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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the last few centuries Adam has played a role in the careers of famous scientists and musicians, but these days he is withdrawn and suicidal.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

…Additional Stills…

Eye See You (D-Tox) – 7


Director – Jim Gillespie

Cast – Sylvester Stallone, Charles S. Dutton, Polly Walker, Kris Kristofferson, Robert Patrick, Jeffrey Wright, Tom Berenger, Stephen Lang, Alan C. Peterson, Hrothgar Mathewsm, Angela Alvarado, Mif, Robert Prosky, Courtney B. Vance

Release Year – 2002

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Sylvester Stallone in a horror movie? That is exactly what I thought, and after seeing a few positive remarks regarding this flick I went in expecting to enjoy the experience, and my expectations were met. Completed in 1999, Eye See You (then deemed D-Tox)was a film nobody seemed to want, given only a limited theater release and subsequence DVD release almost three years after it debuted, yet once again we are given a positive horror effort passed over by horror studios – making for an under-appreciated effort.

Stallone stars as Jake Malloy, an FBI Agent and former cop who checks into a law enforcement rehab facility after suffering a terrible event while working the case of an esteemed serial killer. Soon after Malloy checks into the rehab center his fellow patients begin dying off, and as the body count realizes Malloy and the remaining officers scurry to figure out who the killer is.

I admit that Sylvester Stallone starring in this film aided my enjoyment of this piece, however despite that I fully believe that this would have been a sound effort with another actor portraying the leading role so long as he/she executed it properly.

Adapted from a novel by Howard Swindle by screenwriter Ron L. Brinkerhoff(The Guardian), we get a cool story following Malloy as he suffers a terrible tragedy caused by him simply carrying out his job, and his fight for redemption and survival when he comes across a serial killer once again after hitting rock-bottom. His character is used positively (although cliché at times) to deliver a fairly strong dose of drama during the first act, which slowly fades away and is replaced by the horror element, which I naturally preferred of course. The serial killer element was used to full potential, delivering sweet kills and plenty of terror for those who come across the killer and his deadly games. I loved the usage of the rehab center, conveniently located in a barren and frozen tundra with nearly no way out and nowhere to run to if anyone were to escape, making for a great nowhere-to-run scenario for our protagonists as they try and evade a killer they have yet to establish. This element played off somewhat like John Carpenter’s The Thing, employing a similar atmosphere/location and putting our characters through physical and mental torture. The storyline did very well in keeping me guessing who the killer was, and after the killer was identified we were given a positive closing sequence high in tension.

Director Jim Gillespie(I Know What You Did Last Summer) did a great job delivering this piece to us, employing awesome sets and atmosphere aided by good cinematography that set a very dark mood throughout this piece. His execution of the horror was great, giving us awesome kills and enough gore to keep us gorehounds at bay as well as tight action scenes that showed this guy really does have talent within him. Stallone was his usual self, kicking ass and acting a little, and the rest of the actors involved, namely Charles S. Dutton(Mimic, Alien 3, Secret Window, Gothika, Legion), Kris Kristofferson(Blade series), Polly Walker, and Robert Patrick(Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Fire In The Sky, The Black Waters of Echoe’s Pond, Alien Tresspass, Autopsy, The Faculty, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money), did their part in selling this film to the viewer.

Overall, Eye See You is another positive horror effort that sadly never received the attention it deserved when it debuted, and makes for an enjoyable watch for those who love serial-killer films or want to see Sylvester Stallone star in a horror flick. The horror is great and Gillespie shows he really has what it takes to deliver a good experience, making this a recommended film for all who are interested.

Rating: 7/10

Lady in the Water – 7

December 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Director – M. Night Shyamalan

Cast – Paul Giamatti, Bryce Dallas Howard, Jeffrey Wright, Bob Balaban, Sarita Choudhury, Cindy Cheung, M. Night Shyamalan, Freddy Rodriguez, Jared Harris

Release Year – 2006

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Roughly two years after his brilliantly written yet unfortunately mis-advertised love/hate film “The Village” debuted in theaters, M. Night Shyamalan pushed his bruised ego aside and gave us another love/hate film…”Lady in the Water”. I was skeptical as to whether or not I should review this film given it is not much of a “horror” film, but I do make exceptions for films that include horror elements, and this film does just that.

This flick stars the excellent Paul Giamatti as Cleveland Heep, an apartment manager with a very bad stuttering speech impediment. He keeps getting complaints that someone is swimming in the pool late at night and clogging up the pool’s filters. One night he goes out to investigate and finds a naked woman in the pool. He slips and knocks himself out in the pool only to awaken the next morning to the naked woman who saved his life. She tells him that her name is a “Narf” named Story, she is from the Blue World(water). After some investigation he learns that a “Narf” is a fictional character from an old bedtime story that comes to our world with a mission for mankind. Story is having trouble going back “home” after completing her mission thanks to a renegade creature known as a “Scrunt”, which has no plans of letting her return. Mr. Heep must now gather his tenants up in an attempt to help her get back home and pay her back for the help she gave to mankind.

I really liked this story. This really is not a horror film, and falls more into the fantasy/horror genre much like “Pan’s Labyrinth”. M. Night Shyamalan manages to once again put forth a very unique story that those with an OPEN MIND should find enjoyable, if not captivating. He wrote this film’s plot as a bedtime fairy tale that he made up for his children, and you can really see the passion and heart he put into this film. All of his characters are solid and are portrayed brilliantly by their actors. Oscar winner Paul Giamatti is amazing as always, and his co-lead Bryce Dallas Howard, who portrays Story, manages to once again pull off a unique character in excellent fashion. The supporting actors in this film portray the rest of Mr. Heep’s tenants and do so brilliantly as well. We get the VERY underrated Jeffrey Wright as a crossword puzzle afficionado, Freddy Rodriguez(who was in “Planet Terror“) as a man who only works out one side of his body(and it SHOWS), Jared Harris as the leader of a group of philosophical stoners, and none other than M. Night Shyamalan himself as an aspiring writer who plans on changing the world with his novel in the works. All of these random characters wind up playing huge roles in the film which only goes to show the real genius of a writer M. Night is.

The pacing for this film is well done and does slow the film down very much. This is not what you would consider an “exciting” film, so don’t expect the pacing to be fast paced. M. Night’s direction is great as usual and his use of the apartment complex setting is quite genius and overly simple, which is why I enjoy it. Pretty much the entire film takes place in the apartment complex and shows us how a bunch of “normal” people in a “normal” apartment complex can come together and with just a little bit of “faith”, can make amazing things happen.

I do not have any major gripes with this film aside from it’s use of CGI. CGI is used for the look of the “Scrunt” as well as a few other monsters towards the end, and although they did look pretty darn cool…well…CGI is CGI. A film like this can only be “so good” and I found this flick to be nearly perfect for the type of film it is.

Overall, this is another positive film from M. Night Shyamalan that much like “The Village”, is treated unfairly and is expected to be an all our horror film. This film is not a horror film, but is a fantasy film with horror elements in it. To treat this film as a horror film and expect scares is not open-,minded, and very ill-educated. Only those with an open-mind should watch this film. All others should stick to “entertaining” flicks.

Rating: 7/10

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