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the last few centuries Adam has played a role in the careers of famous scientists and musicians, but these days he is withdrawn and suicidal.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

Summer of Blood – 7

January 18, 2015 Leave a comment

Director – Onur Tukel

Cast – Jonathan Caouette, Zach Clark, Dustin Guy Defa, Juliette Fairley, Dakota Goldhor

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I only found out about this film until recently, and what gave me the drive to watch it is it was referred to as a “hipster horror film”. I don’t count because that would be mainstream, but I know I have plenty of “hipster” friends who would get a kick out of such a film, so I gave this a watch and left pleased with the results. The story follows Eric Sparrow – a self-centered asshole who sucks in bed and makes the mistake of his life when he turns down his beautiful girlfriend Jody’s marriage proposal. He tries to move on without her…and to no avail. Each date ends worse than the one before, his job becomes more and more unbearable, and to make matters worse…Jody is now dating her college crush. Eric’s life is falling apart, but he receives the chance of a lifetime when he is bit by a vampire. Eric awakes as a different man. He is confident, strong, and now a sexual maestro with the opposite sex. There is only one problem – he is a vampire, and vampires need to eat.

Writer/director Onur Tukel stars as Eric and delivers one hell of an opening sequence. The story begins with Eric and Jody having an exquisite dinner at their favorite restaurant. When Jody proposes Eric uses his bafoonish wit to say “no” with the highest number of words possible, turning the issue to himself and the fallacies of married life. This intro lasts almost 8 minutes and will leave you shaking your head over how much of an idiot he is. I am sure lots of us, both male and female, have been in situations where we let a good person go for stupid, selfish reasons, and this intro did a good job of reminding me of the hurt I felt. Tukel’s writing is fantastic, with excellent dialogue from Eric that shows how arrogance and a “hipster” way of looking at things can cost you. Of course, this is done so in hilarious fashion. The head-shaking continues as you watch Eric fail at everything that matters. He has a pathetic way of using his logic to rationalize the life he lives, and before he can realize how much he is bullshitting himself…he becomes a vampire.

The second act is where Eric begins to bring home his new life. He is epically fired from his job, gives no f*cks about the rent he owes, and unlike before, he is having lots of success with women. So is this even a horror film? Yes it is. The first kill occurs 39 minutes in, and it is gory as hell. The kills continue at a brisk pace for the next 10 minutes or so, with kills coming from many angles, including while engaged in coitus with a beautiful woman. Conflict eventually arises, and while it is tame in comparison to the rest of the film it still managed to keep me engaged. At times I felt like despite its mere 86 minutes in length that the film dragged here and there. Eric’s long responses/monologues about this or that hipster case-in-point eventually exceed their welcome, yet he somehow manages to remain a guy that you’d love to hang out with – at least in small doses. I would not exactly call this a horror comedy, but it does have its comedic elements. Thankfully they blend well with the horror and the carnage does not take a backseat to the lulz.

Tukel’s direction is fantastic, and he secures a great performance from…himself as Eric. Tukel’s acting (if he’s even acting) dominates the character-driven experience and as I mentioned earlier, it’s hard not to love the guy. He’s a dick, and he’ll piss you off, but I’d love to hang out with him just so I could laugh at his troubles. Despite some dragging moments his execution, via atmosphere, music, and laughs, is enough to keep you engaged and into what is going on before you. Most importantly, though, his execution of the horror is fantastic. I was surprised at the level of gore seen in the film, and it all comes via live-action effects and not that lamestream CGI nonsense. His execution is full-frontal and with the kills drawn-out to gory extremes you will leave pleased at experiencing more horror than you expected for a “hipster” horror flick.

Overall, Summer of Blood is a fun watch and one that I recommend to all, even if you’re not a hipster.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

Shadow of the Vampire – 7

November 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Director – E. Elias Merhige

Cast – Willem Dafoe, John Malkovich, Udo Kier,Cary Elwes, Catherine McCormack, Eddie Izzard, Ronan Vibert

Release Year – 2000

Reviewed by John of the Dead

Shadow of the Vampire is a film I would hear about every now and then but I never made an effort to give it a watch. It wasn’t until it became available on Netflix’s streaming service that I decided to give it a go. With a cast consisting of Willem Dafoe and John Malcovich I was intrigued to see how this would turn out, and I left pleased with what I saw. A bit light on the horror, Shadow of the Vampire is still a worthy horror film thanks to an engaging story stemming from one of the genre’s earliest films.

Director E.W.Murnau (Malkovich) is on a mission to create a vampire film that will leave him immortalized in horror lore. This vampire film will be known as…Nosferatu. Taking no chances bothering with anyone of lesser talent, Murnau hires the mysterious Max Shreck to portray the evil count Orlock. To the crew, Shreck is the prime example of a method actor. He will only appear at night, in character, and in full make-up. Little does the crew know, he is hardly a method actor. In fact, he isn’t even acting, and Murnau’s bargain with him will be costly.

I really dug this story because of Nosferatu’s significance in establishing the horror genre. The behind-the-scenes element made this story an engaging one that film buffs should be enveloped in. We mostly follow director Murnau as he tries to piece together his pinnacle film. He strikes gold when he brings forth the “actor” he hired to play Orlock, Max Shreck. Shreck’s “method actor” persona sounds like a gimmick to keep him within character, but really it is to keep him from killing everyone around him. Murnau tooka big risk hiring a real life vampire to portray the vampire in his film, but he is sure it will pay off. Shreck proves to be more of a hassle than Murnau expected, as he loses essential personnel to the old vamp who is becoming increasingly comfortable with doing whatever he wants.

The horror stems from the actions of Shreck, which include feasting on the unsuspecting crew and his persistent demands for “payment” for his work. To be honest, the horror IS there but it isn’t heavy. The horror is equally mixed with the drama caused by the Count and the effect it has on the shoot and director. There is a good amount of horror that does not involve the kills committed by Shreck, but merely his actions. He was written so simple yet so creepy, and much respect goes to writer Steven Katz for that.

The casting of Malkovich and Dafoe was a great move in making this a success. While they boths ell their roles it is Dafoe who steals the show. His Oscar-nominated performance is incredible and I applaud director E. Elias Merhige for executing Dafoe to perfection. He look alone is haunting, but his simple mannerisms were creepy and highly effective. I was also pleased to see actor Udo Kier in the film, portraying the film’s producer Albin Grau. Both he, Malkovich, and Cary Ewles did well in their roles, which were of course overshadowed by Dafoe. While Merhige did well executing Shreck he also succeeded in his direction of the kills. They came off in the same vein as those seen in the original 1922 classic, and I was glad that he and the writer went this route instead of modernizing the kill scenes. Because of this you should not expect much in gore, but really, it would be silly expect gore in a film associated with a classic vampire tale.

Overall, Shadow of the Vampire is a good film with an interesting storyline thanks to its association with a horror classic. Willem Dafoe’s performance alone is enough to warrant a viewing, and it should remain one of the greatest in horror history.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

Afflicted (2014) – 8


Director – Derek Lee, Clif Prowse

Cast – Clif Prowse, Derek Lee, Michael Gill, Jason Lee, Gary Redekop, Baya Rehaz

Release Year – 2014

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I took a gamble watching Afflicted, and boy am I glad that I did. While searching iTunes’ movie section I came across this flick, and after reading its storyline decided that I was in the mood for a “found footage” piece like this one. Going in “blind” I was not sure what to expect. All I knew was that this was a found footage flick and I did not recognize the directors, writers, or cast, meaning there was a possibility I would pay $6.99 for a piece of junk. Thankfully, Afflicted more than surpassed my mediocre expectations and gave me one of the best horror films of 2014, as well as the best found-footage flick I have seen in years.

Best friends Derek and Clif set out on the trip of a lifetime with plans to see the world and live life to its fullest, all while recording with a chest mounted camera with a wide-angle lens. However, soon into the trip the fun takes a dark and bloody turn as Derek begins to succumb to a mysterious affliction gradually taking over his body. Now thousands of miles from home, the two friends race against time to uncover the source of this terror before it devours him completely.

Filmmakers Derek Lee and Clif Prowse both write, direct, and star in this effort, and for both of them this is their debut feature film after filming several shorts together. The story begins in a fun and happy fashion, giving us insight into the lives Derek and Clif lead and their thirst for adventure. Before embarking we learn that Derek is suffering from a strange aneurism with the potential to produce fatal results at a moment’s notice, and against his doctor’s wishes he continues his plan to see the world. To Derek, his ailment only furthers his desire for adventure, as any upcoming day could be his last. Their journey begins in Spain, where they spend a week until arriving in France, where the horror begins. Early into their trip Derek is attacked after meeting a beautiful woman at a nightclub, but despite his injuries he wishes to avoid hospitals and sleep it off. They make their way to Italy, and that is when the effects of his ailment begin to surface. He is unable to keep food in his stomach for more than a few moments, and to make matters worse his skin erupts with boils when in contact with sunlight. All is not negative though, as he also realizes he has superhuman strength and abilities. After having a bit of fun with his new powers (like BLAHBLAH did in Paranormal Activity: The Last Ones) the horror takes a new turn as he then tries to figure out what is wrong with him. Due to his reaction to sunlight both Derek and Clif believe he could be some sort of vampire, and his efforts to test this theory also test his humanity, or the now lack thereof.

I really loved how the story kept constantly developing and never really slowed down, even during the usual “slow” second act. On top of this the story shoots for the stars when we receive a huge development halfway into the film that left me wondering what on Earth they could possibly do to occupy the remainder of the film. Now time and time again I see writers come up with awesome twists and breakthroughs that sadly also write them into a corner they cannot get themselves out of, and the resulting escape is an utter mess. Well, that is not the case with this storyline, and I applaud the writers for keeping the second half of the film just as interesting as the first. The latter half of the flick really kicks things into high gear with Interpol hot on Derek’s trail, which is the result of some of the crazy actions he took trying to test his vampire hypothesis. With the authorities on his trail and his affliction slowly getting the best of him, the tension is high and eventually tosses us into another amazing development that I never saw coming, as well as a solid climax sure to leave the viewer smiling.

With one hell of a screenplay it was only fitting that Derek and Clif would execute this film in top-notch fashion, proving that these guys have what it takes to hang in their sub-genre. I really loved the idea of the footage being filmed with a wide-angle chest-mounted lens because it gives the viewer a true feeling as if they were Derek or Clif himself. If you have seen GoPro videos of people doing awesome things then you can relate to what Affliction has in store. This filming made it incredibly entertaining to watch Derek run from the authorities while being shot, jumping from building to building and crashing through walls. When Clif isn’t catching the horror on tape we view awesome POV footage of Derek laying waste to those who get in his way, or simply need to be killed for certain reasons. Gone are the traditional video cameras and instead we are treated to something new for what has become a convoluted sub-genre. I can talk for days about how awesome these scenes were, but they are not all the film has to offer. The acting performances are great and we get an especially solid performance from Derek, who was forced to undergo much torment and many emotions during what should have been the best trip of his life. These filmmakers also use amazing sets and locations that take full advantage of the inner city and landscape settings that Spain, France, and Italy have to offer. Visually this is a very appealing film, and the visuals of the horror are solid as well. We see live-action gore effects and full-frontal kills, making for some of the best horror I have seen in a very long time. The effect of these kills and overall horror is long-lasting and as I mentioned earlier…will leave you smiling in the end.

Overall, Affliction is a film I highly recommend you check out, especially if you are into the found-footage sub-genre. This is low-budget filmmaking at its finest, where filmmakers focus on what is important in the film, like story, characters, horror and practical effects. I really mean it when I say that this is one of the best films of the year and absolutely one of the best found-footage films of all time, and that is thanks much to its creative and highly intense approach to the filming.

Rating: 8/10

…Additional Stills…

Byzantium – 8

February 14, 2014 Leave a comment

Director – Neil Jordan

Cast – Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Caleb Landry Jones, Sam Riley, Warren Brown, Thure Lindhardt, Glenn Doherty, Gabriela Marcinková, Daniel Mays, Uri Gavriel

Release Year – 2013

Reviewed by John of the Dead

I am not a big fan of vampire films, but I am definitely a big fan of Neil Jordan films (Interview with the VampireThe Company of Wolves). After a near 20 year hiatus from the genre (and vampires), Byzantium brings him back to the sub-genre he loves so dearly, and he does so with damn good results. As with most of his efforts, this is a story-driven film that also comes with superb direction to seal the deal. Vampires are not my thing, but Byzantium is a perfect example of vampires used as they were meant to be used: to sell the despairs of love and sacrifice.

Suffering the pitfalls of eternal life, mother-daughter vampire duo Clara and Eleanor are on the run and take refuge in a sleepy coastal resort. The lonely Noel offers them shelter in his empty guesthouse, Byzantium, but what seems like an ideal situation for the vampires in hiding proves costly when Eleanor befriends the charming Frank and tells him their deadly secret.

If you enjoy films that rely heavily on good story telling then you are sure to enjoy this Moira Buffini screenplay, adapted from her play “A Vampire Story”. The first act moves quickly, giving us insight into the lives that Clara and Eleanor are forced to live. Clara provides sexual favors for money, which comes at the behest of her daughter Eleanor. Eleanor knows that her mother is doing what she “has” to do in order to provide for their monetary necessities, but it is far from the life she wishes they could live. We soon learn that a sect of vampires known as the Brethren have been hunting Eleanor for 200 years, after her mother broke an code she swore to abide by. When they eventually arrive at their new home they seem to have it made. Clara is able to expand her prostitution business and Eleanor is finally able to attend school and enjoy the company of the opposite sex, which is where Frank comes into the picture. As with most cases involving secrets you should keep to yourself, desperate desires lead Eleanor to spill the beans to Frank, putting both her and her mother in serious danger of being found by the Brethren, who are still in pursuit of the two. Buffini does a fantastic job of selling this story as a drama, a fantasy, and a horror film, although this flick’s emphasis is in such order. There is plenty of horror to make this a horror flick, especially with some sweet gory kills, but the drama and fantasy make this more than your basic genre film.

Neil Jordan’s direction is as good as ever, bringing this highly engaging story to life with amazing atmosphere and good performances from our lead actresses. Saoirse Ronan and Gemma Arterton do a fantastic job selling Eleanor and Clara to the viewer, both on their own and when they are together. The chemistry between them is real and while pretty much every other major supporting character did well in his/her roles, these two stole the show. Jordan’s direction of the horror is also very well done and as I mentioned earlier, he delivers some gory kills for us to enjoy. The focus of the film isn’t so much the kills as it is the horrors that come with living a life of eternity, but thankfully Jordan makes the most of the horror when it presents itself.

Overall, Byzantium is a fantastic story-driven experience that blends drama, fantasy, and horror into one of the greatest vampire tales since Let The Right One In / Let Me In. While the horror is not at the forefront this is still a great horror experience that has so much more to offer than the cheesy Underworld-esque vampire flicks we get these days. If you are looking for a genre flick that demands your undivided attention, Byzantium is highly recommended.

Rating: 8/10

…Additional Stills…

Special Post: Top 10 Horror Movies of 2011

November 9, 2013 4 comments

Every year we are given great horror films to enjoy.  Some come to us in theaters and others we have to search for, but nonetheless the films on this list prove the genre is very much alive in this modern day.  The movies listed will be ranked according to their level of horror first, then everything else (direction, writing, etc.)  will be considered.  Now I give you the top 10 horror movies of 2011 and 5 honorable mentions.

10. The Shrine

– Jon Knautz broke onto the scene with one of the best flicks of 2008, Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer, and he scared the hell out of us with The Shrine. Heavy in atmosphere and slow-burning spooks, this experience builds and builds until it erupts in demon-fueled fashion. Read my full review for this film here: The Shrine

9. The Woman

– Lucky McKee (May) adapts horror novelist Jack Ketchum’s story about a family bringing in a literal “wild” woman in a foolish attempt to civilize her…and with disastrous results. The Woman is one of the most brutal and emotionally draining films of the year.  Read my full review for this film here: The Woman

8. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

Tucker and Dale give us an awesome horror comedy that comes with tons of laughs, great gore, and enough creativity to make this simple film an very original one.  Read my full review for this film here: Tucker and Dale vs. Evil

7.  The Innkeepers

– After busting into the horror scene with The House of the Devil two years prior, Ti West gave us my favorite film of his, The Innkeepers. A slow-burning gem heavy in atmosphere and ghostly terror, West excels on every level – from his cinematography to the amazing comic relief, this atmospheric ghost story is a shoe in for this year’s top 10.  Read my full review for this film here:  The Innkeepers

6. Grave Encounters

– Boy is this a film that took the genre by storm. Delivered by the then-unknown Vicious Brothers, they took on the popular found-footage sub-genre and gave us one of the best horror experiences of the year. With plenty of scares, thrills, and chills, Grave Encounters is a low-budget film that exceeded expectations.  Read my full review for this film here:  Grave Encounters

5. Trollhunter

– One of the best “found-footage” films of all time, Trollhunter is fantastic horror film that gives us a great story involving an element seldom used in the genre these days: trolls. Along with the captivating story comes great filming from writer/director Andre Ovredal that gives us a very frontal view of troll horror unlike any I have seen in the genre.  Read my full review for this film here: Trollhunter

4. Attack the Block

– One of the best horror films I have seen this decade, Attack the Block is a highly enjoyable, adventurous film in the vein of Shaun of the Dead.  Pitting and urban misfit gang vs. an ape-like aliens with glowing jaws, Joe Cornish gives us the “coolest” film of the year and one I can watch again and again.  Read my full review for this film here: Attack the Block

3. Stake Land

Stake Land is not just one of the best films of the year but one of my favorite horror films of this millennium. I am not the biggest fan of vampire films, but this one is unlike the others and gives us an apocalyptic tale where vampires have decimated the world and a group of survivors must face unparalleled odds in hopes of surviving their new world. Heavy in both horror and drama, Stake Land is a joy that deserves more appreciation.  Read my full review for this film here: Stake Land

2. Insidious

– One of the best horror films of all time, James Wan and Leigh Whannel’s Insidious gave us old school horror in a modern day package and on the big screen. Shot on a very low budget and relying on low-budget tricks and gimmicks to seal the deal, we are given a superbly well-executed experience heavy in atmospheric horror. I fully believe that it was Insidious that opened the door for Wan’s The Conjuring, which is also one of the best films to hit the horror scene.  Read my full review for this film here:  Insidious

1. I Saw the Devil

– The horror takes a backseat to the extreme revenge element and I did not mind one bit as we watch the hero become the villain and the villain become the prey. I could talk about this film for days, but simply put – I Saw the Devil gives us almost 2.5 hours of the most brutal, downright horrific film experience of 2011.  Read my full review for this film here: I Saw the Devil

Best Short Film

An Evening with My Comatose Mother

– This film marks the first time that a short film makes one of my top 10 lists, and rightfully so. At only 30 minutes in length An Evening with My Comatose Mother not only delivers a solid horror experience but also delivers more horror than most full-length horror flicks these days. With a killer doll/clown and a demon possessed granny, this Evil Dead-esque piece is one that I just had to include.  Read my full review for this film here: An Evening with My Comatose Mother

Honorable Mentions

(Close But Not Close Enough)

Super 8

– While not as horror as I had wanted, Super 8 offers a solid creature film that despite a Goonies-esque feel still delivers good horror carnage.  Read my full review for this film here: Super 8

Final Destination 5

– 3 was mediocre and 4 was downright bad, but Final Destination 5 brought the series back to positive light.  Read my full review for this film here: Final Destination 5

Red State

– Kevin Smith’s “horror” film about a group of religious fanatics killing frolickers and then battling the John Goodman-led ATF makes this list even though it loses its horror focus.  Read my full review for this film here:  Red State

The Tunnel 

– What’s not to love about an amateur film crew searching a tunnel for a mysterious killer and finding what they are looking for?  Read my full review for this film here: The Tunnel

Battle: Los Angeles

Battle: Los Angeles may be the least devout horror film on this top 10, but it is most definitely worthy of its inclusion. Half alien invasion flick and half military thriller, this experience gives us lots of non-stop action that pits the US Marine Corps against an alien race of superior technology and firepower, but lacking the resolve of their enemy. Fast paced and early to deliver the goods, Battle: Los Angeles is a surprisingly good 2011 horror flick.  Read my full review for this film here: Battle Los Angeles

Check Out My Other Top 10 Horror Lists

Top 10 Horror Movies of 1980

Top 10 Horror Movies of 1981

Top 10 Horror Movies of 2005

Top 10 Horror Movies of 2006

Top 10 Horror Movies of 2007

Top 10 Horror Movies of 2008

Top 10 Horror Movies of 2009

– Top 10 Horror Movies of 2010

Thank you for reading.

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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