Tag Archives: Vampires

A Season of Vamps – 5 Toothless Bloodsucking Fiends

Image via Geek Details

Not all pop cultural vampires have the longevity of a Count Dracula, the popularity of an Edward Cullen or the commitment to numeracy of a Count Von Count.

There are, it’s sad to say, a collection of fanged fiends whose legend does not proceed them and whose ability to strike fear into our hearts is roughly the equal of this guy:

That's COUNT Duckula to you, Internet Snarker...

I’m taking my life in my very hands by alerting you to the five feeblest film fangsters of recent times – a collection of vampires so useless that you won’t even need to employ garlic and can leave your stake at home.

(1) Dracula in “Van Helsing”, played by Richard Roxburgh.

There were many things to dislike about Stephen Sommer’s 2004 monster mash, “Van Helsing”.  The ‘throw everything into the mix and hope something works’ script.  Kate Beckinsale’s nominally Romanian accent.  CG apparently bashed out on a Friday afternoon by Cletus, the work experience lad.  None of these things on their own were enough to damn this movie into no-franchise-land on their own.

I’m pointing an accusatory finger in the direction of this movie’s depiction of Dracula.   Note, not actor Richard Roxburgh – he’s giving it his very best and probably is doing his best with a screenplay which sees the heralded king of all vampires as playing second or third fiddle to the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster.  That, as you can probably guess, doesn’t make for a fair fight – if this movie isn’t very interested in the ostensible bad guy, why are the audience supposed to be?

And then there’s the hair: what is going on with that ‘do?

(2) Deacon Frost in “Blade”, played by Stephen Dorff.

Whether you think of him as a simpering club kid, GQ undead man-about-town or reality tv douche-in-waiting, Deacon Frost is the bad guy in the first and arguably best “Blade” film and rarely has a villain been so outmatched by the hero of a story.

That Blade’s mission to rid the world of vampires is thwarted for so long is a surprise in itself when you consider who’s he matched against – charitably, Dorff isn’t exactly physically imposing off-screen and the disparity in physical presence between the actor and star Wesley Snipes is almost comedic in the film.  Viewing the climactic sword fight in the film is akin to watching a nightclub bully pick on one of the “Big Bang Theory” nerds and beat the tar out of him – it’s just not in any way a fair fight.

The disparity is addressed somewhat in the third film, when Snipes is pitched into battle against Dominic Purcell, an actor whose physical size suggests Marvel’s ‘The Thing’ rendered into human form anew.

Frost is the whiny, power-fantasizing nerd writ large and often comes across in the film as more of a junior corporate executive on the make than the deadly creature of the night that we’re lead to see him as.  I guess that’s an interesting way of bringing the vampire archetype into the present day but making him a white-collar, chic club promoter/future business leader of tomorrow just makes him less of a threat in my eyes.

(3) Dracula in “Dracula 2000”, played by Gerard Butler.

I don’t know about you, but I tend to lose my fear of the creatures of the night when you can see their dental fillings.

(4) Violet in “Ultraviolet”, played by Milla Jovovich.

Technically, she’s not a vampire – she’s a ‘hemophage’, a futuristic super warrior with amazing abilities created after a global epidemic ravages the planet in 2078.  But, for our purposes, she’s all tooth and no franchise.  What irks me most about this film is that it makes me have to resort to clichés to adequately explain my antipathy toward it – all style, substance conspicuous by its absence, generic and vaguely religious bad guys running the show, imperilled child whose the key to solving the problem.

It’s a comic book movie without a comic to base itself on and has a future world and story so desperately familiar that it’s hard to credit that somebody actually wrote it – it seems far more likely that some time-poor Hollywood creative type urgently jabbed plot points into screen-writing software, printed it off, cut up the paper, threw it into the air and filmed whatever landed on the ground.

And I love me some Milla Jovovich – its not as though most of the movies that she appears in are award calibre fare and this is something which unduly besmirches her filmography.  I adore a good B-movie and this isn’t one of those – it’s the kind of thing that you might watch late at night on cable and hope that it does it’s job and sends you off to sleep before too long.

(5) Amilyn, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, played by Paul Reubens.

And finally, we come to the only vampire on the list who’s deliberately a bit rubbish and intentionally crap – the splendid Paul Reubens, as a feeble be-fanged henchman in the original “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” film.

He deserves his place in history for one of the few Joss Whedon-isms which seemed to make its way into the movie – at one point his vainglorious buffoon and announces to the heroine “We can do anything!” and is rebuked with an “Okay then –  clap.”

He’s just been separated from his arm, you see.  He’s quite armless.  He’s bidden goodbye to his limb. Maybe you had to be there.

It’s actually a half-decent film if you can get past the vastly superior TV series – just don’t expect the depth, wit, cast, mythology, twists and turns and journey of the beloved series and you’ll get to see a smarter-than-average 90’s teen movie with no small nostalgia factor for genre fans of a certain age.

Remember when Luke Perry was trying to be a movie star?  This film will help jog your memory.

So, five rubbish movie vampires and nobody mentioned from That Current Movie Series We Cannot Speak Of – pretty good going if you ask me.

Check back later this week for more in my Vamps season – it’s a comic to film adaptation directed by somebody who braved the sparkly hordes and lived…

 

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A Season of Vamps – “Priest”

As part of the build-up to the January 20th release of “Underworld: Awakening”, a movie which I feel like an ill-advised, one-man-band cheerleader for (don’t ask me why I am, just be aware that I am so afflicted and aim your sympathy accordingly), I thought that it might be fun to run a series of posts which look at recent, classic and current vampires in pop culture and discusses what we think about them, why we watch them and why they persist as a horror staple when so many other fictional monsters fall by the speculative fiction wayside.

To get things going with a resounding “Hmm…”, I’m looking at 2011’s Franchise Which Wasn’t, the Korean comics adaptation “Priest”.

On the face of it, this is a can’t miss premise: disgraced religious warrior is pitted against super-powerful vampire hybrids in a dystopian future.  It’s a simple high concept which has a lot of scope to talk about faith, fear, politics, the self, and all manner of interesting subject matter and juxtapose that against a fast-moving tale which hits on our enduring love of the undead and our uneasy relationship with religions and their place in contemporary society.

I can’t speak to the Korean manhwa (comic) by Min-Woo Hyung but the film which results from his work is a disappointment on a couple of levels – some of which it takes sole responsibility for, one of which is resolutely the result of my own (not realistic) expectations.

To the latter – when I watched the trailers for this film, I was honestly expecting the “Judge Dredd” film that we didn’t really get with Sylvester Stallone and director Danny Cannon, back in the mid-1990’s: a world in which we had surrendered  personal freedoms to live in a none-too-welcoming future of grim, impersonal super cities, presided over by a ruthless warrior police force whose remit was more based on a more binary morality than interested in anything resembling justice.

It’s fair to say that we do at least a visual sense of that world in the finished film, but the representation is brief and doesn’t really extend to a convincing, detailed depiction of what it might be like for people to live in it.  Like much else in the film, the film’s universe is a purely visual creation, where things exist to be cool and look striking – if aspects of the world in “Priest” don’t seem to make too much sense, the viewer frequently gets the idea that we’re not meant to be looking at them with too much scrutiny.

What was hinted at by the advanced trailers for the film is fully depicted in the end product – this is more of a sci-fi western than a horror picture and in that respect it at least manages to subvert expectations by largely eschewing the dark and dingy territory that you might expect from a story where the antagonists are vampiric creatures and setting much of the action in a bright, sun-drenched, sandy, lawless badlands environment.

Think “Mad Max” with a hint of the Man With No Name and you’ll get a sense of where the film makers are aiming at but don’t quite manage to hit.

The actors are good  – Paul Bettany doesn’t play down to the material or do anything less than his best work in this film.  He’s a muted, tortured presence as the titular character, but I wonder what kind of effort he was exerting to stay with the American accent that his role demands here – is there any real reason this particular protagonist in a ruined future absolutely has to be from the States?

He’s more than matched by Maggie Q, whose turn in this film suggests an actor familiar with the traditions of the ‘Martial Chivalry’ genre – she’s grave, restrained and capable in the face of the unstoppable Vampire foe, here epitomised by Karl Urban.

Urban is one of those reliable actors who lends even fairly straightforward material like this a bit of quirky individuality and energy.  He’s particularly fun in this film as a mysterious bad guy who has a history with Bettany’s hero and a revenge motive which is quite neat and mean-spirited.

The vampires in this film, you see, waged war against humanity for centuries until they were bested by a resurgent human race banded together under the banner of religious faith.  The surface of the planet after the war is a scorched hell – the excellent animated prologue movie by director Genndy Tartakovsky fills in some of the back story in eye-popping style – and vampires are consigned to reservations far away from the Walled Cities which house the survivors of the conflict.

When a report of a vampire attack on his estranged brother reaches Bettany’s character, he rejects his religious order’s call for calm and sets out to arrest what he believes must be a resurgent vampire populace before it can again overrun the new cities and what’s left of humanity.

If any of that sounds a little ordinary and entirely devoid of innovation, that’s because it really rather is.  Again, I can’t say how this reflects on the source material, but the adaptation is – charitably – based on archetypes and lots of things that you’ve seen before in other media.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing as with many B-movies part of the joy of them is in noticing the homages and allusions to what’s gone before.  Director Scott Charles Stewart openly homages John Ford’s “The Searchers” during the film and that’s nothing if not ballsy – this vampire actioner really doesn’t have the story or stylistic chops to live up to the legacy of that celebrated Western.

It’s a pacey and concise film – the running time is a brief 87 minutes – but it could also have benefited from more of a sense of humour.  I’m not saying that Bettany’s tortured hero had to quip wise after each vampire fight, but some levity might have lifted a story which takes itself rather more seriously than is probably good for it.  We’re not dealing with the angst of a tale like “Let the Right One In”, after all – this film doesn’t have much more to say than ‘kung fu priest beats up mutant vampires – repeat’, for cripes sake.

In the pantheon of throwaway horror action pics, this is a little bit more throwaway than most, but your enjoyment of it may increase relative to your love of Paul Bettany, Karl Urban and Maggie Q.  If you happen to be a fan of any one of those actors, you can consider this a three and a half star to four stars out of five film.  Everybody else should consider this as one of those films that you watch on an otherwise unoccupied evening and enjoy despite yourself if you’re any kind of SF geek.

 

 

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Another “Underworld: Awakening” poster rises from the grave…

Seriously Kate, have you ever considered fronting a European Symphonic Metal band?

Another day, another poster for this January’s “Underworld: Awakening”.

This time, we’re going with giving the punters what they want – Kate Beckinsale doing her best impersonation of Sharon Den Adel, guns akimbo, wintry vibes to the fore.

It’s a toss-up as to how many fans will view this poster, I think – are we supposed to say “Hmm…looking good there, Ms B.” or “Hmm…I wonder where I can pick up those contact lenses she’s wearing?”

In other news, the full track listing for the soundtrack has been released over at Loudwire.

You can expect the likes of Mumford & Sons, Jessie J & Lady Gaga.. Evanescence, Linkin Park, (my beloved) Lacuna Coil and The Cure on the CD, which will be available from January 16th, handily a few days before the film’s debut on January 20th 2012.

I saw the trailer again yesterday when I went to see “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” at the cinema and it’s got a lot more impact when you watch it on an appropriately sized screen (in my case, Cineworld Sheffield’s impressively huge screen 7, popularly known locally as ‘The Full Monty’), and projected digitally.

Can’t wait to see this in January – but given the amount of “Underworld” posts that I’ve written, you may have picked up on that already.  I’d worry about going on and on about this, were it not for the views that such posts generate – it’s one of the most popular topics that I write about, don’t you know? Fellow, down-low, faux-mall Goths unite!

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New pics from “Underworld: Awakening” in the wild

Fearless Vampire Warrior or Suburban Goth Yummy Mummy off to see Cradle of Filth?

Den of Geek have some new images online from “Underworld: Awakening”, which now has a UK release date of January 20th 2012.

Oddly enough, this is the same weekend that Steven Soderbergh’s odd detour into action film-making,  spy thriller “Haywire” opens, starring MMA brawler turned actress Gina Carano.

You might think that these films might potentially share a cross-over audience and that releasing both on the same weekend is a curious idea, but I couldn’t possibly comment.

Charles Dance, subbing in for Bill Nighy as the obligatory Posh English Vampire Chief...

I missed it somehow, but there’s a second trailer for the film over at the official “Enter The Underworld” site and it looks…like an “Underworld” movie.  Such an array of leather duster coats, PVC outfitting and funky contact lenses on-screen that you’ll think you’ve woken up at Whitby Goth Weekend?  Check.  Ms Beckinsale glowering and throwing awesome shapes having just wiped out twenty stuntmen whilst barely perspiring? Check.  Huge, roaring werewolves with comic-book physiques, proverbially barking at the moon to the point that Metalheads will be expecting to see an Ozzy cameo? Check.

India Eisley in "Underworld Awakening". Or the goth Bratz movie sequel. One of the two...

Add to the usual stuff a slightly dodgy new character – Eve (India Eisley), who appears to be Selene and Michael’s daughter.  I tend to cede to my learned friend Dominic on these matters – he’s eternally mistrusting of any genre show or tv movie which introduces a new younger character, as this is the first sign of having teen angst drive the storytelling henceforth.

And that observation comes from a man who has subjected himself to each “Twilight” movie thus far despite not being remotely in the demographic. I’m going to guess that dropping Selene’s daughter into the mix is potentially clearing the way to have the films to continue once Kate Beckinsale decides that she’s had enough of leaping around in PVC and waging a campaign of zero tolerance against the oppressed lycanthropic community.

I’ve not seen India Eisley in her “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” telly series but her appearance in the trailer is giving me a slightly perturbing faux-mall goth vibe.   Not that this will preclude me from going to see the new “Underworld” – I’m there on the Saturday morning of the opening weekend, with all the crushing inevitability of night following day.

By the way, is there a vampire genre franchise entry currently in development where the undead can’t somehow contrive to produce offspring?  Is this some kind of cultural meme/nerd fan-fiction wish-fulfilment that I was previously unaware of?  I blame that Whedon bloke…

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