"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Posts Tagged ‘vampires’

El Conde

Wednesday, March 20th, 2024

EL CONDE is a pretty simple idea: what if Augusto Pinochet, the dictator of Chile from 1974 through 1990, was in fact a vampire? Sort of the opposite of our “what if Abraham Lincoln was a vampire hunter?” It’s kind of a horror movie in that it shows us graphic bloodlettings, beheadings of both humans and animals, eating a cat, crushing a skull, and it puts even more revolting imagery into our heads through verbal descriptions. It also gets a classic horror atmosphere going with its gorgeous Academy Award nominated black and white cinematography by Edward Lachman (LIGHT SLEEPER, THE VIRGIN SUICIDES, THE LIMEY, CAROL). But mostly it’s a satire hitting on a very old, very obvious, but still very relevant point: the rich and powerful are monsters. You could say we’re all human, we’re all petty, but that doesn’t make us all the same. These people are fucking weirdos, the bad kind. I don’t have the statistics in front of me, but it seems like more often than not the type of people who seek power, and the families who inherit it, and feel it is their right, there’s something very wrong with them. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, but also it attracts a bunch of freakos in the first place. I mean, part of the joke of this movie is that the fucking guy wears a cape. Like Dracula. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Hunger

Monday, October 2nd, 2023

Last week I revisited that 2004-2005 period of Tony Scott’s career, when MAN ON FIRE and then DOMINO went crazy with the hand-cranked visual chaos, and I talked about my impression at the time of Scott as a lifelong mainstream director suddenly showing up to work with a blue mohawk, cinematically speaking. You know what? That seems pretty off base now that I’ve seen where he started, his one movie before TOP GUN, the aggressively mood-and-style-over-narrative vampire tale THE HUNGER (1983).

It opens with a long sequence that’s almost experimental in its editing, the kind of thing people compare to MTV, but it’s much more underground, really. Bauhaus are performing “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” at some goth club, though the series of shots never show us the geography, or even the stage, just Peter Murphy behind a fence, bathed in smoke, mouthing the words, no microphone. Meanwhile, the most unapproachable goths you’ve ever seen are eyeing the dance floor from above, looking like Nagel prints who escaped into the real world and became European fashion models. They are the Blaylocks, Miriam (Catherine Deneuve, THE MUSKETEER) and John (David Bowie, LABYRINTH), dressed like they’re from different eras, stone faced and hiding behind sunglasses. On the floor below, people vaguely twitch to the music, and it doesn’t look like any of them are having any fun, but I get the sense that this is everything they wanted out of their evening, if they survive it. (read the rest of this shit…)

Renfield

Tuesday, June 13th, 2023

RENFIELD is a so-so movie with one element of excellence that kinda goes without saying, but I will say it. Later in the review.

This is basically a comedy-action vehicle for Dracula’s crazy bug-eating stooge Renfield, played here by Nicholas Hoult (CLASH OF THE TITANS). I guess you could say it follows in the tradition of the much dorkier VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN, and (sort of) I, FRANKENSTEIN, in that it’s riffing off of classic horror characters and putting them in a modern action/super hero type of context. But it’s different in that it’s a straight up comedy, complete with jokey first person narration and the hook “what if Dracula’s familiar started going to group therapy for co-dependency?” I guess you could say it’s kind of a ZOMBIELAND tone. I generally prefer ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER approach of using an absurd concept but committing to it as if it’s serious and trusting the audience to get it, but this is not my movie. It’s not up to me. (read the rest of this shit…)

Blood: The Last Vampire (2009)

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023

While Ronny Yu was promoting FEARLESS, he talked up his next movie: a live action adaptation of the 2000 anime BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE. So, a Hong Kong director in Hollywood remaking a Japanese movie originally made mostly in English because many of the characters were American. When Yu mentioned it while talking to Martial Arts Entertainment the interviewer asked if it was “sort of a wuxia movie.”

“Maybe. Sort of. You’re right!” Yu said. “It’s sort of cross-cultural, because the whole thing takes place in a U.S. Army base in Japan. Yeah. It’s like a cross-cultural wuxia.”

Alas, it was not to be… exactly. Instead of Yu it was made by French director Chris Nahon, known for helming one of Jet Li’s English language films, KISS OF THE DRAGON (2001). Yu was credited as a producer, but I’ve found no evidence of him staying on during filming in, say, a George Lucas or Steven Spielberg capacity. I suspect he left but got the credit because he’d done so much of the pre-production that Nahon built off of. Yu is not mentioned or shown in a 20 minute making-of featurette on the DVD and blu-ray, but I think it’s reasonable to assume Nahon kept a decent amount of what he put into place, since the sole credited writer Chris Chow and the cinematographer Hang-Sang Poon are both holdovers from FEARLESS. Yu was also still reported as director when Korean actress Jun Ji-hyun, credited as Gianna, was cast as the main character, Saya. (read the rest of this shit…)

Blood: The Last Vampire (2000)

Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023

BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE (2000) is a 48-minute anime film, telling the straight forward tale of a being who looks like a Japanese school girl slaying vampires on an American military base in Japan. Though it became very successful and inspired many spin-offs, it was really kind of a practice film. It was conceived by “Team Oshii,” Mamoru (GHOST IN THE SHELL) Oshii’s production study group, which writer Kenji Kamiyama says in a making-of featurette “was designed to give us young directors the practical know-how to implement a project plan.” Kamiyama pitched a story about vampire hunters, Junichi Fujisaki had one about a young female warrior named Saya, and Oshii suggested they combine them. Hiroyuki Kitakubo was chosen as director, and he commissioned cartoonist/illustrator Katsuya Terada to design the characters.

It’s set in Tokyo in 1966, and begins with a moody scene on a moving subway. A young girl carrying a tube, like an art portfolio, looks across the empty car at a tired businessman. Suddenly the lights go out, and she runs at him and slashes him with the sword that was inside that case, splashing blood against the windows. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Trail

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023

One of the main reasons to do a Ronny Yu career retrospective is to see how the hell this great Hong Kong director ended up in another part of the world making (SPOILER FOR THIS REVIEW SERIES) BRIDE OF CHUCKY and FREDDY VS. JASON, so it’s relevant that as early as 1983 (at which point there were only three Jason movies, zero Freddys, and zero Chuckys) he was already doing horror movies. Funny ones, too. THE TRAIL is Ronny Yu’s fourth film, never available in the U.S. as far as I can tell, so at first I thought I wouldn’t be able to see it. But I discovered I could order a Region 3 DVD that Fortune Star released in 2010, and there’s also a blu-ray out there. That’s good news, because I really enjoyed this one.

Horror comedies will end up being a big chunk of Yu’s career, but he’ll mostly set them in the present. This one takes place in 1922, in what seems to be a transitional period between old traditions and the modern world. (I guess that describes most period pieces, in a way.) It’s the story of Ying (Ricky Hui, MR. VAMPIRE) and Captain (Kent Cheng, ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA, IP MAN 2 and 3), two conmen impersonating Taoist priests transporting corpses. (read the rest of this shit…)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Thursday, September 15th, 2022

July 31, 1992

BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER is an unusual cult movie because it’s largely remembered for the same reason it’s dismissed: it’s overshadowed by its long running TV show followup. In that sense it’s Gen-X’s answer to M*A*S*H.

Had that not happened, maybe there would be more passion for this likable if not entirely successful execution of a cute horror-comedy idea. The director is Fran Rubel Kuzui (TOKYO POP), the screenwriter is then-25-year-old Roseanne staff writer Joss Whedon, and its gimmick is almost there in the title: what if the popular, mall-loving, air-headed Valley Girl cheerleader was not just fodder in a vampire movie, but the chosen one destined to protect humanity? I can’t actually think of many Valley Girl cheerleaders in horror – it seems more like a twist on fake horror movies within other movies than on the actual genre – but it works as a tongue-in-cheek way to cross a high school comedy with horror, and at least superficially point to the serious place where their themes can overlap. (read the rest of this shit…)

Day Shift

Friday, September 2nd, 2022

DAY SHIFT was a highly anticipated Netflix production that I watched right before leaving for my vacation-turned-sick-leave. I know plenty of other people enjoyed and discussed it upon release a couple weeks ago, now they’re mostly done with it and have moved on to other topics, but here I am to remind everyone that it still exists on a server somewhere and can be accessed at the click of a button if somebody remembers to. Which I recommend.

It’s a heartily enjoyable horror-action comedy that’s kind of like John Carpenter’s VAMPIRES but in L.A., and with more of a ZOMBIELAND sense of humor. I guess you could say it takes kind of a MEN IN BLACK approach to the profession of vampire hunting, but I can take it more seriously than that because it’s pretty raunchy and gory and especially delivers on outstanding action sequences.

And that was the main thing I was looking for, because this is the directorial debut of stunt legend J.J. Perry. I first became aware of him as the fight choreographer of UNDISPUTED II, followed by THE TOURNAMENT, WARRIOR, and HAYWIRE. But he’d been around since the ‘80s, a true blue veteran of the type of movies I love most. He played fighter J.J. Tucker in BLOODSPORT III and Cyrax, Scorpion and Noob Saibot in MORTAL KOMBAT: ANNIHILATION. He did stunts in all the BEST OF THE BEST sequels, DRIVE, BLADE, and a bunch of Seagal movies (THE GLIMMER MAN, TODAY YOU DIE, BLACK DAWN, URBAN JUSTICE, PISTOL WHIPPED). He was the stunt coordinator and second unit director on productions ranging from ROAD HOUSE 2 to BLOOD AND BONE to FATE OF THE FURIOUS and F9. And there’s more justice in the world than I previously thought because now he’s directing a $100 million production starring an Academy Award winner! And Snoop Dogg. (read the rest of this shit…)

Morbius

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

MORBIUS is a movie I have been semi-anticipating. Not because I expected it to be particularly good, but because I have an interest in these sort of misbegotten wannabe blockbusters that seem already rejected by the public by the time it’s too late for the studio to turn back. I’m talking about movies that are the kind of pulpy lowbrow crap I enjoy, but seem somewhat misguided or clueless about what the public wants in such a movie, and therefore might do something kind of interesting. I think of them as big budget b-movies, as discussed in my review for SNAKE EYES: G.I. JOE ORIGINS. Although I waited for video on that one I tend to see them at sparsely attended matinees – that’s what I did for STEALTH, KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD, HERCULES, ROBIN HOOD and THE LAST WITCH HUNTER.

I did kind of enjoy this thing, but I think I got more out of all of the above mentioned movies. This one’s officially a part of Sony’s In Association With Marvel Cinematic Universe with VENOM and VENOM: LET THERE BE CARNAGE, and I think it’s a little less clunky than those on a narrative level, but not as good because it lacks the magic of Tom Hardy having a blast playing two bickering characters inhabiting one shapeshifting body. It does have the novelty of an Academy Award winning weirdo serious actor (Jared Leto, URBAN LEGEND) who’s usually in a supporting role trying to carry a questionable mainstream franchise on his shoulders. (read the rest of this shit…)

double feature: VAMPIRE EFFECT and TSUI HARK’S VAMPIRE HUNTERS

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

You know how it is – sometimes the mood hits you for a little martial arts/horror combo, specifically the type found in Hong Kong vampire movies from the early 2000s, so you check out two of them. At least that’s how I dealt with the problem. The first one in my double feature, VAMPIRE EFFECT (2003) credits Dante Lam (BEAST COPS, THE STOOL PIGEON) as director and none other than Donnie Yen (HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME) as “co-director” and “action director.” Unsurprisingly, the action is the best part.

The original title is TWINS EFFECT, because it stars a pop duo called Twins, made up of Charlene Choi and Gillian Chung. But nobody knows what that is here and there are no twins in the movie, so I guess this is our equivalent to when Germany changed ROVER DANGERFIELD to ROVER & DAISY. And this is another one of those pop star vehicle movies that doesn’t really have an equivalent here exactly. I mean, you don’t see Tegan and Sara doing a vampire movie. So far.

Choi stars as Helen, a heartbroken young woman who, while grieving a breakup, hits it off with a vampire prince named Kazaf (Edison Chen, GEN-X COPS 2: METAL MAYHEM) who’s enjoying a glass of blood in a fancy restaurant. She doesn’t realize what he is, even though she has some knowledge of such matters because her brother Reeve (Ekin Cheng, YOUNG & DANGEROUS) is a vampire hunter. (read the rest of this shit…)