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the last few centuries Adam has played a role in the careers of famous scientists and musicians, but these days he is withdrawn and suicidal.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

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Constantine – 7


Director – Francis Lawrence

Cast – Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Dijmon Hounsou, Max Baker, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Gavin Rossdale, Tilda Swinton, Peter Stormare, Jose Zuniga

Release Year – 2005

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I really enjoyed this film when I first saw it in theaters back in 2005, and to this day after another watch I can say my enjoyment for this film remains high.  For one, I am a fan of religious horror and this film plays that element perfectly.  This is not the usual priest exorcism a demon type flick, although that does happen somewhat in this one, but more of a God/Church vs. Demons/Satan type flick, and I loved that even more.  A war between God and Satan, Heaven and Hell, polar opposites?  Yeah, I dig this flick.

This flick stars Keanu Reeves as John Constantine, a supernatural “detective” who has literally been to Hell and back. He is trying to now buy his way into Heaven by banishing all demons that escape Hell and now reside in our earthly world.  One night John comes into contact with a non-believer named Rachel Dobson(Rachel Weiss), a detective who’s sister recently commited suicide…which Rachel will not accept as her cause of death.  She comes to John in an attempt to find out what really happened to her sister, but her problems are only going to get worse.  A war is going on just underneath the naïve noses of all those who reside in Los Angeles, and John, Rachel, and his lackey Chas Kramer(Shia LaBeouf) are now entrapped in the war between Heaven and Hell.

For the most part, you can assume that any film adaptation from a DC/Vertigo novel is going to have an awesome plot.  This flick is based off of DC/Vertigo’s “Hellblazer” graphic novel, and this comes with one of the cooler plots I have seen this millennia.  Chalk down John Constantine as one of horror’s coolest killers folks, because he brings the “goods” with him.

I was so visually engaged by this film from start to finish, and we can thank director Francis Lawrence(who also directed “I Am Legend”) for putting this flick’s visual pleasure high on his pedestal.  The scenes of the city are very reminiscent of the graphic novel, and the glimpses of Hell are horrific and very engaging.  I really liked his demons in this film as well, among the many other creatures of the underworld Constantine comes into contact with.  Pretty much all of the creatures in this flick are CGI, and I will honestly say that for this flick…it works.  Most of the creatures were engaged in movements that would have been near impossible to film in a live-action scenario, so it seems Mr. Lawrence went with the only option he had.  It was that or tone things down…and no one wants a horror film to be toned down.  Right?

Story-wise this flick rocks, as you can already tell.  I loved Constantine’s second-chance element that is thrown into this flick because it helps us connect with his character, and understand that whether he is right or wrong with his actions…the guy makes a pretty darn good point about what he has “done” to earn his way into Heaven.  Rachel Weisz’s character, Angela Dobson, was definitely the most confusing out of the bunch and I quite honestly cannot really remember what the heck happened to her during the last act of the film…and that begins this flick’s problems…its character use.  Constantine was great and Keanu pulled of the job quite well, but in all seriousness…what the HELL(pun intended) was Shia LaBeouf doing in this film?  For one, he is played off as a supporting actor, but probably had less than 25 minutes in total screen time(a generous estimate), which consisted of only minor chuckles here and there.  What a waste of a character, he was useless, worthless, and was obviously only added for comic relief which did not sell very well at all.  Thankfully, that is about the only problem this flick has, although I really did want a much better fight between Constantine and Balthazar, who was portrayed by none other then Bush front-man Gavin Rossdale himself.  Really, had this film taken care of its character issues this flick would have received a much higher rating.  When you have a two hour long film there is no excuse for bad character use, you have plenty of time to execute the character element properly.

Overall, this is a cool watch that I recommend to all fans of the horror genre.  We get one of the genre’s coolest protagonists accompanied with a sweet storyline and plenty of demons to kill.  That is enough to keep me happy.

Rating: 7/10

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