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31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 4: 30 Days of Night

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 4:  30 Days of Night

We’ve recently seen coming from the dream factory a number of films that have their basis on a comic book or other form of graphic media. We’ve had movies about superheroes, movies about hit men, even movies about alien invasions. Of course, the current, and possibly hottest property that has found its way from the funny pages to the live action front is Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, which has been nominated for a Golden Globe and the recipient of an Emmy, to name a few of the accolades it has garnered.

I had heard about today’s film many years ago, when I saw the giant billboard featuring its blood-red background towering over the local In-N-Out burger on Sunset Boulevard. At the time I had counted it off as an advert for a 30 day film festival of horror films (not all that uncommon in Tinseltown). I would only later learn that I was grossly mistaken, and that it was a feature film about the most nocturnal of nemesis’, vampires.

I’ve long been a fan of vampire films. I count among my favorite vampiric entries The Lost Boys, Dracula ( the one with Bella Lugosi, not the one with Keanu Reeves, natch). I’ve enjoyed games based around the vampire mythos, such as Castlevania, and Bloodrayne, spending hard earned cash to obtain an out-of-print entry for a system I had not yet owned. I’ve equally enjoyed an old yarn fashioned around the bloodsucking mythological creatures of yore, as in The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, The Vampire Archives by Otto Penzler, Bram Stoker’s masterpiece, and Salems’ Lot, from the master of macabre, Stephen King. Not to be left out, I also have enjoyed reading comic books set in the world of these creatures of the night. Having met Marv Wolfman, the author and creator of one of my favorite vampire series of all time, Tomb of Dracula, has been a highlight of my career in entertainment.

Thankfully, in my recent search for new and interesting comics to fill my iPad’s memory, I came across a series on Comixology from writer Steve Niles and artist Ben Templesmith that I later found to be the basis for today’s film. So it was no surprise when I noticed the film that I chose for today’s entry on the local video mart DVD rack.

With that, I give you:

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 4: 30 Days of Night

Director: David Slade
Year: 2007
Cast: Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 109 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★ / C+

A group of bloodthirsty vampires descend upon a small Alaskan town during the time of year when the town has 30 days without a moment of daylight.

I enjoy films that take a format that is perhaps bordering on tiresome, or lack of originality and bring something new. Even when it’s a reboot of a familiar film, or franchise, if it contains a little editing here and there to enhance what was already a proven formula, I welcome it with open arms. Sadly, in this case, I can’t say the same.

I didn’t find the film abysmal, nor boring, by any means. But neither did I find it to be a masterpiece, a film that belongs on every DVD shelf. It simply was a vapid entry in a genre that is a bit long in the tooth.

That’s not to say the acting wasn’t stellar. In fact, because of Hartnett, George (Amityville Horror), Huston (Children of Men, 21 Grams), and Foster (3:10 to Yuma), the film was much better than it would have been had it contained a less commanding cast. The setting also was very enjoyable, lending to a believability to the locale of Barrow, Alaska (in that it was actually shot in New Zealand).

Sadly, it simply plays like a by-the-numbers action movie, set in the world of horror. The film is far from scary, spooky, suspenseful, or horrifying in any way. That is, unless you find gruesome bloodletting horrifying, which I do at times. Predictability is another aspect that haunts this film. The scene that involves a little girl with her back turned to us would only surprise the most inane banal mind viewing it. The reveal was so foreseeable, I used the interval between it and her appearance as the timer for my tea bag to stew in my freshly brewed pot.

I did find little interesting touches, such as the creation of a new dialect for the vampires, to be intriguing and original. I’m sure there are some linguistic lovers that likely learning another language based on the lexicon found here.

The films grammar simply felt platitudinous, at best, and I’m saying that as a fan of the original material. It just feels like something a film student might learn in action screenwriting 101, with more blood added for good measure.

All in all I’m saying it was an average film. You never know, I may come back and boost that rating up once I finish the rest of this series. I know I’ve got some stinkers just ahead.

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Posted by on October 5, 2013 in Movies


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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 08 – Creepshow 2

Sitting down in front of the cabinet television set in the downstairs family room on the lime green couch atop the brown shag carpeting in the three story white home with the large backyard eating our fresh popped popcorn in a large paper bag with the cheese flavored salt added by dad and the town club lime soda.  What memories!  Of course, that location and setting has nothing to do with today’s film.  That would be the tiny front living room on the 27″ Zenith with the microwave popcorn and the Faygo Rock and Rye.  Earlier that day, my mother had picked us up from school, as she did every day hitherto.  Unbeknownst to her, from that cold dark night forward, she would forever hear the haunting words of the film we sat to watch that night each and every time she would pick us up from our three different schools.

Today’s entry was due to the success of the first film, and proved to be the first in what would turn to be either produced or rumored to be produced ( article) and ( article) and ( article) films in a franchise.  Does that necessarily mean that is was deserving of such fanfare?

With that, I give you today’s film…

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 8

Film #08

~ Creepshow 2 ~

Director:  Michael Gornick
Year:  1987
Cast:  Domenick John, Tom Savini, George Kennedy, Lois Chiles, Tom Wright
Language:  English
Country:  English
Specs:  92 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85:1 / MPAA Rating: R

An anthology film that revolves around young Billy and the stories contained within his horror comic titled “Creepshow”.  A storefront cigar Indian statue comes to life to avenge the murder of his owner, a group of teens take a swim in a lake inhabited by a very hungry creature in the form of an oil spill ooze, and an adulterous woman inadvertently hits a lone hitchhiker and decides to drive away.  However, the hitchhiker is too keen on preventing the woman from escaping.

This sequel to the 1982 film comes across as a cheap imitation to other anthologies of its ilk.  The acting is stilted, the stories are rather juvenile and pedestrian, and the runtime is short (in this case, thankfully!).  The makeup job on The Creep is amazing, and the deterioration of the hitchhiker is impressive, but sadly it can’t rescue this film from the sludge.

As with another film from my childhood (“Mr. Boogedy”), this film held a special place in my and my siblings hearts.  A favorite saying of ours for many years was that of the hapless hitchhiker:  “Thanks for the ride, lady”.  Sadly, that is still the most memorable aspect to this otherwise forgettable entry in the horror anthology genre.

No thanks for the ride, lady…

My Rating:  ** / D+

Available on Amazon: Creepshow 2 (Divimax Edition)

Stay tuned…

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Posted by on October 8, 2010 in Movies


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31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 07 – Cujo

Only 7 days in, and I have already compiled a list for the 31 Days that could easily take me past Christmas.  It seems I have quite a bit of narrowing down to do these last few weeks before Halloween is upon us.  At any rate, I’m having a wonderful time catching up on films that I hadn’t seen or hadn’t seen in many years.  I hope you all are enjoying the list of films, as Count Scary would say, that will scare the pants right off of you!

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 7

Film #07

~ Cujo ~

Director:  Lewis Teague
Year:  1983
Cast:  Dee Wallace, Danny Pintauro, Daniel Hugh Kelly, Christopher Stone, Billy Jayne, Ed Lauter
Language:  English
Country:  English
Specs:  93 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85:1 / MPAA Rating: R

Donna Trenton (Wallace), a housewife on the verge of divorce, takes the family car to a local mechanic on the outskirts of town to have the nearly disabled car fixed.  However, unbeknownst to Donna, the mechanics dog Cujo is a raving mad beast having been infected by rabies from a flock of vampire bats.  When Donna and son Tad (Pintauro) arrive at the mechanics farm, they discover that Cujo has killed off everyone there, and now is after them.  They must lock themselves in their now disabled vehicle, and hope that rescue arrives before they become the next victims to the non compos mentis canine.

Pre-1983, every time I heard someone mention a Saint Bernard, I instantly formed an image of a friendly rescue dog carrying a small barrel of liquor around its neck high in the Swiss Alps.  Post-1983, the mere mention of the large canine awakened a mental image of a rabid beast intent on killing everyone around!  This film, while very linear and limited on locations, packs quite the punch in the scares department.

The acting in the film is in the better tier of some other films based on Stephen King stories, with the impressive Dee Wallace bringing the lonely housewife who is having an affair to life.  Which is another thing about the story that adds to the film.  There is a subplot to the film that isn’t wasted away once the spooks kick in.  The effects of the rabid dog are equally as impressive, convincing me that the dog wasn’t acting at all!

Some of the fight scenes do look a bit staged, in that it is certainly obvious the trainer and the “actor” dog are simply playing/rolling around.  However, the music cues, the objects appearing at just the right moment from off screen, and the tension of Donna and Tad in the car are all worthy of viewing.
I now officially hope that I never get stranded in the Swiss Alps without a baseball bat.

My Rating:  **** / B-

Available on Amazon: Cujo (25th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]

Stay tuned…

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Posted by on October 7, 2010 in Movies


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