picking off the townsfolk every night, forcing him to reach out to famed vampire-killer and TV personality Peter Vincent(David Tennant) to rid their desert town of this seductive and blood-thirsty beast.

For starters, let me say that there will be several spoilers mentioned in this review, which should come as no shock to those who have seen the original. And to those of you who haven’t, watch it first.

The overall storyline follows the original for the most part, but does stray at times and makes this a film of its own and not a direct copy like some other remakes we have been given over the last few years. Writer Marti Noxon(I Am Number Four)’s screenplay came with mostly-positive usage of the characters involved, but I did find fault with one of the most important characters in the film, “Evil” Ed Lee. He played a very prominent role in the original film, and to include him in this film would require an equally important role right? Well Noxon completely screwed that up by having him “turned” very early into the film, and leaving him out completely until the third act. To waste his character so soon was a terrible move by Noxon and was sadly not the only bad move made regarding characters. The usage of Peter Vincent could have been better, especially regarding the stupid idea to delve into his past and the reasoning for his hatred of vampires, but Noxon at least made him quite funny and that helped relieve my distaste. As far as the other main characters, Charlie, Jerry the vampire, Charlie’s mom Jane, and his girlfriend Amy were all used very well and provided much to the film, and in some ways provided more than the characters in the original did, which was the case with Jane and Amy. Now, despite the sometimes poor usage of characters Noxon did manage to keep me fully engaged in the story throughout its 106 minute runtime, and that came as a result of her keeping things interesting and throwing in some high-intensity scenes that came in a drawn out fashion that resulted in good tension. I admit that at times I felt like the film was much longer than it really was, but that does not necessarily mean that the film dragged, just that there was a lot going on in this piece for its runtime. The story takes us to numerous locations and gives us plenty of action scenes involving Jerry’s brutalization of the townsfolk and our protagonists fighting back against him, keeping the fun elements constantly developing and making for the most of my enjoyment of this story.

Director Craig Gillespie(Lars and the Real Girl) did a fairly good job executing this piece, giving us good tension on the scenes that called for it and delivering some fun horror as well. His tone is definitely one that was much more serious than the cheesy tone we got in the original Fright Night, which I did not prefer but also did not mind because it allowed this remake to be a film of its own in a sense. His camerawork was great and he used it to full potential during the film’s numerous action and suspense sequences, which never resulted in any real “scares” but did bring the tension to high levels that I enjoyed. Despite the great execution of the most important elements, the suspense and the horror, Gillespie got fantastic performances from all of our lead actors, which was another high selling point that helped this film achieve its positive rating. Colin Ferrel was great as Jerry and managed to provide his own seductive mannerisms that were different from what Chris Sarandon provided in the original in that Ferrel was a much more manly and blue collar type, and he also made for a good vampire as well during his kill sequences. Anton Yelchin was also great as Charley Brewster, and it was cool to see Christopher Mintz-Plasse portray a mostly-serious character, although he still came off as Fogel from Superbad, just a pissed off Fogel this time. I have heard many remarks about this film being less comical and gorier than the original, and while I agree with it being less comical there really was not THAT much gore in this piece. The gore that we do get was CGI due to this being filmed in 3D format, and I must say that despite my overall dislike for 3D the vampire deaths scenes were very awesome and made full use of the 3D capability – potential reached.

Overall, this Fright Night remake is a fairly good film on its own that feels like it lacks heart at times, but gives us good suspense, great performances, and positive usage of the 3D technology used. When compared to the first there are many obvious differences in the look and feel, and while this film stands on its own as a positive experience I have a good feeling that fans of the original will not enjoy this very much, at least if they cannot help but compare the two.

Rating: 7/10

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