Bloodrunners (2017) Review

rsz_1rsz_bloodrunners_poster_hiresBloodrunners (2017)

Directed by: Dan Lantz.
Written by: Dan Lantz and Michael McFadden.
Starring: Ice-T, Michael McFadden, Chris James Boylan and Airen DeLaMater.

For more information visit – www.bloodrunnersmovie.com

“Set in 1930s prohibition, a corrupt cop discovers that the popular speakeasy in town has been infiltrated by vampires”.

I often wonder if vampires should still be included as one of the horror story’s staple monsters. In the seventies and eighties Anne Rice made vampires mysterious & sexy. In the nineties, Buffy the Vampire Slayer made vampires fun. In the noughties, the Twilight series seemed to emasculate vampires and sprinkle their embarrassed memory with glittery sparkles. As a consequence of so much distillation, dilution and homogenisation, our modern-day vampires are now so far removed from their ancestors (such as Nosferatu, Varney the Vampire and Dracula), that they come across as homeopathic incarnations. They are as scary as the risk of not having checked your entitlement to PPI. Which is why it was kind of refreshing to watch Bloodrunners.

Director Dan Lantz (Bloodlust Zombies, Ninja Babes from Space and Modern Marvels) brings his capable hand to a cleverly-crafted story of vampires in the time of the prohibition. The conceit of vampires shipping bottles of blood across the country gives motive to a plot that is carefully balanced and enjoyable from start to finish.

rsz_br_prod_still00104Early on we’re introduced to slightly-corrupt-cop, Sergeant Jack Malone (Michael McFadden: The Breaks, Bull and Gotham). Jack later describes his motive for joining the police force, with the words, “I was handy with a gun and I needed a job.” It’s this pragmatic attitude that makes him likeable throughout the film. Jack’s backstory, which includes some of the guilt and PTSD he’d suffered as a participant in the first world war, was an intelligent contribution to the narrative and allowed for his character develop.

The background romance between Willie (Chris Boylan: Killers, Redcoats and Zeroes) and Anna (Airen DeLaMater: Apparition, A Crime to Remember and Redrum) is probably not the most compelling subplot you’re likely to encounter this season. I say this, although I’m willing to admit my lack of investment in this detail is likely down to my own puerile response of giggling when Anna was desperately calling for help from her beau by shouting, “Willie! Willie! Willie!”

But it is Chesterfield (Ice-T: Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Johnny Mnemonic and Tank Girl) who steals this movie. Commanding every scene he’s in, Chester is presented as a talented showman able to command the stage of his speakeasy; a skilled smuggler who can slip illicit drinks past the authorities; and an uber-competent gangster who doesn’t suffer fools. He has a suave sense of dress, a harem of women at his command, and his own personal finger collection. The fact that he’s also a vampire is a detail that only serves to make him more likeable.

rsz_br_prod_still00063I genuinely enjoyed this one. It’s clear that a lot of time and effort has been invested in recreating the authentic look of 1933 New Jersey. The cars and clothes make the experience immersive. The special effects are sophisticated and the whole feel has a strong sense of the dangerous theatrics that we once used to associate with vampires. More importantly, this film should be seen just for those of us who’ve wanted to see Ice-T say the words, “Human blood should be enjoyed like fine wine.”

Well worth your time. 8/10

Vampires aka Bloodless (2014) DVD Review

bloodless1Vampires (aka Bloodless) – 2014

Director & Writer – Richard Johnstone

Stars: Victoria Hopkins, Angela Zahra, Melissa Advani

UK release – out now on DVD from 101 Films

A group of people, participating in a paid medical trial in the remote countryside, begin to suspect something is wrong and they are in danger. Initially they put the strange occurrences down to the medicine they are on and the people running the trial testing their nerves to see psychological results.

Vampires is written and directed by Richard Johnstone, who’s only written and directed short films before. Johnstone does what he can here with a tiny budget. The initial story behind Vampires is actually quite interesting and I feel that with a bigger budget and some plot points improved this could’ve been a much much better film. The lack of budget really shows with the acting, score and editing all rather poor. On the plus side, the location, a medieval castle and some of the shots are actually very good. Johnstone clearly has an eye for framing a shot brilliantly.

Acting-wise, Vampires is really poor. I can appreciate that with a low budget horror such as this, it would be difficult to attach any well known or decent actors. I don’t know if it is the script which needed ironing out or just the delivery of every single line from all the actors involved. I feel guilty for saying this as I cannot act at all and shouldn’t have a right to judge but overall the acting was distracting from the story. The score was also pretty bad, it seemed rather amateurish and most of the time out of place.

bloodless2The pacing of the film was another big issue for me. It seemed to last hell of a long time. Not a lot really happens until the last 15-20 minutes, I can understand that sometimes starting slow helps build tension and in all fairness who doesn’t love a slow burn thriller/horror eh? If the acting was better it may have been more interesting to stay with the characters some more and learn a bit more about them. I have to admit a few times I actually looked up to check the time to see if I should’ve been going to bed and turning this off.. It was roughly 5pm when I watched this….

The characters were poorly written and cliché ridden, the final girl, the asshole, the weirdo girl who knows something is wrong and no one believes until it is too late. Not a single character in Vampires is likeable or remotely enjoyable to watch.

Johnstone did show of some of his directing skills, the way he framed many of the exterior shots of the castle was very good. I was also rather impressed with some shots later in the film when a Vampire is slowing burning up from the sun whilst walking down a corridor, the smoke coming off this character combined with the rays of sunshine coming through the windows did look really good.

Although a lot of Vampires was just below average on the quality meter there were the occasional nice touches here and there. Richard Johnstone clearly is a good director; I just feel that he needs a bigger budget as his creative film maker mind is quite ambitious.

If you like vampire films or low budget British ventures into that genre look no further, as long as you don’t mind some shoddy acting and some cheesy out of place music. If you appreciate the effort and vision it takes to make a very low budget film then maybe this is worth a watch for you. But if you enjoy your films with good acting and a faster paced story… Look elsewhere.

bloodless3I personally think Richard Johnstone should get some credit here, he has wrote an interesting story and has shown off some good directing. I will certainly be looking out for any future features he makes. STUDIOS..PLEASE GIVE RICHARD JOHNSTONE A BIGGER BUDGET TO WORK WITH NEXT TIME!!!!!!

If there is nothing else on, give a watch. Don’t avoid it by any means but don’t rush out to watch this.

Rating 4/10

Follow me on Twitter @NLouse91

The Caretakers (2014) Review

The Caretakers PosterThe Caretakers (2014)

Director: Steve Hudgins

Starring: Nick Faust, Michael Coon, Brittney Saylor, April Jennings, Joe Estevez

“Come on, let me show you how to liquefy a body.”

Hmmmm… this one takes a minute to digest.

Catherine (Jennings) the vampire has a network of lackeys (mostly fat guys) who kidnap women for her to feed on. She is what the film calls a pure-line vampire in that she was born, and it’s impossible to turn people into vampires. But she can’t just feed off of humans directly either. She injects the kidnapped women with a venom through her fangs and they are changed. Not into vampires, but into a sort of pseudo vamp that she can feed off.

One of the women, Rachel (Saylor) is “rescued” by her creepy stalker Jimmy (Coon) when he sees her get kidnapped (while following her). Now they are running around trying to get her blood, but the longer she’s running around the more savage she becomes. AND she can only drink blood that’s the same type as her own, which is type O, but she drinks B (I don’t know how this works!)?? Meanwhile, the main vampire Catherine’s caretaker Jack (Faust) is an old man and she’s making him train his replacements which is a father and daughter team. MEANWHILE the father of the main kidnapped girl who escaped has managed to find a PI named Parker played by a poorly aging Joe Estevez who just happen to know a couple of vampire hunters. One of the vampire hunters is a pasty woman who looks supernatural (due to make-up and contact lenses) but it turns out she’s just a knife wielding albino. All three plots come together at the end, believe it or not (I was as surprised as anyone)!

The Caretakers 1So, is The Caretakers good? Sweet floral wallpaper that has burned itself into my brain, NO. But also yes. The production values are terrible, the acting is all over the place. The director and producer are both actors in their own movie (and they aren’t that good) and the credits are full of the same last names that can only mean their family was cheaper to hire than real actors. BUT (there are going to be a lot them in this review) some of the actors were okay. Brittney Saylor for one did a good job at turning into a feral vampire. Faust was tolerable. The tween girl and apprentice caretaker played by Lucy Turner is also pretty good. Though her main job is to look haunted during the entire film. On the lower end of the scale is Michael Coon who is prone to bursts of over acting. And apprentice Caretaker “dad” Kenneth R. Root is wooden. A lot of scenes are stilted, there is a lot of infodumping.

BUT The Caretakers has good ideas. A good concept, a happy ending for the vampire which I really appreciated. Good worldbuilding, lots of imagination, and (some) not terrible writing. And well, an overall je ne sais quoi that is somehow SLIGHTLY better than the sum of its poor production values. Or not. A lot is going to depend on the viewers ability to make it past the first fifteen to twenty minutes. Who am I kidding, if I hadn’t had to watch it I would have shut it off immediately. But if you can settle in it DOES get better. No, not the sound recording, unfortunately, it’s terrible and in some places downright unintelligible. But gosh darn it, it actually made me want to write the novelization.

The Caretakers 2The big question is “Would I recommend this movie”. The answer is that I’m not sure I could, in all good conscience tell people to watch it. It’s kind of terrible. But kind of not. If somehow, you can, in the theater of your mind, replace everything happening on screen with a high budget version, then yes, watch it. If you aren’t a fan of low budget vampire films (and low budget productions in general) then don’t. Seriously. Don’t. You will never forget the floral wallpaper.

Kudos for: Madness inducing wallpaper.

Lesson learned: Never put up wallpaper.

4/10

Dracula Reborn (2014) DVD Review

dracula rebornDracula Reborn (2014)

(Alternative Title: ‘Dracula XO’)

Director / Writer: Attila Luca

Starring: Tina Balthazar, Eric Kara, Chloe Dumas, Yves Carlevaris

Running Time: 93 mins

UK Certificate: 18

Format: DVD

UK Release from High Fliers Films – May 18th 2015

“Horror fans will love this new slant on the Dracula legend”, claims a blurb on the DVD cover.

Another ‘new slant’ on a very well-worn monster tale, you say? Worth my time, you ask, or simply another dreary splurt-and-chomp fest full of attractive yet rather toothy protagonists which brings nothing fresh to the banquet table? My thoughts too, as I searched for info on this vamp flick by director and writer Attila Luca, offering here his first feature-length production.

It follows the story of Hannah David (played with confidence by the beguiling, vastly-cheekboned Tina Balthazar), a journalist notably booted from her previous rag for an over-enthusiastic thirst (sorry) for covering anything and everything she can unearth about Dracula, his family and his followers – yes, in this story, vampires are known to exist and their lord and master is something almost of a celebrity, and whilst he doesn’t so much court the worldwide press, he is willing to be mentioned (apparently only in a positive light) by the media, and anyone digging too deep into his habits or whereabouts appears to swiftly meet their maker in a blur of the ol’ velvet cape and dainty chain fastening.

dreb11Quite how a known mass murderer is ever able to be spoken about in the media in anything but a somewhat negative light is a puzzle to me, however, our intrepid Hannah seems intent on finding out who Dracula really is, what his origins are, where to find him, and most importantly, “interview the fuck out of him!” (The dialogue is actually mostly not as bad as this example.) So, off she jets to Paris and eventually Transylvania, assisted in her quest and research by fellow media luvvies Nate and Elle, to uncover whatever gruesome and possibly fatal secrets about the Count and cohorts they can manage.

As far as this alleged ‘new slant’ goes, the notion of Dracula not sticking to the shadows is one that is less explored, however this is mainly because the legend and its spin-off tales just simply tend to work better if Dracula, and indeed monsters in general, are not ‘believed in’ and out in the open. Other than the fanged one targeting journalists in particular, there is little here that turns the culture, telling and re-telling of the king of the undead on its head. On the plus side though, possibly due to budget constraints, we are spared the usual leather-clad, martial arts champion vampires constantly accompanied by post nu-metal that have now become so over-used a trope in horror.

Incidentally, if it’s gore you’re after (and a lot of you are!), this film doesn’t scrimp on the red stuff (albeit rather obviously added on with the click of a mouse). There is a heck of a lot of feeding goes on here, and the dribbling, draining and gorging (accompanied by convincing sound effects) is not for the squeamish. There is very much a return to a showcasing of ‘the vampire feed’ in this flick and a lot of thought appears to have gone into every bite (and no ‘ooh, let’s have the vamp’s eyes change colour while they gorge!’ cliché).

The acting is carried out competently by the cast and the script is decent – rarely does the dialogue feel stilted as it can in many low-budget pictures, and the music is rather haunting and at no point over-blown. Team this with some pleasant and well-dressed locations and sets, and you have a film with some moments of visual flair and fairly convincing characters.

dreb22The Count himself is played by seasoned actor Yves Carlevaris, and while he does a sterling job with the prowling, cackling, brooding and of course feeding (and being possibly the worst person ever to attempt to follow people inconspicuously), the character itself is certainly not about being original – the bald, needle-toothed and taloned old dude stalking Paris in a sprawling cape is rather woefully ‘by the book’ (although, to be fair, maybe Luca wasn’t intending for him to be original in appearance or actions, but it cannot help but feel hackneyed).

All in all, this offering is watchable enough and a commendable effort for a low-budget horror film, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t offer a new or especially noteworthy slant on the myth of dear old Vlad. However, if you just fancy a little slice of gore and an appreciably good cast, then it’s worth giving this one a shot.

5/10

DVD extras – Theatrical Trailer

Dracula Reborn is available to order from Amazon UK here – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dracula-Reborn-DVD-Tina-Balthazar/dp/B00TZZZCMM/

Dario Argento’s Dracula (2012) DVD Review

DRACULA 001Dario Argento’s DRACULA (2012) DVD

Directed By: Dario Argento

Written By: Dario Argento, Enrique Cerezo, Stefano Piani, Antonio Tentori

Starring: Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann, Marta Gastini, Rutger Hauer

UK Certification: 18

RRP: £12.99

Running Time: 105 minutes

Distributor: Spirit Entertainment

UK Release Date: 29th September 2014

Mentioning Dario Argento’s output in the 21st century elicits a kind of gnarly reaction of repulsion that you’d expect if you told someone you just defecated on their lawn. Leaving the overlooked Sleepless (2001) out of the equation, Argento’s quartet of misfires that took in The Card Player (2004), Do You Like Hitchcock? (2005), Mother of Tears (2007) and Giallo (2009) are quite a saddening fall from his peak for the man that is undoubtedly the master of Italian genre cinema – just slightly ahead of Bava and a short length in front of Fulci.

It’s a weary heart that sees me rip the shrink-wrap off his latest directorial outing – Dracula. Taking two years to find a home in the UK home entertainment market, it’s taking its bow with a very muffled fanfare. Indeed, an absence of press awareness was picked up on over the various social media forums coupled with Crazy Ralph-esque warnings from those that have seen it. It couldn’t be that bad could it? Argento? The man who gave us Profondo Rosso (1975) and Suspiria (1977)! No, it was much much worse…

BiellaArgento’s Dracula announces itself in an inauspicious manner as we’re faced with a dimly lit CGI laden tracking shot that transports us into Transylvania where we’re introduced to Tania (Miriam Giovanelli), who is about to head for a salacious tryst with her lover Milos (Christian Burruano). As Tania makes her way home from her rendezvous she discovers she is the prey of a sinister shadowy figure, and despite her best efforts to get to safety she’s caught and brutally murdered.

Meanwhile, in another part of the village, Jonathan Harker arrives at the behest of Count Dracula to engage in some employment for the local nobleman. Arriving at Dracula’s castle, he’s welcomed in by none other than Tania who seems to be displaying little of the side effects usually associated with being dead. Harker’s arrival certainly ignites a raw passion in her, and we’re left under no illusion that her new found obsession will struggle to fend off her advances. On hand to interject for now is the brooding figure of Count Dracula, but as Harker records in his diary that evening – there is a sinister air to this Transylvanian locale.

With a clunker such as this, I often find myself trying desperately to eke out a few redeeming features in order to offer some hope for the more hardened genre lover amongst us. Here though, it’s a desperate situation as there are precious few positives in what must surely be the nadir of Argento’s illustrious career. The most pervading annoyance is simply the cheap artificiality of the whole feature – from the opening, to the CGI train station, to the transformations, to the 3D obsessed moments of distraction. With this in mind it’s hard for the film to create an air of quality as this aspect stains the vibe of the picture and prevents it from establishing any real Argento-esque credibility.

DRACULA 003Dracula’s international cast do the film few favours either, with at times a very staccato – almost phonetic delivery “it felt like a nightmare. But I was not asleep” and so forth. Indeed there are moments when you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d accidentally loaded Mel Brooks’ Dracula: Dead & Loving It (1995) into your DVD player such are the caricatures that litter the movie. The thing is, the ingredients were there – with long time cohorts Claudio Simonetti, Luciano Tovoli and Sergio Stivaletti casting their eyes over the music, cinematography and SFX respectively, things shouldn’t really seem as desperate as they appear.

Maybe as a generic half a million dollar budgeted Bulgarian lensed production with a peppering of b-listers, the cause to be so critical may not have been so overwhelming. This though, with its budget ten times that and shot in Italy should demand a higher level of production value. Most importantly – it’s a Dario Argento movie, and even as the Italian master enters his 75th year, the task of critically assassinating another of his features gets no easier, and hopefully for all our sakes the notion of another new Argento movie never materialises.

2 out of 10

Extras:
Theatrical Trailer

Diabolis of Dublin by Michael Mulvihill – Book Review

dod1Diabolis of Dublin
By Michael Mulvihill

My first experience of Michael Mulvihill’s work was something of a strange one. On one hand I loved his writing and felt that his style was both elegant and restrained; a balance that most writers never manage to achieve. However, his religious beliefs and the story’s insistence on driving them home began to turn me off and I lost interest before the end. So it was both a surprise and an honour when the author gallantly asked me to look at his recent work Diabolis of Dublin, a vampire tale set not surprisingly on the streets of Dublin. Firstly I would like to apologise to Michael for taking so long to get this one finished. It is most certainly not a reflection on the quality of the book. It is simply a case of life getting in the way of things!

Anyway, back to the book, and a rather wonderful book it is too. Mulvihill manages to breathe new life into what is possibly the most over-abused of all horror sub-genres: The Vampire tale. From myths and legends into the popular fiction of every era the Vampire has always had a place to exist. But over the years and especially in recent times they have become somewhat neutered and seem to lack the bite that they used to have. There are notable exceptions such as Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night, but for the most part The Vampire seems to have become rather toothless. Not so with Michael Mulvihill’s Lucis Diabolis.

Diabolis is the sole vampire in Dublin and he spends his nights trawling the streets looking for food and trying to come to terms with his place in a world that doesn’t really belong to him anymore. As the city of Dublin prepares to celebrate the Bram Stoker festival we journey with the elegant and intelligent Diabolis through the past and the present as he comes face to face with himself and what it really means to be a Vampire. So far it sounds like a million other vampire stories but I can assure you that it isn’t. Returning to the creatures roots Diabolis of Dublin is a much rawer, grittier tale than the average vampire story, and is as far removed from the asinine romanticism of the Twilight series as it gets. Many of the familiar tropes are here from the gothic setting to the themes of loneliness, despair and death, but what sets it apart are its excursions into the under belly of Dublin life and the way it examines its lead characters troubles and problems.

michaelmulvihill

Author – Michael Mulvihill

It is completely unashamed and unforgiving in its portrayal of Dublin’s dark side and shares a brilliant sense of place with the author’s previous book. Both novels manage to conjure up vivid environments that leave you feeling as if you had actually been there. There is also a strange sense of sadness that creeps through the book, not just at Diabolis’ vampiric condition, but of a city swallowed by itself. Punctuated by sudden explosions of violence that the late, great James Herbert would be proud of the outskirts of the city are foreboding places where tragedy and sadness are never far away. It almost feels like a lament for a city that has lost some of its grandeur.

It isn’t perfect, and there are a couple of small moments where the black and white morality that marred Siberian Hellhole creep in. But these are fleeting, and for the most part Diabolis of Dublin paints a landscape where emotions and morality are complex and filled with grey areas. Turning many of the classic ideas about Vampires on their heads Mulvihill has crafted a tale about the stark loneliness of a true outsider, but also one about the stark social divides that exist in the world and the dark emotions that accompany them.

8/10

You can order Diabolis in Dublin from the following links below!! Just click on them .

Amazon UK 

Createspace

Amazon.com

The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #8 – Avia Vampire Hunter (2005) by Andy Deen

The UKHS Ecstasy & Agony Showcase #8:

The Agony of AVIA – VAMPIRE HUNTER (2005)

avia1It’s Boss-zilla Andy Deen’s turn to drop a vom-bomb over a movie he hates. Step up Leon Hunter’s blood sucking howler Avia: you’re in for a roasting…

When I was first approached about doing this Ecstasy & Agony thing, I did think about ranting about a few films I abhor such as… No, let’s not go there. Anyway, I mulled over all the films I hate and decided I’d go with the worst film I have ever seen. The key word is ‘Agony’ after all, so ladies and gentlemen I give you Avia – Vampire Hunter (2005).

I first came across Avia through an online group where we discussed the joys of low budget horror. A few of the members used to screen films online too which meant we could all watch along at the same time and comment whilst viewing. We had the joys of rubbish like Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966), HobGoblins (1988) , Zombeak (2006) and many more. The film that really stuck out though was Avia.

Avia starts with something I have never seen before and that is a trailer for itself. Yes, before the film starts we are treated to a trailer for the film we are about to see! Anyway onwards as two cops are examining a murder scene in the woods , when Avia [Allison Valentino] arrives and shows her hand made badge proving that she is secret service military. So she joins the two detectives as they try and find the killer. They track a man to a house where they discover a vampire in the attic, but luckily Avia is now carrying a 4 foot samurai sword and dispatches said vampire with chilling ease. Next and without any reason, Avia [Allison Valentino] and Detective Guy [Rodney ‘Jamal’ Jackson] move in together, leading to probably the worst sex scene in cinema history as they lie on the bed and ‘love’ each other whilst both being completely fully clothed. You can really feel the passion as Guy caresses Avia’s breasts through her white t-shirt and bra. Cut thirty minutes and some inspiring dream sequences and Guy finds out Avia used to be in a mental and is possibly just a nutter who is wanted for murder.

I don’t really need to go into anymore details about the plot because it doesn’t matter; you won’t be focusing on any part of the strained storyline, with the possible exception of the MAJOR TWIST at the end. Anyway, so what is my problem with Avia? Well, let me start…

avia2Montages. Avia is full of montages – they are everywhere! We have a Samurai practice montage where as Avia trains alone in the woods, swinging her sword to an accompanying sound of metal on metal. But wait… She is just slicing thin air!? There’s mental institution montage, the boat montage, the walking through the forest and up and down steps montage and lets not forget the shadow boxing in the backyard montage. And they’re all as horrendous as the last.

Avia is full of the use of multi camera angles to add dramatic effect; in the first scene alone we’re treat to about twelve different shots of her face as Avia kills the vampire.
The music is totally inappropriate too and is basically made up of fast funky beats, mainly played as Avia walks through the woods doing fuck all (about forty-five minutes of footage then). The only change in the soundtrack is when Rodney ‘Jamal’ Jackson gets a song of his played in the background; it truly is a rapper’s delight…

It’s Jackson who is the definite star of the film. He’s a great, bucktoothed Wesley Snipes wannabe and comes out with one-liners that are never truly meant. So cool is he in fact, Avia’s makers actually spell his name wrong in the opening credits.

The vampires that Avia encounters in the woods are probably as bad a job at making vampires as I have ever seen. They have what looks like breadsticks for fingers, badly fitting wigs and a piece of cloth over their eyes, which is probably used to keep the wigs on. But this is nothing compared to the head vampire who is a guy in a mask, and no-one could even be bothered to put any make-up from his neck down.

It’s this kind of attention to detail that is non-existent. In one scene, Avia is fighting and her top changes colour. On more than one occasion, the films sound is so appalling that the actor closest to camera is deafeningly loud yet the one further back in the frame are painfully quiet; they have to shout to be heard! Aforementioned fully clothed sex scene aside, the films highlight is when Avia is in full ninja gear and carrying a samurai sword and manages to hail a cab, which then takes her to a vampires house. There’s no questions asked or even an eyebrow raised.

photo (60)

A thumbs down and a piece of paper saying *wank* sums up my feelings to this film !!

Avia Vampire Hunter is truly a horrible film. It runs for ninety minutes that, after you’ve removed the endless montages, dream sequences and general forest meanderings, is actually only twenty minutes of real fucking film. Even that is too long! When I decided to watch it again for this article I made the wife sit with me. I was howling through various scenes; I mean even in the first minute when the cops are examining the body you can see Rodney ‘Jamal’ Jackson struggling to put on his latex gloves . But the wife walked out after less than an hour saying “this really is the worst film I have ever seen”, and I really must agree with her. It is agony to watch but – and this is a big BUT – I’ve perversely begun to enjoy it after my multiple re-viewings.

It’s a laugh, and a groaner and moaner; if you’re in the mood for that, you should track Avia down (no easy feat). Watch it with a few friends and beers and marvel at how one person (yes, you, director Leon Hunter) can completely fuck up everything – and I do mean everything – when it comes to making a film.

*****

Read all the previous Ecstasy & Agony pieces by clicking them:

#1 Dead & Buried (1981) by Duane Hicks 

#2 The Happening (2008) by James Pemberton 

#3 Sleepstalker (1995) by Matty Budrewicz

#4 A Serbian Film (2010) by Oli Ryder

#5 A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Dead (1985) by Dave Wain

#6 Cabin In The Woods (2012) by Joey Keogh

#7 Battle Royale (2000) by Mark Pidgeon 

Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979) BFI BluRay Review

ntv1Nosferatu The Vampyre (1979) – Limited Edition Steelbook (BluRay)

Released by BFI on May 19th 2014.

Director – Werner Herzog

Starring – Klaus Kinski, Isabelle Adjani, Bruno Ganz.

 

The story of Dracula has been told a thousand times before on the silver screen, the characters lasting appeal is evident in the luscious and romanticised interpretations presented across generations; it is F W Murnau’s 1922 expressionist masterpiece Nosferatu which is an undoubted influence on German director Werner Herzog’s reinterpretation of this classic story, his love song to the pinnacle of German cinema’s expressionist era.

Jonathan Harker (Bruno Ganz, Downfall), a real estate agent from Wismar, Germany is tasked with an ill fated journey through the Carpathian Mountains to close a deal with the mysterious Count Dracula (Klaus Kinski, Aguirre, Wrath of God). Despite several bad omens on his arduous journey Harker makes the trip only to discovers all is not as it seems with the count and his mansion.

The Pallid Count, his sickly pale skin, almost transparent exudes an aura in every scene he appears in. Kinski, the driving force here not once feels as though he needs to tread into camp overacting; a feat which is both refreshing and necessary to the story.

ntv2Herzog’s Dracula isn’t your atypical portrayal but this isn’t a typical horror picture, he masterfully creates tension with wonderfully crafted framing and painterly, expressionist imagery. Combined with an evocative and emotive score from Popul Vuh offers a deliberately paced cinematic experience filled with passion and homage – the aforementioned German expressionism movement a driving force in Herzog’s opus – in equal measure.

This film will undoubtedly alienate a large section of the current generation of vampire flick fandom, this is a staggeringly slow paced, character driven and distinctly human tale, the desperate nature of the count and his struggle with immortality a beautifully rich study of the lust and subsequent burden of everlasting life. Herzog presents this as a hindrance to the count rather than a power to be exploited, the usual vampire trope in modern cinema. This is a curious addition to the psyche of the count bringing a moving and thoughtful dimension to the vampire mythos.

Kinski plays the role much like the masters of silent cinema contorting his figure to evolve into the backgrounds strikingly fierce and terrifying at the same time, much like Max Schreck did with Count Orlock in the Murnau production from 1922. The magnetism of the vampire is evident in his scenes with Lucy Harker, upon watching her in her bedchamber wistfully lusting after the love she shares with her husband offers a wisp of longing and is presented here as something that the count is missing, love.

His acting is both meticulously paced and captivating, from the moment he firsts meets Harker to the desperate longing on display when a cut raises the counts primal urges Kinski uses his posture, eye contact and a tremendous intensity to bring the count to life.

ntv3Jonathan Harker is an interesting study into the depths that humanity will go to discover the unknown, starting his journey to the castle his motive, the purchase of a new home for his beloved wife Lucy quickly spirals into a quest to discover the truth behind the counts “ghost Castle” and the occupant, the count an elusive and supernatural fairy tale to the locals.

The supporting cast all work marvellously particularly Roland Topor’s portrayal of Renfield, his menacing and completely insane, mistimed cackling is wonderfully creepy and later in the film he is enamoured with the count his obedience and longing showcase his acting ability. The gorgeous Isabelle Adjani plays Lucy Harker wistfully, appearing almost dreamlike in some sequences, a rich ethereal presence heightened by the surreal and fantastical camerawork makes her a pivotal and seductive character and it is easy to see why Dracula lusts after her.

Opening with an harsh, unrelenting pan of mummified corpses- victims of a cholera epidemic- is jarred with haunting choral music setting the proceedings nicely, this is again coupled with the idyllic surroundings in which Harker journeys, again the accompanying music is hauntingly beautiful as it is throughout.

The film’s set design and lighting are both outstanding with the expressionist era encapsulated in the counts castle design, high angled shots showcase the intricate pattern and designs which were synonymous with the Murnau production and the blu ray showcases these perfectly shadows elicit the dark and expansive emptiness of the surroundings and bring the viewer closer to the feelings of Harker himself.

ntv4The muted colours express the desolation of the journey and an overuse of white reflects the undead nature of the count, everything from the craggy mountainsides with their dark grey and shadowy depths are alienating to the damp, wet countryside and dull, dank landscape shots all add to the feel of the film not guiding or smothering the viewer with a sense of security.

BFI have included both the German and English language versions of the film on the disc; the German language version the superior of the two presentations Kinski’s acting benefits more form this production,his delivery and emotion resonate more in his native tongue than they do in the English version. Both versions are of merit and it is down to personal preference as to which you view.

BFI have included a wonderful new essay from Laurie Johnson that thoroughly dissects the film and touches upon a controversial scene involving a plague of rats, Herzog received a lot of negative press about the mistreatment of animals during both the making of this and throughout his career, she offers a brilliant study of the film and is a highlight of this release. Sight and Sounds review from Tom Milne is included in the booklet as well and offers a fascinating look at the film from the time of its release in 1979, essential stuff.

An on set promotional film from 1979 is included and features extensive candid interviews with Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski about the shooting of Nosferatu to see them both talking about the film, film history and continuity.

Watching Herzog direct is a thing of beauty, the working relationship between the two as it has been historically documented and one filled with turmoil. Herzog is a passionate film maker and he comes across as a determined and focussed director with a rich passion for the embodiment of cinema itself, his passion unfolds across the screen a distinct, driven persona.

ntv5Also included on the disc is the original trailer and an extensive gallery of production stills set to the haunting Popul Vuh score these are a great look into the process of the films genesis.

This package from the BFI is both an essential and important release. Hopefully BFI will offer a whole new generation of cinephiles a chance to see a master at work, evocative seductive and intense this is the epitome of vampire films.

9/10

Special features:

• Limited Edition SteelBook

• Newly remastered presentations of the English and German versions

• Original mono audio (German and English)

• Alternative 5.1 Surround audio (German)

• Feature-length audio commentary with Werner Herzog

• On-set documentary (1979, 13 mins): promotional film featuring candid interviews with Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski

• Original theatrical trailer

• Stills gallery

• Fully illustrated booklet with a new essay by Laurie Johnson, full film credits and on-set photographs

 

An Interview with producer and script supervisor Sandy King Carpenter

Interview with Sandy King Carpenter for UK Horror Scene

S1UKHS: Hi Sandy! First of all, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us! You seem to be a creative type who enjoys having a huge number of fingers in incredibly varying pies, does it ever get confusing or difficult hopping from one medium to another? Would you class yourself as a total workaholic?

SKC: HA HA HA!! Oh my God, I don’t think so. I prefer to think I just have a very active and interesting life. There are many ways to tell a story and they all offer interesting challenges and opportunities to reach new audiences. I find that there is a more organic flow than one might think from one medium to the other when the various avenues present themselves. My path into film making came from animation, which had come from my being an artist first, so there is more of a common thread between these worlds (say the comic books and the movies) than it might first appear.

UKHS: Of all your many projects that you have worked on, do you have a particular favourite that you find yourself looking back on with the most pride?

SKC: That’s like asking a parent to choose between their children. Most of the great memories come from the experience of working with great technicians and artists who become your family and friends. I love making movies. I love making comic books. I love learning new things and in our business, the technology is constantly evolving. There is no point at which you sit back and say, “Now I know it all.” I get excited when I’m driving down the freeway and I see film trucks headed down the highway at magic hour. I want to follow them like the circus. I want to see what they’re doing and how. So I might answer your question this way: that the film I am doing at the moment is my favorite and the most exciting. It’s new love–fresh and unknown.
BUT…I love “Big Trouble in Little China” to sit back with a big bowl of popcorn and laugh my ass off with.
“Vampires” to remember waiting for the sunrises in New Mexico to fly Valek across the sky.
“Rumble Fish” for working 104 hours a week in 115 degree heat and making an American art film.
“Starman” for finding true love.

UKHS: Having expanded your talents to the world of comic books, are you pleased with how they are now hugely embedded on mainstream conscious like never before or do you find yourself pining for the days when the world of comic book fans and makers felt more shall we say ‘exclusive and secretive’?

SKC: I’ve never been a fan of exclusive clubs. Whenever I find something I think is cool I like to share it, so I love that comics and graphic novels are finally getting their due. Finally mainstream is recognizing the great artists and writers who have been telling stories there, and much like current television, I think the comic world is expanding and the writing is getting even more diversified and better. Maybe I’m crazy, but it feels like a second Golden Age of comics to me.

S7UKHS: We seemingly can’t move these days for huge blockbuster pictures based on comic books, with their often incredibly varying quality, do you feel that there’s a slight case of over-kill in the market?

SKC: Not all comics make good movies and not all movies make good comics. It’s not one size fits all. I’m just pleased at the number who have gotten it right.

UKHS: Something that certainly can’t be ignored is the very male-dominated focus of both the films and fan-base in general. Having worked on the fantastic ‘Heroes’ anthology with Womanthology, do you feel as if you’ve made a significant step to stem the tide or is there more that still needs to be done to have female characters be on level footing with their male counterparts?

SKC: Actually, I did the second anthology, “Space”, which was the series that grew out of “Heroes”. Rene Deliz was the driving force behind Womanthology and I thought she did a brilliant job of showing publishers and retailers and readers that there was all this female talent in the comic industry ready to tell stories that all ages of females (and males) would buy. She proved we were economically viable and supportable. Little girls could be found in the corner of comic shops across the country reading that giant volume of Womanthology comics. Twice.

In general, the best way to push female character forward is to make them as interesting and as deeply flawed a their male counterparts. Make them WHOLE personalities. Gail Simone has always written amazing female characters and pushed Red Sonja right up to the forefront when she took it over.
EVERYBODY was reading it. That’s what it takes. You can’t whine and make it happen.

UKHS: As someone who’s dealt with their fair share of projects of the horror genre persuasion, what do you personally find is the best way to scare people?

SKC: Suspense and dread. It isn’t about the gore and the jumps so much as it is the underlying truths of personal fear.

UKHS: How do you personally see the state of the horror genre as it is today in comparison to what it was?

SKC: I think it’s gotten lazy. But I have faith we’ll cycle back into something more interesting. I’m glad the slasher/torture porn seems to have worn itself out.
I’m happy the Scandinavians seem to have infiltrated a bit and given us a bit of darkness.

S5UKHS: Are we any closer to getting the highly anticipated ‘Darkchylde’ film adaptation off the ground?

SKC: I sure hope so. We are currently finalizing the look book for the agents to take out and have just finished shooting some motion capture segments for the pre-viz for sales presentations. WETA has designed some great monsters for us and we have our visual FX team together and sets being designed.

UKHS: Much of John Carpenter’s iconic film scores have recently been lovingly pressed onto vinyl and snapped up incredibly quickly by die-hard fans. Does it surprise you at all that his music is still considered to be so influential and adored and do you find it a shame that these days there appears to be a distinct lack of effort put into a film’s soundtrack?

SKC: I’m not surprised at all by how popular his soundtracks are. He’s a great composer and some of his themes are truly iconic. While some soundtracks seem either over-amped or cliched, I am in awe of Hans Zimmer and Brian Tyler’s work. John Williams is still hammering them out and I thought Steven Price’s score for “Gravity” was really good. T-Bone Burnett does the unexpected.

UKHS: Increasingly today, a great deal of effort is being put into creating truly terrifying horror video-game experiences that often pack a great story with them. Are you at all concerned that with the direct interaction afforded by the game experience that audiences may end up turning their back on horror films altogether?

SKC: No. They are two different forms of entertainment. A good horror movie is like a good ghost story told around a campfire. Great Stephen King books read at night with a storm outside are another way to get scared. A massive roller coaster that turns upside down works, too. There’s room for it all.

S3UKHS: With the world increasingly focusing of the injustices of the “1%” and the terrifying manipulative powers of corporations, do you almost feel eerily prophetic when you look back on the satire of ‘They Live’? It certainly feels as relevant watching it today as it must have been at the time, if not more so

SKC: At the time we considered it political satire and still do. It was what we saw happening around us. Nothing has changed.

UKHS: On a personal note, ‘Big Trouble In Little China’ is one of my all time favourite films and I still find it outrageous that it wasn’t the success it deserved to be at the time. When assisting with the script, did you feel that it was going to potentially be too ‘out-there’ for mainstream audiences or that it was so unique and exciting a project that it didn’t really matter?

SKC: No. It’s a great movie. Funny, timeless and discovered by new generations every incarnation of home video, DVD and Netflix that comes along. It’s a movie that succeeded in spite of a studio that made every effort to bury it. We believed in it. We still believe in it and Jack Burton and the Pork Chop Express roll on.

S4UKHS: The hugely-anticipated comic book series based on the film is coming out this summer, what, if anything can you tell us about it and is it the closest we’ll get to ever seeing Jack Burton again?

SKC: Eric Powell, the creator of “The Goon”, is writing the new comic. He and John have been working together to set the tone for it and I think fans of both the movie and Eric’s comics will have fun with the new book. BOOM! publishes good quality comic books, and from what I’ve seen of the upcoming art and covers and pieces of the stories, I think “Big Trouble” fans will have fun with them. As for the future of Jack Burton? I wish Fox would ask us to fire up the Pork Chop Express again. I think Jack and Wang could really shake the pillars of heaven one more time.

UKHS: And finally, if you had to select one film of your husband’s extensive back catalogue to watch on the couch on a lazy Sunday, which one would it be and why?

SKC: Only one? Damn. Give me two Sundays.
On a lazy summer Sunday it would be “Big Trouble in Little China” for the sheer fun of it. I have great memories of everyone involved in it and I love a comedy that I can lose myself in and laugh out loud.
On a dark and rainy winter Sunday–preferably with thunder and lightening–it would be “The Thing”. I have to say that this is my all time favourite movie of John’s. I think it is flawless film making. I’ve seen it dozens of times and the suspense still kills me. Jeb, the dog from the Norwegian camp, walking down the hallways looking in doors is terrifying. Testing for the blood…I still jump every time it screams. The notion underneath it all that you aren’t what you seem. Perfect.

UKHS: Sandy King Carpenter, it’s been an enormous honour, from all of us at UKHorrorScene, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to us!

SKC: Thank you for asking.

 

 

 

Only Lovers Left Alive (2014)

OOnly Lovers Left Alive (2014)

123 mins

Dir: Jim Jarmusch

Starring: Tom Hiddlestone, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Mia Wasikowska and Anton Yelchin

Two vampires Adam (Hiddlestone) and Eve (Swinton) have been in a centuries-long relationship and are reuniting, after time spent apart, in Detroit, where Adam spends his time secluded in his music studio, producing his ‘funeral music’ that has earnt him a huge cult following. The pair face a struggle to find a constant source of pure blood supply as well as the imminent arrival of Eve’s sister, Ava (Wasikowska) who has a history of losing control of her ‘hunger’…

It is a sad fact that it has been a long time since a modern day classic vampire film has emerged. The last truly fantastic example was David Slade’s frankly terrifying adaptation of the ‘30 Days of Night’ series which did a superb job of making vampires a proper image of pure fear once again. There was also the cult-hit ‘Queen of the Damned’ at the peak of the nu-metal craze with its kick-ass soundtrack and heavy emphasis on sex appeal and of course Coppola’s masterpiece in ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’, with Gary Oldman providing the best ever turn as Dracula (I went there) and the film bathed in gloriously OTT lashings of stylised gothic romance.

O1 So where does ‘Only Lovers left Alive’ come into the equation of vampire films? Simply put, it’s a future classic that officially has set the new bar for vampire films to come. Of course, this is an opinion that will certainly not be shared by all. Indeed, many will simply loathe this film and call it arty hipster pretentious wank and if this review works on any level, you’ll hopefully be able to see precisely how people could have such drastically contrasting opinions!

Possibly the main stickler for many will be the plot or rather, in the negative view, distinct lack of one. My brief synopsis at the beginning only dealt with one particular incident in a film that is far more content to let mood and atmosphere take precedence. On top of this, the film’s main focus is just to stare longingly like a besotted teenager at the deep gothic romance that sizzles between its lead characters. Oh and they’re friends with the still alive Christopher Marlowe (Hurt) and the adorably hopeless Ian (Yelchin) who is Adam’s manager of sorts.

Much time in the film is dedicated to lengthy discussions about famous authors, books, instruments, musicians and great thinkers. Some will derive great humour from the cheeky nods to various pieces of classical culture but this is sure to alienate those who are less ‘cultured’ and certainly to mainstream culture would smack of trying to be incredibly ‘hipster’ for the sake of it. It is debatable as to whether or not the film is actually in on the joke, Adam sternly rebukes Ava when she asks for a digital download of his music (he favours vinyl, of course) and Ian is made to look very desperate when putting on his own pair of sunglasses in a club to try and fit in with the undead trio.

O2 Short of Adam’s dramatic threats of suicide to escape the ‘zombies’ (regular people), a certain nasty incident that befalls hapless Ian and the need to obtain pure blood, there is very little by means of narrative drive. In place of punctual neck puncturing, the film devotes to time to simply following the lead couple as they take in the dark and desolate city of Detroit on their many drives at night. This is certain to infuriate most but the film has this deceptively vampiric way of drawing you in and leaving all desires for tension or even conflict behind. A comparison could be made that is almost as if Nic Winding Refn helmed his own version of the still over-looked ‘Near Dark’, with extra layers of gothic romance turned up to 11.

It must really irk Jim Jarmusch that the perfect tagline for the film has already been inappropriately used by the first ‘Twilight’ film. “When you can live forever, what do you live for?” is much better suited to OLLA as it is the crux of what makes the incendiary onscreen romance between Hiddleston and Swinton so compelling. Yes some may find their constant lounging around in each other’s arms and endless fawning over one another distasteful, but what Jarmusch has expertly captured is the idea that each means absolutely everything in the world to the other. This is the kind of epic love story done on such a small scale that we have not seen in a long time, or certainly not as well conveyed by two of Britain’s most talented actors.

03We are invited by Jarmusch to almost feel like an unseen third party in their relationship, that they love each other so uncontrollably that it can’t help but over-spill and wash over the audience. It’s not all passionate embraces and endless shagging however, the two share their squabbles that remain even after their third wedding but also they, like the film, have a very dry sense of humour about their vampire status. The film’s standout scene is when the two of them share blood popsicles together, yes an easy gag but one that works perfectly.

Hiddleston oozes the vampiric sex appeal of the ‘troubled artist’,  a mess of black hair covers his face and he spends most of the time shirtless but never is he insufferably moody, just an alluring misanthrope who is more than capable of holding your attention with a piercing stare (move over Loki). Swinton provides the ‘brighter’ counterpart, a novel and nature lover who seems to be the only being capable of eliciting a smile out of  Hiddleston and the pair have such a firey  onscreen chemistry that fits together like ying and yang. A PROPER undead romance done properly and one that rivals even Oldman’s Dracula and Ryder’s Mina, that’s how powerful it is!

O4The delicious black cherry on top of the film’s dense trance-like atmosphere is the mind-meltingly perfect moody tones of the soundtrack, helmed by Jozef van Wissem and Squrl. Adam’s ‘funeral music’ is featured heavily throughout as it perfectly encapsulates his doom-laden and nihilistic attitude of life and when things start to go wrong for the characters. When the music transcends from simply being background to a key component of the overall success of the film, again much like with Winding Refn’s work, clearly it’s working perfectly. The moody tones are wonderfully counter-balanced by one scene when Adam and Eve dance to a poppy vinyl track in one of the film’s few outward examples of being even remotely ‘cheery’.

Ultimately, the film’s appeal is aimed directly at those who revel in the gothic romance element of the vampire mythos. Those who prefer their coffin-dwellers with more bite and less navel-gazing had best steer clear but what cannot be denied is that this film has all the makings of a genre classic that will be taken and poured over for years to come.

Verdict: An intoxicating piece of pure gothic cinema, the likes of which we have not seen in many a year. Excruciatingly slow for many but for others, a bewitching, profoundly romantic delight 10/10