RSS

Tag Archives: Vampire films

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 15: Love at First Bite

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 15: Love at First Bite

When I was a child, I loved to visit my uncle and see what new toys he had acquired since my last visit.  Years before I knew who Ridley Scott or Sigorney Weaver was, he had a 18″ Alien action figure.  While I had dozens upon dozens of Luke Skywalkers, Darth Vaders, Stormtroopers and Snaggletooths, he was the only person I knew whose parents would spring for a Tie FIghter and Millenium Falcon.  However, with all the expensive, rare, and coveted toys that he had in his massive toy box, there was one gadget that he was in possession of that was a favorite of mine, The Laugh Bag.

The Laugh Bag was a small box within a small bag, no larger than my hand, which would produce an insanely annoying laugh with the simple press of a button.  We would press that button over and over, often walking around the basement mimicking the laugh ourselves, much to the consternation of my poor grandmother.

When I originally saw today’s film, I loved it for merely one reason.  There was a character in the film that had a memorable laugh, that I found to be equally as impressionable as my uncles giggle machine.

<span style=”color: red;”>31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 15: Love at First Bite</span>

love_at_first_biteDirector: Stan Dragoti
Year: 1979
Cast: George Hamilton, Susan Saint James, Richard Benjamin, Arte Johnson
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 94 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: PG
Rating: ★★★½ / C+

Having been evicted from his home in Transylvania, Count Dracula travels to New York, where he meets whom he believes to be his long lost love, Mina Harker, reincarnated.  As he pursues her, her former lover, a descendant of the famous Van Helsing, pursues the count.

Revisiting the film for the first time since I was a child, I only remembered that the film was a comedy.  If I were to be viewing the film for the first time, I may be surprised to find it as such at the beginning.  As the opening credits begin, a tech music track plays, giving the impression the film about to unroll is a film in the vein of The Lost Boys.  However, the moment we see Hamilton, accompanied by the overpowering sounds of howling wolves, and the line that he delivers, we know we are in for a film of a different genre entirely.

Within moments, I was shocked to see Hamilton looking pale, his bronzed skin nowhere in sight.  Johnson, as Renfeld, then delivers his memorable laugh, and the tone has been set.  There were a number of scenes in the film that were wonderfully crafted send ups, and others that were jovial attempts at juvenile humor.  The passage through customs was amongst the best, in pure Zucker Brothers fashion.  In fact, I was surprised that the film was not a product of the famous filmmakers (Kentucky Fried Movie, their first effort, preceded this film by 2 years).

Interesting of note, was the timeliness of the scene with Sherman Hemsley, especially since the newest Oxygen show on prosperity gospel preachers (Preachers of L.A.) has been in the news. I also enjoyed seeing Isabel Sanford make a cameo as the fiery judge!

Something I did not remember from my childhood, but became instantly evident upon viewing with my more mature eyes, was the tone of the films comedy.  The swinging 70s are on display in full form, with much of the humor focusing on sex and drug use.

Some of the humor was a bit stale, perhaps in part due to its overabundance of use numerous satires since.  There have been no shortage of send ups to films in the horror genre, even those that contain the count himself (Dracula Dead & Loving It).  While the film surely was no Young Frankenstein, it certainly was more entertaining than Saturday the 14th.  I’m glad I revisited this pic.  Perhaps you may enjoy doing the same…

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 11: House of Dark Shadows

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 11:  House of Dark Shadows

As a young child, I would sit in front of the television, playing with my Imperious Leader, Ovion, and Daggit action figures as my father would watch The White Shadow. I remember my mother would also make comments about Dark Shadows, a soap opera that she enjoyed watching along with the likes of General Hospital and One Life to Live. I would often confuse the two well into my early adult years. It wasn’t until recently when I truly became aware of the distinction between the two. When Johnny Depp was announced as playing the star of the remake/reboot of today’s film and its universe, I moved to seek out the original to see exactly what Tim Burton was choosing to ape.

As an aside, I’m not sure, and I’ll save this for another day, why we keep getting comedic remakes of films that weren’t originally comedies. Who are they making these films for, the original audience? They’re bound to be disappointed. A new audience are less likely to have knowledge of the source material, thus entirely missing the satirical elements of the feature..

With that being said, onto today’s entry.

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 11: House of Dark Shadows

house_of_dark_shadows_xlgDirector: Dan Curtis
Year: 1970
Cast: Jonathan Frid, Grayson Hall, Kathryn Leigh Scott, David Henesy, Roger Davis
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 97 mins. / Color / OAR 1.85.1 / MPAA Rating: PG
Rating: ★★★½
/ C+

Vampire Barnabas Collins, a member of an aristocratic family, returns from a long slumber, where he encounters a woman who resembles his long-lost love.  He embarks on a journey to find a cure for his curse, in order that he be allowed to live life as a human once again, and be reunited with his lover.

I’ve never seen an episode of the television show that this film was based upon. I’ve noticed that there are episodes available to stream on Hulu, and while I would like to go back and visit it at some point, having learned that it’s over 1200 episodes long, it is unlikely I’ll have much opportunity in my overworked life. Thus, going in, I knew little to nothing, as you’ve already seen in my opening paragraph, heading into today’s viewing. I eagerly sat down to see what the draw was to this long-running TV show and its 2 theatrical sequels. I was curious why it had spawned numerous books, games, television reboots, and other forms of merchandise.

Dark Shadows car

I’m happy to say that while I didn’t find the film a brilliant sortie into vampire fiction, I also didn’t find it deplorable. It was simply prosaic, lacking any nuances to justify a repeat viewing. Perhaps had I been familiar with the original series I may have gained more out of my viewing experience? I was a little confused as to who the characters were, and felt that they didn’t truly offer much exposition to clear my confusion.

The cinematography did stand out, as well as the sets and locale lending an air of authenticity. The spooks and blood also did play more like a film coming from Hammer Films than a 70s television sudser. However, the acting does come across like an extended episode of a soap opera, and is theatrical and over-the-top at moments.

House of Dark Shadows [1970]

The greatest thing that I experienced while watching the film was the desire to sacrifice some of my precious time set aside that I may catch up on other storied series to watch the original series. I also would like to watch the sequel, in the hopes that I may gain more clarification to the questions I had without resorting to 600+ hours and more searching for on googling. I’d actually love to hear what others who are familiar with the television show thought of the film, or if they believe it’s worth my time and effort to visit the original series.

Perhaps, as the Tootsie Owl once heard it said, the world [me] may never know. (That actually sounds like Elmo. Oy vey)

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 11, 2013 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 8: Byzantium

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 8: Byzantium

Vampires. They have been the subject of numerous films throughout the decades. They have appeared, according to ranker.com, in over 197 films. To begin to entertain the idea of producing a new edition that will resonate with audiences surely must be a daunting task. To be able to offer something new that isn’t formulaic nor a simple rehash takes talent beyond measure.

I’ve stated before, (and based on the number of films, television programs, novels, and video games that continuously get released, it’s apparent I’m not alone), that I enjoy these celluloid exhibitions featuring the notorious creatures of the night. I recently heard about today’s film whilst reading an issue of Empire magazine. They stated that the film was a four star affair. I instantly knew that I had to view this film. I originally had a sequel to a rather storied franchise queued up and ready to go, bucket of freshly made stove-top popcorn at the ready, wife and children tucked away snuggly in their beds. Instead, I did a switcheroo and opted instead for this nocturnal tale.

31 Days of Frights and Films – Day 8: Byzantium


Director: Neil Jordan
Year: 2112
Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Gemma Arterton, Sam Riley
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Specs: 118 mins. / Color / OAR 2.35.1 / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★★ / A

A pair of mysterious women descend upon a small unsuspecting town, hiding from a mysterious organization that is attempting to locate them. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of the town, they bring death with them, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake.

Not since Ludwig Von Drake recorded The Spectrum Song has there been an occasion where I was instantly immersed in a world of vivid color. The use of hues by cinematographer Sean Bobbitt was amazing, and made me all the more grateful I chose to view this on a 52″ HDTV as opposed to an iPad on my train ride into work. I was instantly taken in by the mesmerizing score that opens the film. Whereas other films I’ve written about feature over-the-top musical scores that overpower the senses, Jordan opts for a more subtle, yet beautifully melancholic soundtrack, only elevated by the haunting cinematography that unfolds from the start. The film continues to play slowly, thanks to the superb editing from Tony Lawson (Michael Collins, End of the Affair, Straw Dogs), allowing each scene to breath, even during the few gruesome images that are peppered throughout. During an upsetting decapitation, instead of cutting to the beats of the latest techno mix, we are allowed to take in the atmosphere of the locale, which only serves to up the emotional impact.


I thoroughly appreciated Jordan’s ability to effectively utilize imagery in a way that most viewers will remember elements and/or scenes to the film that never actually appeared. A film about a stripper who is also a prostitute, the men she has slept with, numerous occasions of unlawful entry, and we never are witness to any of the acts nor images of humans in their “au natural” state. Pure genius. Proof positive that the imagination is much more powerful of a tool than any canvas can ever paint.

Saoirse Ronan shines in her role as the tortured soul to Gemma Arterton’s femme fatale. Her eyes are stunningly mesmerizing, and hold the viewer every single time she looks into the lens, harking back to the famous Steve McCurry photograph that graced a National Geographic cover. The rest of the cast, who are equally as impressive in their own right, also bring life to their characters in a way that never hints at mediocrity. Jordan truly displays his gift of finding such a stellar cast.


If you enjoy atmospheric films that are light on the action and heavy on the illustrative character studies, I strongly recommend this film. I’m positive you will be thrilled.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 8, 2013 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 5, 2013 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 2: V/H/S

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 2: V/H/S

On this, the second day of my month long series on films in the horror genre (or a variation thereof), I decided to take a trip down memory lane. I pondered what film ought I sacrifice two hours (more once I’ve written this post) to as I rummaged through the mess of Blu-rays, DVD’s, VCD’s, and Laserdiscs that I’ve accumulated over the years. Many of these films remain in the original cellophane (no comments about that please, that is a blog for another day) and haven’t been touched since I chose to store them in the box. I reached high atop the towering stack within the darkest recesses of the closest within my office. I tilted the box that hadn’t been opened in ages, ghosting myself with the inch or so of dust that had accumulated on top and now slid down like a massive mudslide coming from the sides of Mt. Fuji resting in my hair and on my face. I cracked the box open, and saw something that peaked my interest. I instantly recalled images I had recently come across in the local newspaper. I had seen pictures of a grim grinning ghostly exponent heralding the release of the newest addition to the massive franchise of films featuring the ghastly Sadako, or as U.S. readers may know her, the girl from The Ring. Sadako 3-D2 4-D.


Behold, in front of me, was a DVD of a movie that I hadn’t seen in years, long before the reality of ingesting octopus balls and the carcass of Mr. Ed would become a reality. I wondered if I ought to revisit the film, that being The Ring 0? Then I remembered, the film was featured as a major plot device an object that happened to be a video format I had neglected. A format long ago forgotten, unless you shop at the library, or are an overseas missionary. Not Betamax, no no no. Something far more available in its heyday. Not HD-DVD, neither. VHS. The Ring movies focused on a VHS tape. Thankfully, that was the moment when I recalled a newer movie I had not yet seen. Another film with a sequel in the local cineplex this very season. Rather than skip straight to the overpriced shopping mall to gaze upon the newest entry in all it’s ear piercing glory, I chose to go back to my queue, to visit the original entry.

Because of that not so quick witted decision, I am now able to bring to you:

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 2: V/H/S

Director:
Adam Wingard
David Bruckner
Ti West
Glenn McQuaid
Joe Swanberg
Radio Silence
Year: 2012
Cast: Adam Wingard, Joe Swanberg, Lane Hughes, Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Chad Villella, Jason Yachanin, Calvin Reeder, Hannah Fierman
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 116 mins. / Color / OAR N/A / MPAA Rating: R
Rating: ★★★★ / B

A group of petty thieves are contracted by an anonymous 3rd party to break into a house and retrieve a mystery VHS tape. Finding the presumed homeowner dead, they begin to rummage through hundreds of found VHS tapes, viewing each on a television next to the corpse, in hopes of locating the tape requested. Startled, they soon realize that each cassette contains a grim video of some poor unsuspecting victims demise.


I am thankful that I had zero knowledge of the film prior to my viewing. It made my “enjoyment” of this terrifying anthology all the more startling with each haunting segment. The film is comprised of 5 short-films, posed as found footage films within the main story-arc (Tape 56) of the petty thieves and their home invasion. Perhaps the strongest of the shorts, Bruckner’s Amateur Night, was also the most terrifying. The aspect that I enjoyed most, with all of the segments, was the “reveal” at the end of each, akin to a gorified episode of Twilight Zone, or Night Gallery (itself a more gruesome take on creator Rod Serling’s seminal classic.)

In recent cinema history, we’ve seen a glut of films of this sub-genre grace the local silver screen. Apartment 143, Paranormal Activity, The Last Broadcast, and of course, The Blair Witch Project. This film, however, stands apart from those others. It is unpredictable at times, which, for this genre, is rarer than a Caucasian in the town I currently reside.

Each film was created entirely autonomous from the others, with its own cast and crew, and it makes for a stronger whole, in my opinion. While not all of the subjects are equal in their caliber, I appreciated the variety of styles of each creative team.


There certainly is a fair share of scares, an equal amount of gruesome imagery, and creative and inventive plots to hold the interest of even the most jaded of horror film fans. While not a masterpiece in and of itself, it is a film that I would happily recommend to anyone that hasn’t just finished off an extra large portion of lasagne from their local Italian eatery.

In conclusion, it’s a film best viewed with the lights on. However, if you choose to not heed my advice, I heartily suggest watching an episode of lighter fare afterwards, such as the latest episode of Dads.

On second thought, that’s worse. Forget what I said. Enjoy the nightmares…

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 1: Night Stalker

October 1, the first day of my favorite time of year. Crisp leaves crunching under the feet of passerby, the smell of autumn in the air, apple orchards, hayrides, bonfires, and a cornucopia of color, all usher in the beginning of the Holiday season.

As I sat and reflected on these titillating particulars, my thoughts drifted to anamnestic and mnemonic images of hockey masks, leather sacks, bedsheets, and acupuncture needles. I love to watch movies. I love to watch movies about Halloween during the month of October. Not Halloween per se, but movies that are themed around horror, and everything else within that genre. I’m not normally one for gruesome gore porn type of films, but the occasional one slips into my viewing queue.

It is with great fanfare that I begin this new journey for the month of October 2013 of watching one film per day and blogging a brief review, for your reading pleasure.

My hopes in doing so are that you will find a film that you can seek out, if you may dare, and add to your queue. Perhaps you have seen it and want to revisit the hallowed haunting grounds. Even better yet, you either have seen and loved, or loathed, the film and simply want to refresh your memory of the reasons why. It is with these intentions that I have taken on such a task.

Thus, I now give you, without further ado:

31 Days of Films and Frights – Day 1: Night Stalker


Director: John Llewellyn Moxey
Year: 1972
Cast: Darren McGavin, Carol Lynley, Simon Oakland, Claude Akins, Barry Atwater
Language: English
Country: United States
Specs: 74 mins. / Color / OAR 1.33:1 / MPAA Rating: N/A

An investigative reporter, notices a strange set of circumstances involving a number of recent homicides in the city. He begins to suspect that the murder may be a vampire, and sets out to prove his theory before all around him commit him to a mental hospital.

Minutes into my viewing, it became evident that I was about to witness a great, modern-day, detective-noir film. The narration by the main character Kolchak, along with the moody 70’s cinematography, instantly transported me to a world of mystery and suspense with a supernatural bent. Darren McGavin (A Christmas Story) shines as the reporter caught between politics and the desire to uncover and report on the truth, something that was very much on the minds of people at the time this film was made (and still is, no doubt!).

I was engaged throughout the entire film, immersed in the tales of cover-ups, corruptions, and intrigue. The story was very well written, especially given the confines of 70’s television. Proof positive that good storytelling needn’t have the crutches or vices common to a modern Rated R feature film in order to deliver.


Richard Matheson, writer of numerous episodes of the classic Rod Serling anthology TV series, The Twilight Zone, as well as timeless novels such as Hell House, I Am Legend, and The Incredible Shrinking Man, here again displayed his prowess as an auteur of the genre. Taking a novel (at the time unpublished) titled The Kolchak Papers and adapting it as his own, Matheson was able to deliver to producer Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows) a tale that would lure McGavin to commit to this made-for-tv ABC movie.

It became very evident, mere moments into watching this film, why a sequel, titled The Night Strangler, would arrive the following year, as well as a television series titled Kolchak: The Night Stalker for the ’74-’75 season.

My only qualm, and it has nothing to do with the quality of the film itself, is that I wasn’t able to enjoy this in glorious HD. My hope is that someone over at Criterion stumbles across this blog, and grants the wish of one new fan.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 2, 2013 in Movies, TV Shows

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

31 Days of Howl-oween: Day 26 – Waxwork

I have so many fond memories of films my brother and I would watch together.  We both had very similar tastes back then in movies and would spend hours going to the local mom and pop video stores to find the zaniest of films to watch.  Odyssey Video, Starburst Video, and Mammoth Video were our favorite stops, although Meijer would also stock a very cheap section with many hard to find films.

Today’s film, along with a few of the others that I’ve re-watched for this blog, was one of those films that we loved.  Anytime werewolves, vampires, and mummy’s were in a film together, I particularly would sit down in my favorite seat and watch it repeatedly.

As I’ve said before, I must never return to films that I loved as a child, because I usually see how horribly produced those films actually were.  Was today’s film the exception to the norm?

31 Days of Howl-oween

A Review of Films Filled with Frights

Day 26

Film #26


~ Waxwork ~

Read the rest of this entry »

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 26, 2010 in Movies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: