Darke Reviews | Underworld – Blood Wars (2017)

I’ve spoken of this before, but for the new readers please know I am the Vampire Queen of Tucson. It may be a type of prison for a vampire lover like myself, but it is where I am. I love Vampires. The first book I ever read on my own (and by choice) was one on vampires. I have a room in my house dedicated to vampires and general gothicness; working on a second even. I believe I have every book published by White Wolf on Vampire the Masquerade as well. I will consume almost anything Vampire related. So what does that have to do with Underworld?

When the first one came out in 2003, I think I watched my DVD copy of it once a week for 3 months. I *like* this franchise unironically. It has entertained me end to end. Sure some of the installments can be classified as

 

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t entertaining. Even the weakest of the franchise tends to put a smile on my face.

So should part 5 be left in the sun or does it continue to entertain?

First, unlike last film the rule of 3 is not invoked – technically. We have the based on characters by Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman, and Danny McBride credit, which is required. Then we have a story by Cory Goodman and Kyle Ward, screenplay (comes after the story) by Cory Goodman. Kyle Ward was writer on Machete Kills, which I hear was a blast and this project; while Cory Goodman is responsible for The Last Witch Hunter and Priest. As I said in the LWH review Goodman isn’t known for complexity in his plots, but he does have a taste for atmosphere and a certain air about the project with always a strong touch of the supernatural.

As with all Underworld films,  time is subjective. We’re not sure when the year is, how long between films has actually occurred and it really doesn’t matter. The story so far is recapped again bringing anyone new to the franchise up to speed, then jumps in head first. It plays on one of the more annoying conceits to give the set up, by if you can swallow that pill you can move on. Selene is on the run from well everyone, but is still a level of wicked in a fight that it rarely pans out for the hunters. Now they hunt for her in a bid to find her daughter, the pure blood hybrid of what should be incredible power. Who is they? The Lycans lead by a new mysteriously powerful leader Marius and the vampire council who really just want her dead – save one member of the new vampire council Semira.  Selene must avoid capture and find a new way to survive against the threats from all sides for the purpose of….something. Yeah, ok so much like the others this won’t win any awards for depth or meaning. Power for the sake of Power is the theme of the day and Selene is mostly on the defensive trying to survive against all-comers; which thankfully she is skilled to do. The question you need to see the movie to answer is “for how long?”

Kate Becksinale returns 13 years later from the origin of Selene and full disclosure – I have a massive girl crush on her so I could be more forgiving. She goes for a more weary, battle fatigued Selene; one who has loved and lost and in that she nailed it. Theo James (Divergent) returns as David. He is still trying, but his performance is so wooden I could use him as a stake. I give him credit for trying and there are so many hints of someone who can act and can emote I think he might be fine in the next one….maybe? Conversely Lara Pulver (Edge of Tomorrow, True Blood) as Semira is a joy to behold. This woman went all out for her vampire and while her performance dances a needles line on campy and sexy she brings it all together. Tobias Menzies (Edmure Tully on Game of Thrones, Outlander) playing Marius is one of the more credible villains the movies have had since we lost Michael Sheen. I have to also acknowledge Daisy Head (Fallen later this year) and Bradley James (Damien and Merlin TV series) both turn what I thought would be unremarkable, forgettable characters into something just a bit more. They are still largely a third class character in the hierarchy, but at least these two made it interesting.

Director Anna Foerster (Second Unit director on 10,000 BC, Aeon Flux, Day after Tomorrow) does a good job with her ideas being executed. The actors turn out decent(ish) performances. She (or Cory) made the decision to give both Vampires and Lycans a few new tricks in their arsenal. She introduces some interesting new concepts and unique visuals. Though her combat sequences and cut choices will need some work before the next movie as  the further these movies progress the worse the combat gets – save one scene. It may be reminiscent of other scenes from better movies, but they made it their own under a beautiful (even if it was CG) sky. It also evokes a gothic, sexy vampire feel I’ve been missing.

TL;DR

Underworld Blood Wars is a solid continuation of the franchise. It brings in new ideas, new concepts, while tying up some loose ends and per usual Underworld films sets up a next one. I am not tired of the series and really was entertained for the majority of the film. It has some pacing, continuity, and editing issues but I have seen worse in higher budget films. It won’t likely make its budget ($35 million) back here in the States, but it’s combined worldwide gross should probably double it by the end of its run in a few weeks.

I may have to sit down with some like minded friends to ask why this franchise has such staying power when others of its ilk fail. Kate Beckinsale’s physique not withstanding.

Should you see it?

If you like this series or Vampires? Yes, yes you should. We get precious few GOOD Vampire movies, much less entertaining ones and this fits at least in the latter category.

You talk as if you don’t like it, but say its good?

No. I am commenting on its flaws of which there are many which I can’t in good conscience ignore for the purposes of the review. I still think its OK and I am still entertained by it. I still continue to enjoy these movies without a hint of guilt or irony about it.

I do like this movie. No if’s, and’s, or but’s.

Yeah, but you’re biased.

Maybe, but I also do like movies that entertain me. Last year had so much mediocrity I am not particularly hopeful for this year. At least I felt something as I watched it.

Will you watch it again?

Sure if someone wants to take me out on a date to watch it. Or hell just take me out to watch it.

Buying it?

Without a doubt it will be mine.

Cabin in the Woods

Darke Reviews | Cabin in the Woods (2012)

Another from the request vault for this month. Has it really been three years since this came out? I kind of wish I had seen this one in the theatres, but sadly I didn’t. Overall most modern horror disappoints me, even Joss Whedon’s name on it and the fan reaction to the film. There are few names that will put my butt in a seat in the movies on name alone, Joss is not one of those names. He does so much well, but there are flaws that are getting harder to overlook. All of that being said the question remains:

Should you visit the Cabin in the Woods?

Let’s look at the writers first. Joss Whedon, generally referred to as a geek god, self proclaimed feminist, creator of Buffy, Dollhouse, Firefly, and of course director of Avengers. In addition we have Drew Goddard, who also directs, best known for Cloverfield and recently, The Martian. It’s clear from the filmography that the two men are friends and what the movie makes clear is that they work well together and have an ability to share a vision.

The story, interestingly to me, is both a solid horror film in it’s own right while bordering on parody of the genre as well. It is a near perfect deconstruction of the teen horror genre that quite brilliantly subverts it at the same time. The idea that much of what you see in films for the past forty or fifty years is a test that most fail, save The Final Girl. That every archetype is typically represented in these films, the jock, the scholar, the slut, the virgin, and the fool. Sincerely yours, the Breakfast club.

Each role is taken seriously, and it’s important to note none are shamed. Point in fact the antagonists craft the people to their role where it may not have existed before. I would commend the acting but when you are literally playing an archetype it is difficult to stray. This isn’t to say that Kristen Connolly (Zoo, The Happening), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Anna Hutchinson (Power Rangers 2008), Jesse Williams (Grey’s Anatomy), and Fran Kranz (Dollhouse) don’t do well as our protagonists; it’s just they don’t have to do much. Kranz actually has the most work as the stoner who plays every movie audience ever. He is the audience voice in the film and nearly every line is something we have thought or said watching movies such as this.

Let’s talk effects for a moment. The movies does a lot of work practically.  If you are tired of hearing this, sorry not sorry. Practical always looks better. A good make up effect enhanced lightly by computers works, but the underlying practical make up and prosthetic will always win in my mind until the day I can no longer tell I am looking at a computer enhanced image. I absolutely adore the creature designs that I saw through the film. So lots of kudos to the art department, make up department, prosthetic, and wigs at AFX. When the movies does have to go into the realm of CG it isn’t the greatest 100% of the time, but overall is really solid. The imaginations of the artists were allowed to go full bore and we should thank them all for it.

TL;DR?

If you have not seen Cabin in the Wood by now and are a lover of the horror genre – see it! Honestly, most audiences can take it as it doesn’t tend to go full bore gorefest too much or show too much when it goes into that realm. Part of the easing of that is Whedon’s need to insert humor and sarcasm into particularly tense scenes and serious moments into the moments of levity.

While I would still not let children see it (I would have), teens and higher could absolutely watch it. There are some really great concepts here and a near paint by numbers format that could help people who want to write stories or scripts to take notes from.

I don’t know about you, but I am for another trip to the Cabin. I mean after all what harm can come from reading a book.

Darke Reviews – Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009)

Continuing the countdown of the Underworld series we move now into the third entry of the franchise. Underworld, the story you didn’t really care about. I mean Underworld: The Two Towers. I mean Underworld Werewolves need love too. …gah sorry. Underworld Rise of the Lycans. In Hollywoods quest for mining blood from a stone they have resorted strongly to the prequel; with the Underworld franchise being no exception. This was the franchise film for my ex, she was the werewolf lover and me the vampire lover; which was no end of running jokes in our household.

Is Rise of the Lycans worth the 90 minutes of your time it takes to watch.

Much like last week, we have a total of nine credits under the writing category. Three belong to the original characters, so we get to ignore them. The story is by Len Wiseman , with the addition or Robert Orr and Danny McBride. McBride has a character credit, which leaves us Orr, who has done nothing else save the Jeffrey Dean Morgan thriller The Resident. Screenplay credits, in other words the script, goes to three: McBride (again), Dirk Blackman (how can that be a real name), and Howard McClain. Blackman was the scriptwriter on the the underrated sci fi take of Beowulf called Outlander, but vanished after this. McClain also worked on Outlander as both writer and director, who also vanished after.

Under their pen the story now focuses on the story of Lucian (Michael Sheen) and Sonja (Rhona Mitra) and their Romeo and Juliet like romance under the eye of her father Viktor (Bill Nighy). I am using the Romeo and Juliet romance accurately here. It adds to the story of Tannis (Steven Mackintosh) and introduces us to a still human Raze (Kevin Grevioux). We are now several hundred years in the past for this story, sometime after the trapping of William Corvinus, the first Werewolf, and before the birth of Selene. Time is subjective with this series at best.

We have the direction of former production designer and make up expert Patrick Tatopoulos. You may know him from the early seasons of Face/Off on SyFy, but he also was involved in Stargate, Spawn, Pitch Black, Cursed, The Cave, Silent Hill, Trick R Treat…..the list goes on. This was one of his first, and sadly only, forays into directing. He showed a strong hand at the helm and keeps the overall style of the original films. It has a tight focus overall, but act three quickly reminds me of The Two Towers with Michael Sheen going full Aragorn in his trench coat, the rain, and lots of swords. In typical series fashion it is on the lower end of the budget but they stretch it for all that they can.

The casting keeps all that they could reasonably. Sheen has to carry the movie as an ‘younger’ version of the leader he is to become. Thankfully he has all the charisma to do so; even if some scenes push credulity. Nighy continues to chew scenery like you wouldn’t believe, I am starting to think the heavy blinking is irritation with the contacts, but the man is able to carry himself as a heavy despite his comic background. He is also given the oppotunity to show a few different emotions this time, which he takes with quiet resolve. Playing the role of Sonja is Rhona Mitra (Doomsday, The Last Ship) , and unlike the actress from the first film, Mitra actually fits the description when the line is uttered “you reminded him of his precious Sonja”. As a bit of trivia, and a point of desire to be honest, she refused to remove her fangs during filming instead saying they felt as if they always should have been there. She clearly plays the role of someone who not only physically would remind Viktor, but also personality and general badassness. She does well with the raw physicality of the role and sensuality as well.

The technicals hold true to Underworld stylings with blue lighting filters, deep shadows, and an overall near black and white look to the film. The abundance of black leather remains surprising, but c’est la vie. When there is CG work it isn’t that great, but it never has been. The best shots are of the physical werewolves. These are some of the best were’s on screen looking large, in charge, and not entirely ridiculous. The challenge with any werewolf is to allow the actor to emote as both the skull and mouth are structured entirely differently, though they do what they can due to the large amount of time needing to focus on the werewolves.

TL;DR?

Lycans is not the weakest of the franchise. They were also painted into a corner with the story somewhat where some elements *must* happen. It also isn’t the best. From a financial standpoint it made its money back, almost in the first weekend and more than doubled it when you look globally.  That said, this also has the weakest financial turn for any of the franchise, with Awakening having the highest.

It isn’t my favorite of the series, but I do enjoy it. So where does that leave us?

If you feel the need to marathon the film series then you can absolutely enjoy this. I don’t think I’d recommend it as a standalone viewing unless you enjoy Underworld as a series. It does standalone with no real need to watch the others, but there’s not enough draw on it’s own either.

To sum up: “That was fun I guess.”

 

 

Darke Reviews | An American Werewolf in London (1981)

If you ever get the chance go to Greenwich Village in New York, check out the Slaughtered Lamb pub. Quite awesome and obviously thematic. This film is widely considered one of the best Werewolf movies in existence. It’s not a huge genre like the ghost story or the even insanely more popular vampire. The films that do exist here are largely junk and partially that lays on the feet of the nature of the creature itself. You see Vampires are easy, their anatomy isn’t that difficult to do make up for. Werewolves have a few ways you can go. There’s the classic Lon Chaney-esque wolf man, which is more of a man wolf. The human anatomy doesn’t change at all, aside from pointed ears and a slightly pronounced jaw that makes for an almost muzzle. The more difficult and more commonly used – and abused – is the wolf head on a humanoid body. It doesn’t work, the bone structure isn’t there. The skull shape is too alien and unusually to effectively morph *and* have the actors effectively emote through and perform. Speaking is right out without ridiculous effects that take most people out of it while they laugh. A handful of films get this effect right, Underworld, Dog Soldiers and of course An American Werewolf in London.

I want to talk technicals right away. This movie won an Academy award for make up effects. Rick Baker who has a handful of credits in the few years prior to this, such as a little film called Star Wars, did an amazing job in designing and creating the practical effects. One of the scenes in the film is hands down the best werewolf transformation scene done without the use of CGI ever filmed. It’s a little ironic that nearly thirty years later he would be the senior make up artist on the remake of The Wolfman. Baker is one of the best in the industry and this movie was just at the start of his career. The raw amount of practical effects that hold up to this day are in a word – astounding.

Lets talk about the other aspects of the film, such as the fact that it was written and directed by the same man, John Landis. That seems to be a trend in the horror industry a written and directed by Credit. Landis is best known for his comedic work such as Animal House, The Blues Brothers and Clue. Those kinds of influences are clearly shown in the comedic and campy elements that make up the non horror elements of the film. While not the first campy horror, this one may be one of the finest blends. Landis brought beautiful dark and somber moments that are highlighted only by quiet music and saddening dialogue where moments before it had been embracing an almost ridiculous schlock and corny dialogue.

The story itself is around two best friends, David Kessler (David Naughton) and Jack Goodman (Griffin Dunne); Americans backpacking their way through England. While trying to get a bite to eat and a drink they enter the Slaughtered Lamb pub and stick out like a gangrenous sore thumb. They are quickly encouraged to leave and travel across the moor’s not heading the warning to stick to the road. The pair is attacked by a creature in the dark and Jack is killed. David severely wounded watches his friend die before him, only to wake up in a hospital three weeks later. Everyone questions David’s sanity, including himself, as he talks about what he saw. Then Jack shows up clawed face, torn throat and all telling David he is one of the undead, a sort of ghost in this film that cannot find peace. He tells David he is a werewolf and the only way to prevent more death is to kill himself. Of course, no one else can see Jack which makes David question his sanity even more. The rest of the movie centers around David trying to fight what he is to become, ever being tortured/tempted by Jack to do what must be done.
Aside from Landis direction much of the power comes from the performances of the two main actors. Both men have had relatively extensive, but not significant careers since the film. It’s unfortunate, but as movies to have a gem this is a good one. Even as a progressively rotting corpse Dunne’s performance as Jack retains human elements that keep him relatable and also humorous despite the message he is trying to convey to his best friend in the world. David for his part runs the gambit of emotions and lets you feel his pain as the curse drives him to the brink. His performance two thirds through the movie with the rise of the full moon is one that set the stage for nearly every werewolf film to come. He, Landis and Baker made the transformation painful, horrific and as realistic as possible.

Other performances such as Jenny Agutter as Alex Price, Davids nurse and caretaker after the accident, and John Woodvine as Dr. Hirsch help push the story forward while David languishes. There’s also a certain charm to the interactions David has with his other victims as the body count rises in the film.

The end of the film is also one of the few that you will find in Hollywood that ends on such a note. While this form of ending has increased in recent years, few do it so well and end so suddenly.
TL;DR

An American Werewolf In London is an absolute must see camp/horror classic. Nearly every other Lycanthrope film since then is but a pale shadow of this one. The need for CGI over the practical only diminishes newer films further.
Tomorrow will likely come a bit late as it’s a double review. It’s twelve has been twelve for a long time.

Darke Reviews | Dylan Dog: Dead of Night (2010)

This is one of the more recent films I am reviewing this month and was unfortunately only a direct to DVD release. Even with that it wasn’t advertised and hard to hear about if you don’t peruse movie insider sites. I happened to come across this one back in 2007 when Superman Returns was still in the popular conciousness and Brandon Routh was cast as the title character. It as also based on an Italian comic series which makes it one of the rare Horror comic adaptations.

There’s not much to say about director Kevin Munroe, who has mostly done video game work and the 2007 CGI Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie; which will still likely be better than what Bay makes. For a rank amateur in the scheme of things he shows a surprising sense and appreciation of 1930’s and 40’s Noir films. He captured that pulp feel that came with the Private Dick character type and executed it better than most directors who have tried it. Rian Johnson’s “Brick” being one of the few exceptions.

The writing deserves some credit as well, a two writing team who tend to work together on other projects as well. Thomas Dean Donnelly and Joshua Oppenheimer, also responsible for A Sound of Thunder and the new Conan movie; with rumored work on Doctor Strange coming. While the dialogue and scenes aligned in the script are not particularly inventive, they don’t have to be to be entertaining. They found a way to blend humor, pulp and horror into a single film and do it well. The abomination that was RIPD this summer needed to use Dylan Dog as a basis. It may not have been an abyssmally horrific film had they even watched DD.

The story moves around a Private Investigator named Dylan Dog (Routh), a human who was once a mediator and policeman for the supernatural creatures of New Orleans. He gave up the game and became a normal P.I. His time away could not last as his assistant Marcus (Sam Huntington – Fanboys, Being Human (U.S.)) gets him into a case trying to solve the murder of the father of beautiful Elizabeth (Anita Briem – The Tudors). He finds himself thrust into the world once more and is forced to confront the monsters of his past, both literal and figurative. The vampires of New Orleans are lead by Vargas (Taye Diggs – Chicago, Private Practice) while the Werewolves are lead by Gabriel (Peter Stormare – a lot!). Can he uncover the mystery of the killer and solve the case and maybe save the world of monsters & men.

Routh is an absolute natural in the film who comes across as a man who truly was part of the supernatural world for many years. He handles every situation with a kind of Laissez-faire or Blase attitude while those around him, especially Huntington, react the way normal people do. Even the delivery of his voice over lines that add to the pulpy detective feel show a keen attention to the nature of the role. He almost seems to channel Bogarts style of “I’ve seen it all” as he goes through the investigation. Even his questioning of Digg’s Vargas, may read as flat to others, but is spot on for the character he is playing. I really think he deserves more work than he gets and that he has a fine sense of timing that is under rated. I also can’t deny seeing him topless a few times isn’t bad on the eyes.

The rest of the cast is fine as well with Huntington providing a humorous counter balance to the dry wit of Routh. Stormare as always is just damn entertaining to watch, his Lucifer in COnstantine is amazing, but he sadly does not get enough screen time. Diggs is a beautiful man and just seems to relish in every aspect of the role he is given. Briem perhaps is one of the flatest performances in the film, but they can’t all be perfect.

As far as the effects and other technicals such as Make up the film does the subjects justice. The weakest effect is the final creature where they depended on CG for a transformation. The rest of the film has some pretty solid Make up work and practical effects. Once again this proves practical is greater than digital when possible.

For the TL;DR crew….

I highly recommend this noir story. It is suitable for people who are squeamish about their horror and has just enough monsters and mystery for everyone else. The movie is not nearly well known enough and I found it rather entertaining.

Thats the key here, it is entertaining. So check out Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, I think you might be a fan.
Tomorrow’s review will warn you to stay off the moors (this is an easy hint!)

Darke Reviews | Monster Squad (1987)

In the year I turned 11 I do not think there was a movie I watched more or that helped shape some of what was to come for me later in my love of monsters. A film that was a child of the 80s introduction to the wonders that were the great Universal Monsters in all their beautiful campy glory in a way only that the celluloid of the 80s can. It also taught me about the holocaust at a young age. The movie is ostensibly for children and young teens though watching it with the eyes of someone who is supposed to be an adult I both wonder what people were thinking and thank them for thinking it.

The movie of course is the underground and somewhat cultish hit The Monster Squad. Directed by Fred Dekker and written by Dekker and Shane Black. Yes, that Shane Black – I am surprised the movie isn’t based around christmas somehow. While it lacks the action, for obvious reasons, that the Lethal Weapons, Long Kiss Goodnight and Tony Stark 3 had; you can see that Blacks writing hasn’t really changed much in twenty six years. Dekker himself is also responsible for Robocop 3 and the Richard Greico film “If Looks Could Kill.” With what I know now of what was to come for these two in the years after, as this is Blacks Second film and Dekkers third, I wonder even as I watched it tonight – why the hell is it so damn entertaining?

I think the answer to that is a combination of things: Nostalgia, the magic of the 80’s and a love for the classic Monsters that are surprisngly treated as well as you can expect.

The story centers around Dracula (Duncan Regehr) who is hunting for a mystic gemstone that when destroyed will allow the creatures of the night to make their beautiful music all over the earth. Between him and success is an unlikely group of kids (none of whom you know now) who have a club called the Monster Squad. They have a wicked rad tree house I would have killed for and a love for horror films. No I assure you I was not in this film. Along the way they encounter and befriend Frankensteins Monster and face off with The Wolfman, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Mummy and the Brides of Dracula.

As I get into the technical aspects of the film, let me be clear next to nothing of it holds up. There are a handful of Make-Ups and prosthetics that are still nice looking but they also are perfectly suited for the 80s. The CG is incredibly horrible and you can even see the wires on the sickeningly fake bats.

You leave the movie knowing a few things though, Silver Bullets are the only way to kill a werewolf, Frankenstein saying “Bogus” is awesome, and that wolfmans got nards.

TL;DR?

Ok I have an absolute love for this movie. It is raw nostalgia and I know it. I burned out a VHS tape of it as a kid. It has a tone and feel to it that bring me back to a happier time; but even as I watched it tonight I know it’s not a good movie. Yes, there were even tears at the end for one of the scenes that get me today. Despite what they say, some children can act.

This one is to be watched for Nostalgia or curiosity alone.
Tomorrow’s review will be an old vs new, but wants to take you to prom.

Darke Reviews | Trick R Treat (2009)

Many of us were first introduced to this film through its musically powerful and highly visual trailer. You say, thats how most people find out about movies, trailers, Duh. That’s true, but this one appeared in front of the DVD release for the movie 300. It had fans of horror movies positively salivating in anticipation. Then, never came to be. Finally a DVD was released in 2009; two full years after the trailer was given to us.

The trailer itself was timeless in it’s own way with a near perfect execution of imagery and sound. It promised us a tale of vampires, classic halloween costumes not seen since the early 80s, ghosts, ghouls and jack o lanterns. Most of you will read this review two weeks prior to the day, this is intentional on my part. This gives you time to watch it and get in the halloween spirit.

Is it a Trick or Treat though?

As normal first we examine sole writer and director, Michael Dougherty. Prior to 2007 he had given us Bryan Singers screenplays for X2 and Superman Returns. In both cases he was one of several involved. Fault cannot be laid soley at his feet and it appears as he worked both films he is friends with Bryan Singer. On his solo outing, he finds a voice all his own. He comes at the movie in a way I haven’t seen since the Creepshow movies or perhaps even Heavy Metal. He interweaves the stories and connects them through touches of subtlety that can be overlooked. What he also shows is a true passion and love for the holiday (my favorite of course) and crafts a tale bringing superstition, horror, and tradition together.

We have the story of a modern woman (Leslie Bibb – the reporter from Ironman 1 and 2) who scoffs at tradition and her husband (Tahmoh Penikett – Battlestar Galactica)who respects it. This is the shortest of them, but has some meaning as it lays the ground work for what is to come. There is also the tail of poor, sweet, virginal Laurie (Anna Paquin – True Blood), with her big sister and friends off to a party hunting for dates as storybook characters. One cannot forget the lessons by principal Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker – Law and Order) and his son Billy; reminding us of all the warnings we grew up with and some of the modern traditions of Halloween. We cannot have a movie like this without a ghost story filled with tricks, treats, myths, and even revenge. A story of children on a bus left to die long ago and children today who were lost to the darkness inside all people. Of course there is also the final story – the obligatory haunted house. The old man who scares everyone and yet has dark secrets of his own that bring the darkness to him in ways he can only imagine in nightmares.

Now for the month of October many of my reviews, contrary to the norm, have been spoilerific. This one will not be, unless you’ve figured out things from how I said them. If so more power to you.

From a technical standpoint, this movie is everything Halloween should be. Had Carpenter gotten what he wanted in 1978, this film would have fit into his goals for what the Halloween series was meant to be. The effects done by Patrick Tatopulos (Underworld) while not perfect are some of the best I’ve seen for transformations and certainly original. The movie stays practical nearly 100% of the time on all the effects and those that aren’t I can’t tell. It also does something I have not seen much of when it puts actual children in the roles of the very children who are in peril – which is unusual for Hollywood. It also wisely knows when to leave well enough alone and let your imagination and a creative foley artist do far more than any gore effect. A lesson to be learned by many so called horror directors.

TL;DR

The movie has frights, but not too much to handle. It has chills and thrills, twists and turns. This to me, is an absolute must see in the horror and halloween genres. It’s barely flawed and almost perfect in every execution.

It is THE movie to have for a Halloween completist.
Tomorrows review let us know that Mummy came to his house

Darke Reviews | Blood and Chocolate

Those that know me also know that I love Roleplaying Games, no not those kind, the table top RPG. My particular fancy and general expertise is those of White Wolf. Vampire the Masquerade is of course the top of the collection with quite literally every book. The same publisher also had a game line called Werewolf the Apocalypse. The point to this is that Blood and Chocolate is probably the closest Werewolf movie I have seen to date that conveys much of the right feel to a werewolf game. It is also up there on my list of top werewolf movies ever. Don’t worry American Werewolf in London, The Howling and Dog Soldiers are still above it when it comes to werewolf horror. We aren’t talking about those movies (today anyway), we are talking today about the movie adapation of Annette Curtis Klause Young Adult book.

As expected what do the book and movie have in common? How close of an adaptation is it? Well, having not read the story but reviewed it on Wiki – they have the title and a few characters in common. That said, writers Ehren Kruger (Transformers 2 & 3, Brothers Grimm, The Ring) and Christopher Landon (Paranormal Activity 2, 3, 4) somehow translated and transformed the tale (tail?) of werewolves, humans and love completely from novel to screen. I think based on the summary it is an improvement. Perhaps that is German director Katja vonGarnier’s work with the material, the actors involved and of course a massive change in venue.

Moving from a story set in Maryland to one now set in the heart of Bucharest. It helps to have a city so rich in architecture, sculpture and enviornment that it is a character unto itself. All of the shots have a historic weight to them that brings depth no American locale could. They allow you believe that Werewolves have been among us since before the time of Magyar princes and have gone into hiding as men came to fear these creatures who could shift between wolf and man.

The film tells the story of Vivian (Agnes Bruckner) an american werewolf in Romania. Forced to live there after the death of her entire family she finds herself trapped in a life that she tries to escape through daily runs through the city. The local pack leader, who runs the city like a mob boss, Gabriel (Olivier Martinez) has his eyes on her for the position of his new mate despite a massive age difference and the fact that she has no interest in him. In one of her nights trying to escape her life and find solace in the city she comes across a young american starving artist by the name of Aiden (the yummy Hugh Dancy), who is in Romania studying the stories of the Loup Garou (Werewolves) for a comic book, er graphic novel he is writing. Much in the way of Romeo and Juliet these star crossed lovers do fall for each other and a Mercutio like character named Rafe (Bryan Dick) is sacrificed for the cause. Thankfully thats where the R&J similarities end. The two do find each other and are put through trials that test their love and their survivability.

The portrayl of werewolves in the movie is one of the few that brings the wolf dynamic into it as much as the human. There are many subtle and not so subtle mannerisms, movements, and behaviors that show the wolf as much a part of these people as the human is. It was a real pleasure to watch. While they do not have a hybrid form the transformation from human to wolf is made to be a beautiful, spiritual thing rather than a gory painful one. They loup garou do feel like a pack and it was quite refreshing to see.

The romance told over an indeterminate amount of time (a few days-weeks) but builds and is believable. The werewolves believe humans no longer know of their kind yet Aiden is able to research and find enough that he appears to have been told by poor Vivian. When finally faced with her, and her families, true nature he reacts as I believe a normal person would. He freaks the heck out. He actually tries to run away but is stopped not by her, but by the antagonists. When her harms her in the course of saving himself he finds he does love her and works to save her life as well. He also gets one of the most romantic lines ever in a supernatural romance film – “I’ve spent my entire life dreaming about you, what right do I have to wish you away now.” – Melt –
Effects and make up are ok and what fights there are look good. The music is rather catching and I have already gone on for a bit about the sets. The actors are solid with Hugh Dancy really showing many of them how its done. The story does have a few holes in it that you can drive a yugo through but holds together fairly well.

All in all for the TL;DR crowd?

Blood and Chocolate is an easily watchable and enjoyable supernatural romance. It isn’t horror, but is a good take on the werewolf mythos.

I can recommend this for anyone who likes a good romance, YA fan or supernatural fan. It does not have a lot of violence and next to no blood. The title is ridiculous but the end result is worth it.

Tomorrow’s review knows that the blood is the life.