Monday, November 30, 2009

Alucarda (1978)

Title: Alucarda (1978)

Director: Juan Lopez Moctezuma

Cast: Claudio Brook, David Silva, Tina Romero, Susana Kamini


The critics quote on the DVD cover for Alucarda cought my attention one day while I was shopping around for new movies. The quote said that Alucarda had "More nudity, blood and loud screaming then any movie I can think of" and I thought to myself, "Damn! Those are bold words right there!" But I’d been fooled more then once by phony critic quotes on DVD covers saying the film you are holding in your hand is the best thing you are ever going to see in your whole life. So I decided to do some research. Turns out Alucarda is actually held in high regards amongst horror fans and movie buffs. Its not a very well known movie (even amongst horror fans) but the ones who have seen it say its something of an undiscovered gem.

Justine's just lost both of her parents and has been sent to an all girls orphanage/convent. Here she lives amongst nuns and other orphans as they worship “the lord”. Pretty early on, she befriends Alucarda, the freakiest girl this side of The Exorcist! Since they are both orphans, they quickly become extremely close. Almost too close! In fact, their relationship borders on lesbianism. They run around the hills all day, frolic and jump and rung amongst the woods, you know, just having fun. Until one day, they stumble upon an old burial ground. They decide, just for the heck of it, to open up and old casket. An old entity comes out and posseses them! And just in case, they also sell their soul to the devil thanks to the help of a mysterious old gypsy dude! From there on in, the film is total mayhem.

Don’t know how many of you guys have seen nunsploitation films, but basically, what these films do is they exploit nuns. They usually do so in a very negative manner. On these kinds films nuns are evil, get possessed, raped or they are somehow involved in some kind of orgy. Basically, nuns will do everything that their god doesn’t want them to do! With Alucarda, the nunsploitation flick never looked so good! Or so sacrilegious! On this one, nuns scream, bleed, and are being constantly harassed by demon possessed girls! The director, Juan Lopez Moctezuma really wanted to shock audiences; he basically takes everything many Christians hold sacred and desecrates them! In other words, on this film, Satan appears! The girls sell their souls to him! They invoke Satan inside of a church! Nuns bleed profusely! A crucifix is burned to smithereens! A church and its parishioners gets burned down to the ground! So be ready for that kind of film where nothing is really held sacred. And if it is, its gonna get desecrated! Basically, if you hear this movie too loud, your neighbors will think you’re a Satanist!

Its nuts! At one point Alucarda and Justine start saying how they both renounce god and want to worship Satan forever! And they say it with such conviction and glee, it kind of made me chuckle a few times! I don’t believe in Satan or anything, but what their saying just sounds so wrong! Its like they give themselves entirely to Satan! 100%! The movie is filled with scenes like this one. So if you can’t take that sort of thing, don’t bother with this one!

Another thing that lets me know that Juan Lopez Moctezuma really wanted to shock audiences is the fact that there is so much nudity on this film. There is this extended scene where Alucarda and Justine run away for one night deep into the woods, and they stumble upon a full fledged Satanic orgy. Theres all sorts of freaky people dancing around naked in the fire! Even Satan shows up for this wild and crazy night. This whole sequence actually reminded me a lot of a scene just like it in Haxan: Witchcraft through the Ages, in which Satan shows up during a witch reunion. Also, saying that there are lesbian undertones in Alucarda and Justine’s relationship is actually an understatement, there aren’t any undertones. These girls are in love with each other! Needless to say the movie is sexually charged. This aspect of the film also reminded me of a Hammer film, particularly films like The Vampire Lovers from the whole Karnstein series of films that Hammer produced during the 70’s. Actually, many people thought that this movie was based on Carmilla, the same book on which The Vampire Lovers was based on, but those rumors were always denied by the filmmakers.

The art direction was superb in this movie! I love how they made that spooky church. It seemed to be an underground cave of sorts. With statues of human bodies coming out of the walls, hundreds of lit candles. And right smack in the middle of the church, amongst all the hanging bodies, there’s this spooky looking crucifix!

The film is well acted. Everyone involved does a fine job. Tina Romero of course stands out as Alucarda, the devil obsessed girl. She really goes crazy in some scenes, her sacriligeious dialogue is told with such conviction, that she really does come off as someone who doesn’t give a flying flip about anything, and has simply donated her soul to the services of Beelzebub. With absolutely no remorse in sight! Susana Kamini as Justine plays the opposite of Justine. The good girl, who eventually ends up getting completely corrupted by evil. And finally, Claudio Brook. The actor who plays Dr. Ozek in the film. He deserves a special mention here because he actually plays two roles. On the one hand he plays Dr. Osek, the man who directs his life by logic, science and reason, and on the other hand, he plays the weird gypsy dude who helps Justine and Alucarda sell their souls. Juan Lopez Moctezuma actually wanted Peter Cushing to play this role, but we ended up getting Claudio Brook who did an excellent job anyway.

Is there anything bad to say about this film? Well, I don’t know, I really cant say I remember anything being particularly negative. For the most part, this is an excellent horror film! Maybe there’s a bit too much screaming? Too much nudity? Maybe Alucarda overacts a bit in her madness? Oh what the hell, this is a freaking horror movie, and all these elements fit perfectly well inside a horror film. The only bad thing I can honestly say about it is that it lacked some special effects. Maybe some decent make up effects for that devil guy that shows up? The ending goes a bit into Carrie/Firestarter territory. I think the film could have used some visual effects work towards the fiery end. But I enjoyed the way it was filmed. They achieved everything without the need to rely on visual effects which is something I often times applaud on films, when its well achieved. On Alucarda, visual effects are replaced by spooky sound effects and inventive camera work.

This was a decent film that was shocking, bloody, erotic and satanic at the same time. It was also intelligent and well written. Kind of like a Hammer flick on acid. Only more Satanic. Good stuff!

Rating: 3 1/2 out 5

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Devil's Rain (1975)

Title: The Devils Rain (1975)

Director: Robert Fuest

Cast: Ernest Borgnine, Tom Skerrit, William Shatner, John Travolta


When it comes to Satan worshipping films, very few of them achieve a level of believability. Most of the time they come of as silly, corny, or just plain laughable. Recently I had the opportunity of seeing Hammer Films To the Devil...a Daughter, and honestly, most of the time it was a laugh fest to me. It’s very rare for these films to come of as serious or scary. I’ve yet to see Ken Russell’s The Devils, but it sounds like a promising Satan Worshipping film. I’ve heard some good things about that one. Of the rare films that deal with this subject matter only a handful of them are good. Roman Polanski’s seems to be one of the few directors to understand how to make these kinds of films. His two Satanism films, The Ninth Gate (1999) and Rosemary’s Baby (1968) are proof of this. The Omen and its sequels are decent.

Run! The Christians are here! And they've brought William Shatner with them!

The Devils Rain caught my attention for various reasons. One of them was that it was one of John Travolta’s first performances ever. Another was that William Shatner (aka Captain Kirk) was in it. But these weren’t the big draws for me with this movie. What really grabbed me was that they used the "high priest of the church of Satan" (a.k.a. Anton Lavey) as a technical advisor for the film. That fact really peeked my curiosity for this film. Not because Im interested in Satanism or anything like that (I actually believe its one big joke!) but because I wanted to see what Anton Lavey, the founder of the “Church of Satan” could conjure up. Shouldn’t the high priest of Satan have a clear idea of what Satan is supposed to be like? Would he make us crap in our pants with a real vision of what Satan is like? Apparently not. Apparently the guy is full of shit. Apparently, he has a very cartoonish notion of what Satan is supposed to be like! If Ernest Borgnine with a gotee is what Satan is supposed to be like…then hell is one funny place! It’s a riot! Which just proves what I have always thought about religious leaders. They know nothing about what they preach!

Moving on, I can’t say Anton Lavey is the only guy to blame, for who is more responsible for what appears up on the movie screen then the films director? In this case, Robert Fuest was the man behind the camera. He had directed previous black horror comedies like The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)and Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972). So it comes as no surprise that The Devils Rain came off as being a complete laugh riot as opposed to being a serious horror film about Satanism. This film received scathing reviews from critics everywhere destroying forever Robert Fuest’s directorial carreer. He ended up doing mostly tv work after this film was over with.

The story for The Devil’s Rain concerns a satanic cult led by a man named Corbis, played by Ernest Borgnine. William Shatner’s mom and dad have turned into devil worshippers! And Shatner wants to rescue them! Good news is that William Shatner’s dad betrays the Satanists and hands Shatner a magical book containing the names of all of those who have sold their souls to the Devil! Now Shatner holds the book! Corbis needs the book back in order to send the souls of all his followers to hell. Unfortunately, William Shatner has the book and he doesn’t want to give it back! I love that scene where he says with that unique Shatner voice: "I won’t give a devil man what he wants!"

This movie was a fun watch. I think it’s the combination of Ernest Borgnine and William Shatner is what did it for me. These guys are a hoot to watch! Ernest Borgnine as Corbis is positively evil! But weird as it may be, he is also funny! In an unintentional way that is. Borgnine’s performance is both cheesy and good at the same time. He looks funny dressed in red garments all the while his beer belly sticks out like a sore thumb. And it’s even funnier hearing him call the devil, saying all sorts of sacrilegious phrases. Then there’s Shatner who is always enjoyable to watch! He is guilty of over acting on this film on more then one occasion. He spoke his words as if he was giving commands aboard the Enterprise. It felt to me like the filmmakers brought these two actors together to see if they could bring the cheese factor higher. Well, I’ll tell ya, they achieved it. And goddamn it, even with all its faults, this film was fun as hell to watch. And for those of you holding their breath to catch Travolta in his second film role -his first being the William Shatner directed The Tenth Level (1975)- well don’t blink cause you just might miss it. He is virtually unrecognizable under the satanic black garments and make up. Honestly, the only way I recognized him was by looking at the dimple in his chin. He is practically an extra on this film. Well, I guess we all got to start somewhere!

The atmosphere in the movie is excellent. Right from the first opening minutes you are treated to an opening sequence that will certainly pull you in! You are right smack in the middle of a lightning storm with buckets and buckets of rain falling and the wind blowing like a madman. It just pulled me in right away and I loved that! Then there’s the spooky ghost town in which the Satanist’s do their worshipping. The isolation factor was very high on this production. The desolated town was a ripe old place for Satan mongers to fester in!

Something that has to be mentioned when talking about this Satanic Opus is the make up effects. We have to remember that this movie was boasting to have "the most incredible ending on any motion picture ever!" So of course, we should expect something special in its last frames. And special it was. Not mind blowingly special, but special enough to liven up my Saturday night. The ending was all sorts of gooey, messy, wet and slimy. Well worth the wait. The ending definitely lives up to the films title. What I really liked about the ending is that it goes on and on! We get to see slimy Satan worshipers melting in the rain for a long time! They really took their time to show these devil bastards melting in every which way they could possibly think of. I guess they spent a lot of the movies budget on the melting effects so they really wanted you to get a good look at them. Some might think this goes on for longer then it should, but I enjoyed it just the way it is.

The film has a couple of negative things about it. Number one, its pretty dull. I mean, it has all the elements for an entertaining movie, it just doesn’t know how to display them in an entertaining fashion. But of course, the cheesy factor comes in and makes things a bit more watchable. So yeah, its cheesy as hell. I mean come on dudes! Didn’t they use a high priest of the church of Satan to write this thing? Yet the whole thing comes off as a cartoony version of devil worship. Even the devil himself is a cartoon on this one! Complete with goat horns and all! I was expecting something a bit more serious from a movie that boasted having a high priest of the church of Satan helping them along the way. But no, we get the cartoon version of what Satanism is like. But this is not to say that the movie want was oodles of fun. Just not real or scary which is one of the main complaints with this movie. Its all about Satan, but it doesn’t even try to be scary. And yet another negative thing about the film is that it never really explains why the rain melts away the devil worshippers. Why do they die when rain hits them? Who the hell knows!

In conclusion, this was a fun movie with lots of cool little things to keep you interested, gooey slimy fx, cheesy story and acting. Plus don’t forget the Satanism which we all know is always good for a laugh. I consider Satanist to be lower in the religious beliefs pantheon. It somehow feels sillier then all other religions put together. Well, maybe not sillier then Scientology, but pretty damn close! So just remember, this movie is fun times, if you don’t take it seriously. It’s just not that type of movie and anyway the minute Shatner starts saying his dialogue you’ll think his going to beam Satan up to the enterprise or something. How can you not laugh at that?

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Asylum (1972)

Title: Asylum (1972)

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Starring: Peter Cushing


Hammer Studios wasn’t the only English film studio wholeheartedly dedicated to making horror films, there was also a studio called Amicus Productions. Now, though these two studios often times shared directors, crew and actors, Amicus films were known for doing one thing: making anthology films! That’s right, they didn’t just do a film with one story, they did one film which told four and sometimes five stories. George Romero’s Creepshow (1982) and John Harrison’s Tales from the Darkside: The Movie (1990) are similar in this way. So was Cat’s Eye (1985). Amicus did this kind of film with almost all of their productions. There most famous ones being Tales from the Crypt (1972), Vault of Horror (1973), The House that Dripped Blood (1970), And Now the Screaming Starts! (1973) and Dr. Terror’s House of Horror’s (1965). The one I will be reviewing today was called Asylum. How was it?

The titular Asylum

Well, the wrap around story on this one is about a psychiatrist called Dr. Martin who is arriving at an insane Asylum because he is trying to get a job there as the new head doctor since the previous head doctor, one Dr. B. Starr now forms part of the crazies of the institution! This asylum is a place for the “incurably insane”, and its in the middle of nowhere England. On his first meeting with the man in charge of the asylum he is made a deal. In order to prove his abilities as a psychiatrist, Dr. Martin has to go patient by patient, room by room interviewing each patient to see if he can identify who use to be the asylums previous head doctor, Dr. B Starr. So that’s how the movie begins. As Dr. Martin begins to visit each patient, we get a different story.

The first story is called “Frozen Fear” and it’s about this woman named Bonnie who is having an affair with a married man named Martin. Martin is married to Ruth, but he is extremely unhappy with her. They no longer love each other. To top things off, Ruth has just started getting herself into voodoo, and she wears a magic bracelet and all that. Well, the day comes when Bonnie and Martin decide to finally kill Ruth. Will they kill her? And if they do, will she stay dead? This story was pretty cool, and it’s probably the best of the bunch. I don’t understand why they didn’t decide to leave this one for last, cause usually they save the best for last in anthology films. But I guess they wanted to open with a bang, so they gave us this one first. This is the story that’s responsible for the illustration on the poster, with the chopped off head wrapped in a paper bag.

The second story is called “The Weird Tailor” and it stars Hammer star Peter Cushing, who jumped the fence over to Amicus Productions for this one. Jumping from Hammer to Amicus was something he did yet again for another Amicus production called Tales from the Crypt. And many Hammer actors did the same, like Christopher Lee for example, who appears in Dr. Terror’s House of Horror. Sadly, Cushing is a part of the worst of all the stories, but heck, its not that bad. This story is about a tailor called Bruno, who is one day visited by a mysterious gentleman, called Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith commissions Bruno to make a very expensive suit made of a special fabric that he himself will provide. Bruno is about to be evicted from his shop so he says “sure, Ill do it!” When the suit is done, its true purpose is revealed.

The third story is called “Lucy comes to Stay” in which we meet this woman named Barbara who just been released from an insane asylum. She is going back to her home with her brother, who is trying to help her put her life back on track. You see, Barbara had been doing heavy drugs and was constantly talking to an imaginary friend called Lucy. But apparently that’s all over and Barbara is ready to get back to living a normal life. Unfortunately, she feels oppressed by her brother, who is taking care of her almost as if he was her father. So, one night, Lucy reappears! What horrors will Lucy and Barbara commit together in order to escape the oppressive environment?

The final story is called “Mannequins of Horror” and on this one, we meet Dr. Byron; a crazed mad man of a doctor who builds these little robots and collects them in a cupboard. One of the robots has Dr. Byron’s likeness and he tells Dr. Martin that he is experimenting with transferring his consciousness onto the little robot. He even tells Dr. Martin that the robots has all its internal organs and everything. It even has a little brain inside of it! Dr. Martin dismisses him as totally insane and leaves. Soon after, Dr. Byron succeeds in transferring his consciousness onto the robot! The robot walks out of the room! Will Dr. Byrons diabolical escape plan come to fruition?

Hammer veteran director Roy Ward Baker (The Vampire Lovers, Scars of Dracula) was in charge of directing duties for this one. He had some inspired moments in it, like when Dr. Martin is one his way to the asylums rooms and stops to look at some pictures that are up on the wall of different morbid medical practices done through the ages. The dvd has interviews with Roy Ward Baker and the producer and founder of Amicus Productions, recalling the days when everything got started. Baker compares what it was like to work with Amicus vs. working with Hammer. This dvd extra is worth the price of admission cause you also get to see and hear another famous Hammer director: Freddie Francis. I worship these guys cause of the movies they made when they were young, and found it extremely interesting to hear them talking about their films after all these years. Asylum was written by Robert Bloch, better known for having written Alfred Hitchcocks Psycho.

So there you have it, synopsis for all the four stories in the film, but you’ll have to watch them in order to know how they turn out. This movie was fun, but I couldn’t help thinking that it could have been better. As if it is, the best thing about the film is the music, which pretty much makes the film more exciting then it really is. Asylum does have a very dark tone to it, especially when it comes to the resolution of its stories, so be on the look out for that. It’s got a nihilistic tone to it. I’m looking forward to seeing more Amicus Productions films. I will be reviewing them soon, so keep an eye for them!

Rating: 3 out of 5

Monday, November 23, 2009

Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969)

Title: Taste the Blood of Dracula (1969)

Director: Peter Sasdy

Cast: Christopher Lee, Ralph Bates, Linda Hayden, Geoffrey Keen


I have started a lot of these Hammer film reviews with the words “this is one of the best” and I just realized while re-watching a lot of these old Hammer Dracula classics that they truly were a very well produced batch of films. It was in their last days that they started to go down in quality. But these earlier Dracula films, were awesome. Taste the Blood of Dracula was the fourth Hammer Dracula film to star Christopher Lee as Dracula, and if you ask me, it truly was one of the best of the series!

The film concerns these three rich entrepreneurs who are bored with life. They have seen it all and done it all. Now they want something new to spark some life into their redundant and dull lives. So in there search for new amusements, they stumble upon one Lord Courtley, a young guy who’s very much into black masses and selling his soul to the devil. Not in the poetic sense, but in its literal sense. Lord Courtley offers the three rich dudes the opportunity to sell their souls to Satan by resurrecting Count Dracula himself! Will these three gents go through with it and literally taste the blood of Dracula?

What I loved most about this movie was the way the script was unfolding. It was written in such a way that there is never a dull moment. And this is saying a lot since the film managed to retain my interest with no Dracula in sight for more then 45 minutes! I mean, I was literally interested in everything that was happening before Dracula even shows up, so that’s a bonus in my book! The thing about this movie is that the three rich gentlemen prove to be such interesting characters. On the one hand, they put up this façade where they go to church, and they are respectable members of society, while on the other they go away to some hidden whore house and entertain themselves with alcohol, drugs and whores dancing with snakes. But even with all the lewd entertainment they can afford, they are still frustrated and bored with their lives. In comes Lord Courtley one day (played with evil relish by the great Ralph Bates) to offer these gentlemen the opportunity to resurrect the lord of darkness.

Ralph Bates was being considered to play the role of the main vampire in this movie because Christopher Lee was refusing to appear on this film. Hammer was basically going to do the same thing they did with Brides of Dracula. If Christopher Lee doesn’t want to be on our movie fine, will do the movie without him! But unfortunately for Hammer, American distributors were not going to market this movie unless Lee was in it, so after a lot of begging from Hammers part, Christopher Lee agreed to appear on Taste the Blood of Dracula. What this meant for Ralph Bates was that he was denied the chance to play the lead vampire. This is probably the reason why Dracula does not appear until we are already way into the movie. But like I said, that’s not a major problem because the film itself is interesting on its own without Dracula. We get Ralph Bates being the evil one for one half of the film, the one that instigates the three rich guys, and the one who offers them the doors to hell. Then Dracula takes over on the second half of the film.

Honestly, I would not have minded if Ralph Bates had played the main vampire on this movie, to me he was always such a great asset whenever he appeared on any Hammer film. He always did a great job. Specially when playing villains. On this one, he is the young guy unafraid to resurrect Dracula, but not entirely comprehending what he is truthfully getting himself into.

What I enjoyed the most about this picture though were the three rich dudes. They are these two faced heartless individuals. They go to church, they have these beautiful families, but in their personal lives they are idiots. One in particular, Geoffrey Keen who pretty much plays the leader of the trio did an outstanding job of playing the evil over protective father. He is a Christian, yet goes to whore houses, does drugs and gets drunk, yet he expects complete chastity from his daughter Alice, who is only looking for true love in her life. Keen played the type of father who doesn’t want to let his daughter ouf of his home, he wants to keep her in her room locked tight! No flirting with young men, though its completely normal behavior at her age. Geoffrey Keen's performance is outstanding, in one scene he feels real remorse for having dealt with the forces of Darkness, and I swear real pain could be felt in his performance!

Speaking of performances, Christopher Lee doesn’t do much on this movie besides do what he does best. Play the silent evil Dracula! There are some memorable Dracula images on this one! Like the scene where Dracula has completely red eyes! Not bloodshot, but entirely red! Dracula appears 50 minutes into the picture, when his resurrection is finally complete and he begins to take revenge upon the three fathers who weren’t willing to go through with the resurrection ritual in its entirety. In this movie, Dracula goes for the sons and daughters of those who wronged him, so he goes about turning them into vampires. This movie does a good job of getting us to like and fall in love with certain characters, like the beautiful Alice (played by the incredibly angelic Linda Hayden) and then transforming them into tools of evil! Awesome, this movie was one of the ones where I was yelling at the screen “No! That is NOT happening!” So it moved me that way, I got into it.

The true message of the movie is towards parents. The message being, if you are an evil father, you are going to eventually pay for it. There is one truly shocking scene in which Alice is going to commit patricide! I thought that was kind of shocking for this kind of film, but there it was in all its shocking glory. I like that idea of kids running away when they realize that their parents aren’t good for them in the least. It’s the rational thing to do when you have the unfortunate fate of getting unreliable or just plain evil parents, run for the hills! Make it own your own in this damn life! So that’s more or less what this movie is trying to put forth. Be a good loving parent to your kids…or else it will come back and bite you in the ass! Or in your neck.

Rating: 5 out of  5

Friday, November 20, 2009

Twilight (2008)

Title: Twilight (2008)

Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Starring: Christen Stuart, Robert Pattinson, Peter Facinelli


So yeah, I’m one of those people who were always reluctant to watch Twilight. Why? Well, you know the usual macho reasons. The movies target audience is young girls, so I’m predetermined, at a genetic level, to not want to watch this film. It’s not that I’m a chauvinist asshole. That’s just the way it is. It’s the same thing with girls. They would never in a million years purposely go see Commando (yeah, thats the most macho movie I could think of!) to the movie theater unless you drag them with you. Right? Same thing with Twilight, but on reverse. I call it the Sex and the City effect. Tell me, what guy purposely went to the theater to see Sex and the City, raise your hands? See what I mean? You were either dragged by your girlfriend or quietly saw it one day, without anyone’s knowledge, just to see what the big deals all about. So yeah, I didn’t see Twilight in theaters. I didn’t buy the DVD or rent it. Heck, I haven’t read the book. A die hard fan lend me the movie, she’s always talking about how good it is, so I took it, thinking why the hell not. Lets see what the big deal is all about. My analysis of this film comes from the point of view of a regular dude, not of a die hard Twilight fan. So was watching this movie worth it?

Story is about this teenage girl called Isabella (Bella for short) who’s just moved in with her father, who lives on his own in the perpetually rainy, windy and and cloud covered town of Forks, Washington. When she arrives, the typical thing happens; she’s weird and stands out. But she quickly befriends a couple of people and learns the ins and outs of surviving in her new high school. There’s this weird vampire family who attend the high school. No one knows they are all vampires, but they peacefully live amongst the humans. They always stick together, and all dress in white and have expensive cars. Bella falls for one of them, the mysterious and ominous Edward Cullen. Slowly but surely, Isabella begins to introduce herself into the world of vampirism. Will having a relationship with a vampire work out? Or is she biting more then she can chew?

So here’s the thing, I’m a die hard horror fan. I’ve seen all the different incarnations of a vampire film, from the silent yet frightening Count Orlock in Nosferatu, to Bela Lugosis’s iconic Dracula, to Christopher Lees feral yet polite Count, to The Lost Boys, to Fright Night, to Anne Rice’s ultra dramatic vampires in Interview with a Vampire….and now we get the Cullen vampire clan. Every generation does their own vampire films, and they all have their unique elements to them. This generation’s vampire film is directed towards the emo-gothic generation of movie goers. The book was written with them in mind, there’s no doubt in my mind. And the movie followed suit. This film is tailor made for these guys and gals. It’s one of the many reasons why this film is making so much dough. The other reason is because it’s also directed at teenage girls, who are going in droves to hear Edward whisper sweet nothings into Bella’s ears.

I was talking with my girlfriend about the phenomenon of Twilight as we watched the film. We agreed, Edward is the kind of character that says everything a girl wants to hear. “I can’t live without you”, “I don’t have the strength to stay away from you” “You are my life now” and my own personal favorite “You are my own personal brand of heroin”. That last bit of dialog is from the actual film by the way! Edward is mysterious, has an awesome house, a great car (and he’s a hell of a driver too!) and he’s got vampire powers! He can fly! Hop! And scale trees just like Spider Man can! But without the spandex! Isabella is constantly protected by Edward. In one particular sequence Edward stops a car that’s about to hit Bella with his bare hand! In another scene Edward saves the girl from being raped by a bunch of hoodlums! Of course millions of teenage girls are gonna fall in love with this guy! He is constantly saving the damsel in distress. It’s not just his good looks, he was written to capture girls hopes and dreams! Don’t know how females feel about the depiction of women on this film, but in it, the girls are in distress, clumsy, needing to be protected from the evils of the world by their man.

But hey, at heart this film is really a romance and we all know romance has always been a part of vampire movies. Dracula movies are always about Dracula looking for his long lost love. Francis Ford Coppolla’s Bram Stoker's Dracula was as romantic a vampire movie as any, but to its benefit, I will say that Coppollas film never forgot that it was a horror film as well! Twilight is all about that time when you are a teenager and you have that first encounter with someone special, the first words, the awkwardness, the getting to know each other, the first time your heart skips. That sort of thing. And it’s all about accepting that new person for who they are. Mistakes and past history included. Edward’s vampire side, thirsting for Bella’s blood but holding back is a metaphor for sexual desire, and the restraint one must have during the first stages of a relationship. Should we or shouldn’t we ‘do it’? And it’s all about watching each other breath as they sleep, cuddling together, you know the drill. Movie also plays in many ways like Romeo and Juliet. Instead of the lovers being from different families who hate each other, one is a vampire, the other isn’t. So they have to reach a certain middle ground.

See what I mean by squeaky clean?

Problem for me is that this isn’t really a horror film. On this film, vampire life is glamorized, it’s squeaky clean. Edward is undead, he feeds on animals to survive, and he has killed humans before. To which Bella says “non of that matters”. She doesn’t seem to care that she is falling in love with a person who has committed manslaughter! But I guess that’s how love goes. It blinds ya. Of course we are never shown ANY of these evil deeds that Edward’s done, because that would make Edward seem evil. Nope, we are only shown the cool side of being a vampire. You know the flying and the super strength. We never see Edward brutally feeding on animals. These vampires are so nice, they’ve decided to only feed on animals, not on humans. These vampires don’t get burned by sunlight, when sunlight hits them, they shine like diamonds! Yet another element to make these vampires seem nice. So if you like the idea of watching a movie about nice romantic vampires, then dive into this one. If you’re looking for a horror movie, you are better off renting Near Dark.

These heavily photoshopped individuals are the films villains.

One of the things I absolutely HATED about this movie were the visual effects. Whats up with that extremely amateurish blurring effect whenever the vampires move super fast? I havent seen that cheesy effect since the god awful Queen of the Damned. Come on guys, that effect sucks and gives the film a cheap feel. To top things off, whenever a vampire flies on this film it just looks so freaking fake! My god! I mean you can tell these guys are hanging from some sort of harness. I mean the actors are just hanging from them, not even trying to look like the are gracefully flying! They had better flying effects on the original Superman film for christ sakes! And that film is from the seventies!

The film does have some interesting and even original moments in it, and I can’t really blame the film for wanting to set its own rules. Vampires who shine like diamonds when the sun hits them? That’s a first right there, that’s pretty original. And we need to remember, every film bends the vampire rules for their own purposes. On this one, they needed vampires to shine like diamonds to glamorize the creatures, cause really, what’s more glam and rock and roll then freaking shinning diamonds? Speaking of rock and roll, the film plays most of the tunes they want you to hear so you’ll want to buy that soundtrack! Going back to the films originality, I never thought Id see vampires playing baseball. By far this was the part of the film I liked the most! I mean, they play baseball during a freaking thunderstorm so nobody can hear how hard they hit the ball! Pretty cool scene. It was kind of like a baseball game with superheroes playing it. And really, I started enjoying the film a bit more after that baseball scene, where suddenly it turns into a chase between a hunter vampire who wants Bella’s blood, which apparently is sweeter then any blood they’ve ever smelled on anyone. Bella’s blood is kind of like vampire crack. I guess that’s something they will dive into in upcoming sequels because its never really explained why her blood attracts them so much.

I have to admit I got a bit impatient with this one in the beginning because we have to go through the whole process of discovering who they are and all the explanations and the set up. It’s like watching that first film in a superhero franchise, where the filmmakers want to set the rules with which future films will play with. Speaking of future films, this week New Moon gets released, the sequel to this film. Once again, same as with this one, I will be staying home and catching it on DVD when ever it’s released on DVD. Expect my review then. Then again, maybe my girlfriend will drag me to go see it?

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

To the Devil...A Daughter (1976)

Title: To the Devil A Daughter (1976)

Director: Peter Sykes

Cast: Christopher Lee, Nastassja Kinski, Richard Widmark


If you know Hammer Studios history, then you should know that this was Hammer Studios last film. And as they say, it was “too little, too late”. With this film, Hammer wanted to steer away from their outdated Dracula/Frankenstein films, and go into new ground. You know, to keep in touch with modern movie goers. Where movie goers back in those days wanting to see Christopher Lee in a black cape and fake fangs? Nope. They had outgrown and tuned out of that. What were audiences curious for back in those days? Satanic worshipping films! Anything with demons! You see, in the 70’s satanic films where the talk of the town, and they were getting made left and right. All thanks to the success of films like The Exorcist, The Omen, Beyond the Door and Rosemary’s Baby. So Hammer, looking for away to help the studio survive, decided to jump on the satanic band wagon and made To the Devil...A Daughter based on Dennis Whitley's 1953 novel of the same name. This is the second adaptation done by Hammer Studios of a Dennis Whitley book, the first one being The Devil Rides Out (1968). Was Hammer’s last attempt to stay afloat any good?

To the Devil a Daughter is about this demon worshipping cult, who wants to bring their demon Astaroth to our world so he can rule humanity and bring hell on earth. In order to do so, they raise a young girl named Christine (played by a very young Nastassja Kinski) as the vessel for this demon. When push comes to shove, the young girls father gets a case of cold feet, so he decides to back out of the deal and tries to protect his daughter from the cult. This proves to be very difficult since the girl herself thinks this is her destiny and something she was born to do!

This film is interesting because you can see Hammer trying to get away from the old look and feel of previous Hammer films. Dracula isn’t here, neither is Frankenstein, and there’s no castle at the top of the hill, there’s no angry/scared villagers suffering, all these things that represented what a Hammer film was during the 60’s and early 70’s is gone. Hammer had tried to update Dracula for our day and age, but it just didn’t work, as evidenced by films like Dracula 1972 A.D. (1972) and Satanic Rites of Dracula (1974). So Hammer decided to drop those characters (which had been done to death anyways) and went the way of what American films were doing, namely, scaring the pants off of audiences with Satan, demons and demon possession films! As a result, this film ends up feeling a heck of a lot like a mix between The Exorcist (1973)and its Italian rip off Beyond the Door (1974). The main parallel between this film and The Exorcist is that we have a young girl about to be possessed by a demon. Nastassja Kinski plays the young girl, Catherine, who is more then willing to go forward with everything! And it’s a lot like Beyond the Door because it has a woman about to give birth to a child who’s body will be inhabited by a demon.

In my opinion, though this movie tried to get away from what Hammer films always did in the past, it still remains a Hammer film. We still get Christopher Lee playing the major villain, and no matter how much you tell me that this guy is the leader of a Satan worshipping cult, if he is a villain and he is dressed in black, he is freaking Dracula. Also, old Hammer films always had black masses and rituals with women on top of altars, and we get a lot of that on To the Devil a Daughter as well. The dungeon like place where the cultist unite feels and looks much like Dracula’s castle did. So in reality, this film tried to get away from the old formula, but ultimately, it really isn’t all that different from the old Hammer films. The making of this film was a fiasco, they couldnt find the right director, the film was offered to damn near every director even Ken Russell (who directed The Devils) was contacted, but he declined because he hated Hammer films! They finally decided on Peter Sykes because he'd directed Demons of the Mind for Hammer in 1972. They couldnt find the right actor to play the main character. Hammer wanted an American actor, to pull in american audiences, so they decided upon Richard Widmark, who ended up being a complete asshole during the whole shoot of the film. They even started shooting without having a completed script! The screenwriter would write pages as the film was being shot! Peter Sykes would shoot things that werent in the script! And finally, since they started without a completed script, they didnt know how to end the film! Which is probably why the film falls apart in its last 10 minutes. Dennis Whitley, who wrote the novel on which the film was based hated the completed film because it wasnt his book!

The movie does have some interesting moments in it. Like for example, the Satanists do this ritual where they rip the baby out of a woman’s womb. Though most of it happens off camera, just the idea of this happening and all the blood make it more shocking then it is. And let’s not forget Nastassja Kinski. She was 16 when she made this movie, yet somehow they managed to get her to do full frontal nudity! During the last sequences of the film she takes of her robe and walks around naked! Doesn’t that make this movie illegal or something? I don’t know, somebody check that out. There’s a laugh inducing moment when Astaroth invades her body, where we can obviously see the creature is a pathetic looking hand held puppet! I mean, they could have done that better. Or avoided it all together somehow, because it just brings the movie down. Also, I have to warn you guys, Christopher Lee bares his 50 year old ass on the screen while having sex with a cult follower! Just a warning. Speaking of Lee, he gets to act a whole lot more then he did on any of the Dracula films.

Don’t know what it is, but to me Satanic movies always end up being kind of laughable. Mayb it’s the fact that I don’t believe in the devil at all. To me, true evil lies in the hearts of men, not some invisible evil force we've never seen. I can never take these movies seriously, specially if a demon or Satan himself shows up and its done in a laughable manner. I mean, in order for me to take a movie of this nature seriously, it has to be done well, and avoid any cheesy factors whatsoever. For example, dont know how many of you guys and gals have seen The Devils Rain, but god, when Ernest Borgnine shows up as Satan, I couldnt help bursting in laughter! This movie was going well, until that hand puppet showed up, and until we see Nastassja Kinski having sex with a golden statue of Astaroth, that’s when I stopped taking this movie seriously cause the first thought that pops into my mind is, wow, what a bunch of buffoons! What a bunch of idiots! And these guys are supposed to be the villains? They aren’t menacing, they are just loony! Unfortunately for me, just when Nastassja was being humped by a golden statue was the exact moment when my girlfriend decided to walk in and see what kind of a movie I was watching. That my friends, is another story.

Rating: 2 ½ out of 5

To The Devil A DaughterTo the Devil a Daughter [VHS]To the Devil, A Daughter Poster Movie Spanish 11x17 Richard Widmark Christopher Lee Nastassia KinskiTo the Devil, A Daughter Poster Movie B 11x17 Richard Widmark Christopher Lee Nastassia Kinski


Related Posts with Thumbnails