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The Damned – 5

January 14, 2015 Leave a comment

Director – Victor Garcia

Cast – Peter Facinelli, Sophia Myles, Nathalia Ramos, Carolina Guerra, Sebastian Martinez, Gustavo Angarita, Juan Pablo Gamboa

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Don’t you just love stories where unsuspecting know-it-alls believe they are doing a good deed, only to find out that their deed proves to be the worst possible decision they could have made? I love those stories, and that is the case with The Damned. When a group of family and friends barely survive a flash flood, they beg for refuge in a secluded inn. They find a young girl locked in the basement, and without pause they let her free…unknowingly releasing an ancient spirit that will consume them all.

The screenplay comes written by Thirteen Ghosts writer Richard D’Ovidio, and shares a story credit with David Higgins (Burning Bright). The events come rolling in pretty quick, with the traveling band of naïve individuals ignoring the pleas of a local police officer and suffering a dangerous crash when their vehicle is swept away by the tremendous rainwater. They wind up at the hotel pretty early, and right from the get-go we are informed that there is something very “off” about the place. There have been no guests in 30 years, the phone lines have been cut, and it is obvious the caretaker, Felipe, is not keen to strangers and does not want them snooping around. Sure enough, they snoop around and let the girl out at the 28 minute mark, sealing their fate. From then on out the horror creeps and eventually develops into a possession film with nowhere to run but plenty of space to die. The writers include an interesting element for the possession, where the only way you can become possessed is if you kill the possessed person. Naturally, one would say “well don’t kill the person”, however the person is still trying to kill you, or someone you love, so in a sense there are situations where you have no choice but to make the kill and leave yourself as the possessed individual. I did not necessarily enjoy this method, as I prefer more typical methods of possession (they’re creepier), but I’ll give credit for being different.

So how is the horror? It’s OK. It’s a possession film, which is cool, but as I mentioned earlier the possession scenes aren’t as creepy as standard possession tactics. Those possessed talk in cheesy demonic voices and eventually develop a decayed look, but it appears that only happens when they get angry, which is silly. We are provided plenty of kills, but sadly some of them occur offscreen and are nowhere near as gory as one would expect for such a film in the possession / Spanish sub-genres – both known for good gore.

Mirrors 2 and Hellraiser: Revelations director Victor Garcia directs this piece, and he a fair job. The atmosphere is great and he sets the tone early with gloomy cinematography (exposure, desaturation) and solid sets for the home and underground prison. When the horror gets going I felt his execution should have been better. The voices were too cheesy (not the good kind) and the look of the possessed was not the least bit scary, or cool. His kill sequences were pretty tame as well, with little gore and seldom were they filmed in a frontal fashion. There was much potential for good horror here, but it failed to surface.

Overall, The Damned is another mediocre flick out there that you should pass over for better efforts.

Rating: 5/10

Underworld – 8

June 12, 2013 2 comments

Director – Len Wiseman

Cast – Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen, Shane Brolly, Bill Nighy, Erwin Leder, Sophia Myles, Robbie Gee, Wentworth Miller, Kevin Grevioux, Zita Görög, Dennis J. Kozeluh, Scott McElroy

Release Year – 2003

Reviewed by John of the Dead

It took me an entire decade but now I can finally say I have seen Underworld.  This is one of those popular films that has always escaped me since its debut in 2003, and for several reasons.  I am not the biggest fan of vampires, and this flick just looked incredibly cheesy, and I figured if I was going to spend time enjoying any cheesy vampire action flick it was going to be Blade.  Nonetheless I went into this flick assuming I would enjoy it and be entertained and sure enough I was.  If you are looking for an action-packed horror film that plays on the classic everlong battle between vampires and lycans/werewolves then Underworld is sure to give you what you seek.

A war centuries long has been raging between the Vampires and Lycans for centuries.  Selene, a vampire, is a death dealer whose assignment is to hunt and kill Lycans at the will of her superior, name.  When her hunt brings her across Michael, a human who holds the key to end the bloody war, she must decide where her allegiances lie and if it is worth the betrayal of the only family she has.

If you are looking for cheesy fun provided by overacting vampires lead by a sexy woman dressed in cat suit then Underworld is for you.  This two hour experience starts well and delivers us directly into the ongoing war between the Vampires and Lycans.  The vampires are portrayed just as they have typically been throughout history, as aristocratic sophisticates while the Lycans, former slaves of the Vampires, are written as a gang of shrewd thugs who prowl the city’s underbelly.  Selena and the Vampires seem to have their things in order, living in a large estate under heavy guard and venturing out at night tonslowly rid the Lycan race one by one after the apparent death of their leader centuries ago.  Selena is our strong lead whose anger and investigative skills make her a great Lycan killer but also provide pains for her superior, Kraven, who has a few secrets of his own to hide.  What I enjoyed about this storyline is its classic elements of love, deception, and death.  Selena believes she is fighting the good fight in the war with the Lycans, but the deception from those above her soon surfaces and she does what every hero in her position does…she goes rogue.  The writing execution of her character is as typical as it gets, but it does not deter from the story and writer BLAHBLAH gives us something unique with Michael.  Michael holds the key to cohesion between the breeds as the only ressesive carrier of the Corvalis(SPELLING) bloodline, which means he harbors the ability to become a crossbreed of both Vampire and Lycan.  With the Lycans hunting him down for his DNA and the Vampires trying to kill him to kill off the Corvalis gene pool, the guy could definitely use a level-minded friend like Selena.  So yes, the story does have its cliches and it will not win any awards, but the writing does provide an ample backstory to the war that makes sense of everything and in a pretty interesting fashion.  Lots of action scenes are written into the film, and with a story that centers around a long and bloody fued you should know not to expect anything other than that.

Underworld comes directed by first-timer Len Wiseman and he does a damn good job at making this an enjoyable experience. His direction relies heavily on visuals to sell the film and he does so beginning with awesome sets/locations and a dark, gothic atmosphere that was very appropriate for the film’s subject matter. On top of that the look of the Vampires and Lycans was positive and Selena naturally came plastered in black cat suits. The action scenes are pretty tense and never ended quickly or on a dull note, or without guns or swords blazing, adding to the film’s visual excitement making up for its sometimes lackluster cliches. The acting performances were executed to their fullest and extent and that naturally resulted in some cheese and the cliches just mentioned, but if you go into this experience knowing what to expect then that should not matter very much. Along with the action sequences come some gory kills that sadly came via CGI effects but nonetheless managed to keep me enthused and interested in the carnage before me, which is ultimately what matters in these action-packed horror flicks.

Overall, Underworld is a great experience that provides pretty much non-stop action throughout its two-hour long runtime. The storyline comes with its cheese but it also provides a unique take on the Vampire vs. Lycan sub-genre and it shows the writers did work in providing a solid backstory. The execution is good and Wiseman excels in his first directorial gig, making for one of the most fun experiences in the genre this millennium.

Rating: 8/10

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