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I Was Going To Make A “Driving A Stake” Reference Here, But Fuck It, That’s Just Encouraging Them

June 21st, 2012 No comments

Tomorrow the film Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter arrives at the multiplex. It’s an adaptation of the book of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith, who stuck zombies into Pride and Prejudice and kicked off a wave of decreasingly-imaginative* literary/horror mashups from the “two things” school of humor. This one is from the parallel subgenre that replaces fictional characters with historical figures.**

And it makes me angry.

Not because it’s dumbing down the movies. (Remember, I saw Transformers.) Not because it’s a one-night concept that’s right there in the title. (I also saw Snakes on a Plane.) And not even because the filmmakers appear to be taking it entirely too seriously.

It’s because it posits that the Civil War was fought because Abraham Lincoln wanted to stop vampires from creating a nation in which they could own a self-perpetuating blood supply. You know, blacks.

Look, I don’t think (very many) people are going to walk away from this film believing that it’s actual history. But there are still plenty out there who choose to believe that the Civil War was about “states’ rights,” instead of being about people who fucking wanted to own other people.

To the extent that Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter allows them to further distance themselves from the bubbling black heart of our nation’s history, fuck it.

*Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters? Really? Really.

**Queen Victoria, Demon Hunter. Jesus. Oh, no, wait…Jesus is in Grahame-Smith’s Unholy Night.

 

 

Categories: Movies Tags: , ,

A Bloody Good Time

August 21st, 2011 No comments

Movie remakes. Like trailers that give away the plot, they’ve been around about as long as has the cinema itself, but people still love to bitch about them. They’re a symptom of Hollywood’s lack of new ideas, they besmirch the good names of the originals, and blahbity blahbity blah blah. Blah.

Me, I’ve made my peace with remakes. In the world of theatre, no one bats an eye when someone mounts a new production of Othello or Our Town. There’s an appeal in seeing how a fresh cast and director interpret a familiar work. So, what’s so awful about someone taking another crack at a decades-old flick?

1985’s Fright Night was a minor classic and a clear antecedent to the monsters-in-suburbia comedy-thriller Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Chris Sarandon* played Jerry Dandridge, a centuries-old vampire who moved in next door to a single mom and her teenage son, Charlie. To combat the menace, the boy called on the help of Peter Vincent, a washed-up actor and alleged undead-slayer stuck introducing old monster movies on the local UHF TV station.

Fright Night was a great deal of fun, but it’s very much a product of its era. It’s not just the disco scene, either. Horror hosts have all but disappeared from the airwaves–Chicago’s Svengoolie a famous exception–and the sort of Famous Monsters Generation kid personified by Charlie Brewster now would be obsessing about ’80s slashers rather than ’60s Hammer Films bloodsuckers.

The redux Fright Night changes some elements and ditches others. Gone is Jerry’s ghoulish live-in handyman, as well as most of the gay subtext of the original. Peter Vincent is now a Criss Angel-like Vegas magician with a massive collection of supernatural memorabilia. And Charlie himself has abandoned his nerdery; it’s his former friend Ed who is monster-obsessed and convinced of Jerry’s undeadedness.

For the most part, the changes work. While it’s somewhat convenient that Charlie just happens to live within driving distance of a man with an entire armory of vampire-fighting hardware, it’s no more unlikely than having a Peter Cushing-level actor slumming on local TV. I did miss the slow build of the original; in the new version Ed just shows up and tells Charlie that his neighbor is a vicious beast.

The script is by Marti Noxon, who was the showrunner for the Buffy TV series during its most controversial run of episodes and therefore should be something of a red flag. But honestly, I think Noxon nailed the frothy fun of the original Fright Night while allowing for plenty of bloodletting. Make no mistake, jokey tone or not, there’s a torrent of the red stuff on the screen.

I liked that the movie subverted some genre tropes. There’s far less of the “nobody will believe me” schtick than usual. And I was glad to see the old “vampires can’t enter a house without an invitation” wheeze addressed in the way it never was in seven years of Buffy.

David (Doctor Who) Tennant plays Peter Vincent as a cross between the Tenth Doctor and Jack Sparrow, and his manic energy is matched by Colin Ferrell’s creepy, menacing intensity as his vampiric foe. Anton Yelchin, who was an adorable Chekov in the Star Trek remake, makes a good Charlie. His girlfriend Amy is played by a young actress with the highly unfortunate name of Imogen Poots.

Also unfortunate is that it’s unlikely we’ll see the further adventures of Peter Vincent. The movie took a stake to the heart at the box office this past weekend. It seems that vampires are only a draw if they’re shiny abstinence metaphors. Not even Colin Ferrell in a wife-beater and David Tennant in next-to-nothing were enough to attract a sizable audience.

Too bad, because the new Fright Night is a worthy remake and a heckuva lotta fun.

*Sarandon apparently makes a cameo in the remake, but I somehow missed him.

Categories: Movies Tags: , ,

31 Monsters #18: Count von Count

October 18th, 2009 No comments

No, I don’t know why there’s a vampire on Sesame Street, either. I’m not talking about the obvious educational role that Count von Count’s numerical obsession fills on the 40-years-young kids’ series, but rather the fact that there’s a fanged creature of the night living in the same neighborhood as a bunch of kids and a six-foot canary with an especially long and tempting neck. Yet no one seems to be straddling his coffin with hammer and stake in hand.

Eighteen! Eighteen monsters! Ah ha ha!

Honestly, the Count’s continued presence brings up a number of questions:

  1. Is Sesame Street zoned for Gothic castles?
  2. What is the nature of the puppet soul?
  3. Are Maria and Gina two of his vampire brides?
  4. When he moved into town, did he have to go door to door informing the neighbors of his previous bloodsucking?
  5. That’s five, five questions! Ah ha ha!

Count von Count is one of my favorite Muppets, and it’s not just the vampire thing. I love him for his obsessive compulsiveness. Like Cookie Monster, he’s defined by the thing that he craves, and lets nothing stand in his way. (Unlike Cookie Monster, he hasn’t been neutered in recent years in order to present a healthy lifestyle. We don’t want our kids to get fat, but repetitive counting is O.K.)

Here’s a classic Count von Count segment featuring a guest appearance by Susan Sarandon. I’m not absolutely certain of the circumstances that brought the two together, but I think that we have to at least consider the possibility that the Count was luring a date back to his place. Yet, not even the thought of nibbling the neck of a smokin’ hot Sarandon could distract the Count from his appointed task.

Not being a Rocky Horror fan, I was slow to realize that the Sesame Street writers had sneaked a RHPS reference into the heart of the PBS kids’ lineup. Thankfully, they did not ask Sarandon to sing “Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch-a, Touch Me.”

Something For Which I Am Thankful

November 24th, 2008 No comments

The film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s* teen vampire romance Twilight raked in $70 million this weekend.

This is one of those times when I’m grateful I never had a daughter.

When I made that comment to my wife this weekend, Vic said, “Yeah, but you know that if you did, you’d be taking her too.” Which is exactly my point. Whatever disappointment I may feel about choosing not to spawn, I can take solace in knowing that no one is expecting me to take them to shitty teen romance flicks. (Bonus: I’ve never had to watch any iteration of High School Musical.)

I was listening to an NPR story about the film’s premiere last Friday, and the tween girls were going on about how this was the story of their lives** and how it was the best movie ever***. I thought “What? Hadn’t they heard this sort of by-the-numbers undead love tale a hundred times before?” And I realized, they probably hadn’t. Never mind that Buffy the Vampire Slayer has only been off-the-air for five years (a generation in tween-time) or that there’s an entire literary-industrial complex devoted to necrophiliac eroticism.

Someone always has to be your first. Unfortunately, young lovers don’t often choose wisely.

* Mormons hate gay marriage, but unprotected vampire sex is okay.
** Really? Do your parents know about the vampires?
*** Rotten Tomatoes has it at 44%.

That Bites

October 12th, 2008 No comments

Last Friday’s session in my ongoing Dungeons & Dragons campaign began with the players breaking a cardinal rule of RPGs: “Don’t split the party.” Separating into two groups is bad for the DM, who then has to keep both subgroups engaged even though one isn’t “there” at the moment. It’s also bad for the players, who are much more likely to find their characters outgunned by whatever opposition their DM had balanced with a larger group in mind. Note to my playgroup: telling me that you’re splitting the party in a manner which suggests that you know better does not actually help.

So it was that the paladin, wizard and ranger went to check out the new shipment of goods at Marali’s Fine Imports, while the warlord and rogue investigated a report of a “beastman attack” outside the Punt & Pole Tavern near the waterfront. The previous day, a bestial humanoid had slashed the throat of a patron leaving the establishment and fled into the night.

Arriving at the tavern, they soon encountered Meepo, an enthusiastic, relatively innocuous kobold (a small, lizard-like humanoid) who had recently been kicked out of his usual pub after an altercation. Meepo fancies himself a brave adventurer, and that–plus his race’s worship of dragons–caused him to quickly latch onto the dragonbord warlord Kesek.

Meanwhile, Marali–a comely half-elven proprietor–asked the other group to talk to a shady character who had been lurking outside her shop the past couple of nights. The stranger was rude and gave them a bad feeling. He eventually ambled away but soon returned in the company of a sinister, hooded figure with eyes that glittered in the half-light.

The players asked about Marali’s recent shipment from the north, and learned that there was one item which wasn’t listed on the manifest. It was a bowling ball-sized, black sphere which had a mysterious sigil etched upon it: the mark of the long-dead “Night Wizard,” Tor Shok. They offered to borrow the sphere and take it to the Arcane Assembly for identification, but Marali was hesitant to let such a potentially valuable item out of her hands.

By this time, the two groups had reunited at Marali’s, but they soon split up again, with the ranger and rogue tracking the hooded figure through the dark alleys, while the others stayed behind to guard the store. This proved to be an error in judgment, as did Green Leaf the ranger’s attempt to “distract” their quarry by tossing down a magical bauble which flashed into a bright light.

Well aware that he was being followed, he led the pursuers into an ambush, as four human-appearing creatures came at them from two sides, their faces morphing into bestial features as they attacked. One of them slashed at Cynfael the rogue’s throat with its fangs and began to lap his blood. Things were looking grim, as the twosome were cornered.

Fortunately, Green Leaf’s frantic whistle carried to Marali’s shop, and the rest of the party was able to catch up surprisingly fast. (Brave, little Meepo was left behind to hold down the fort.) While Cynfael was temporarily brought down, the creatures were soon routed, each exploding into dust as they died. Green Leaf fired an arrow at long range and pierced the heart of the last, fleeing vampyr.

As the hooded figure had dallied to watch the fight, the heroes were able to follow him as he fled into an abandoned temple to Corellon. They burst through the doors to find him reunited with his fellow vampyr from outside the shop, and backed up by several skeletons and zombies which he summoned from the ruined crypt below.

During the battle, Tuk’-Ja the wizard proved a danger to his own friends through his overenthusiastic use of area effect spells, but eventually the minions were dusted and Daggas, the vampyr Death Master was cornered and beheaded.

As the heroes licked their wounds, an arrow infused with electricity struck the floor nearby with a crash of thunder. Another vampyr hung upside down from a bell rope, firing his magic longbow.

Cynfael scurried up a ladder and jumped for the hanging rope, while the other characters discovered a hidden stair. They confronted the powerful vampyr on the ledge outside the bell tower.

This unnamed foe was especially tricky, enshrouding himself in a cloud of darkness. However, outnumbered and outmatched by the assembled characters, he volunteered to throw himself from the ledge, smashing to the ground below…then inexplicably vanishing!

As our heroes reach “second level” at last, they still don’t know the purpose of the strange sphere, nor the extent of the vampyrs’ influence in Boswin.

But that’s an adventure for another day…

Happy Halloween!

October 30th, 2007 No comments

Have a drink on me!

Categories: Weird Tags: , ,

Pardon Me, But Your Sword Is In My Fangs

November 23rd, 2004 No comments

One of the movies we rented this weekend (in addition to 13 Going On 30, a pleasantly predictable comedy described by Vic as “Big with a chick”) was Vampire Effect. I’d seen the trailer for it on some of my Godzilla DVDs, and it appeared to be a stylish, martial-arts vampire flick. Plus, it had Jackie Chan. As it turned out, all of this was true, yet I was not prepared for the full-on weirdness that was this film. It was so odd that Vicky, who was tired and had intended to go to bed when I popped in the disc, wound up staying up through to the very end.

The premise involves a member of the Anti-Vampire Federation, an ill-defined group of “Buffy” wannabes. His partner is killed during the opening subway fight, and so he reluctantly takes on a new gal. For reasons which only make sense to the Chinese, she immediately gets into a prolonged kicking match with his live-in sister over a stuffed bear.

Their mission is to save the last of five princes, the other four of which have been killed by a vampire duke (apparently, there’s a whole undead hierarchy) who needs their blood to open an arcane book which will grant him invulnerability to sunlight. Why, you may ask, should they save the prince, who, by the way, is also a vampire? Because the sister, who does not herself hunt vampires, but who inexplicably has prodigious martial arts skills, has been dating the prince, despite the obvious loyalty issues involved. (She’s even given a guided tour of his custom coffin, which comes complete with a built-in home entertainment system.)

The romantic duo crash a wedding, at which Jackie Chan (who must’ve owed someone a favor) is marrying a lush who is played by a Chinese version of Janice from Friends. This proves fortuitous during a later scene in which Jackie is the driver of an ambulance carrying the prince to the hospital.

Why is the prince seeking medical attention? See, he hasn’t been feeding, ’cause he’s all girly and good, and has become very weak. So, they drive him to the hospital, despite the presence of bags of blood inside the vehicle. Naturally, some henchvamps attack, and our heroes keep them at bay by puncturing one of the bags and squeezing it, causing the fiends to catch the spurts of blood in mid-air like hungry baby birds. Then their mouths are filled with handy prescription drugs, which causes the vampires to…dance. Why? I DON’T KNOW.

Oh, and Jackie the ambulance driver also knows martial arts. Yes, Jackie Chan fights a vampire. Then he disappears from the film, having fulfilled his contractual obligation.

The fight scenes are very cool, with the CG-enhanced ghouls skittering up walls and ceilings. A running gag has the vamps getting sword blades between their fangs when attempting to bite someone. So, bonus points to Vampire Effect for exhilerating action.

On the other hand, the film does come from Hong Kong, and is therefore unbound by any laws of logic, common sense or plot coherency. I’m really not doing it justice. It simply messed with my head.

Rent it…if you dare!