REVIEW: Dracula Untold (2014)

A moment from the film that was not 100% CGI.

A moment from the film that was not 100% CGI.

Dracula Untold: D

This is an outrageous clusterfuck of superhero origin movie clichés and Transformers 3 levels of CGI nonsense. I seriously couldn’t understand what was happening during the gushers of CGI, and when the camera stopped spinning long enough for me to get it, I was sorry that I did.

There is nothing “Dracula” about this movie. All of the seduction, complexity, and horror is erased completely. What remains is a seriously pathetic Dracula reboot attempt where the character is reimagined as a Batman (pun actually not intended) kind of avenger who, like the protagonist of every kung-fu movie and side scrolling video game, fights bad guys of increasing difficulty until the final battle scene with the “boss”. I suppose if you enjoy vampire movies and want to see a worse PG-13 version of one of those Underworld movies, where vampires do kung-fu, you might like this one. I think this is the only movie I have seen with Dracula in it where Dracula is just not fucking cool at all. He looks/behaves like the lead singer of Creed.

Tywin Lannister plays a cave-dwelling Nosferatu-ish vampire who gives Vlad his CGI abilities. This part is pretty cool. It’s a “deal with the devil” setup where Vlad has to gamble his soul in order to gain vamp-power. Lannisterferatu performs some CGI magic on him and then Vlad is able to do stuff like turn into a CGI swarm of bats, CGI heal from CGI attacks from CGI weapons, and movie at CGI super-speed. He can even create CGI tornados. The only thing he does that is not created by computers is his slow-motion walking/brooding in his trench coat that will make even devout Boondock Saints fans cringe.

There are a lot of “what have I become?” scenes and there is virtually no blood/gore in the battle scenes that interrupt Vlad’s pity party. Like another wretched monster reboot attempt, I, Frankenstein, the fight scenes are CGI-ed into blobs of spinning confusion and virtually all the killing blows are cropped out so that they can score that ever-sought-after PG-13 rating.

If you are someone who is generally unbothered by gratuitous CGI, and you like PG-13 action movies, give this a shot. But I just felt like I was watching a mixture of video games and sadder-than-John-Snow whining woven into what barely passes as a story.

REVIEW: 30 Days of Night (2007)



30 Days of Night: C+

Based on a fantastic comic book series of the same name, this film follows a small band of human survivors trying desperately to avoid being eaten by really mean vampires in Alaska.

The really mean vampires come to this little town in Alaska at a time of year when winter plunges the town into 30 days of darkness so they can just walk around like OMG IDGAF #nighttime. They execute a coordinated assault that effectively strands the fuck out of a bunch of regular people in town and cuts off their lines of communication to the outside world.

I thought all this was really clever. No matter how powerful vampires are, they have always had two huge problems: they have to be careful whom they kill so as to avoid detection, and they are only active at night. This movie circumvents these traditional vulnerabilities which means big trouble for all non-undead characters.

The vampires move really fast, wear all black, and speak in a mean sounding vampire language. They look pretty cool, sort of a cross between Ukrainian mobsters and feral gremlins. They all wear peacoats but still look tough (unlike some vampires).

The movie doesn’t get very “deep” but there’s this one scene where the vampire leader puts his nasty fingernail on a record that’s spinning on a phonograph and the distorted sound that comes out makes all the surrounding vampires orgasm and giggle and I guess it symbolizes how they don’t have to hide and be quiet anymore. The leader’s name is Marlow who is probably based on Barlow from Salem’s Lot, who was for sure based on Dracula.

Once the vampires establish their dominance and strand themselves some humans, the movie turns into Diary of Anne Frank meets Dawn of the Dead. All the people have to hide for their lives and the vampires patrol around killing everyone. It is a cat-and-mouse movie with jump scares and a fresh fatality sacrificed to every new predicament.

The color palette of the movie echoes that of Underworld; it’s all grays and one shade of bright red. There is snow everywhere, so the gore that sprays from various characters’ arteries stands out that much more.

Josh Hartnett is in it and he spends the whole movie hiding in attics, running, and being really upset about the mean vampire onslaught. Some people turn into vampires and there is a cool scene where someone is fed into this industrial machinery and they get ground up like hamburger. The make-up is well done and there is some decent gore.

It’s a cool enough vampire flick that lets the vampires go wild if you are in the mood for that sort of thing.

REVIEW: Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)


Bram Stoker’s Dracula: B+

If you read the description for this movie in the Comcast menu, it says the film is a “highly erotic adaptation” of the classic vampire tale. No kidding! I actually read Stoker’s novel and I can’t recall a scene where Dracula, in half-wolf form, repeatedly gropes/rapes Lucy on a bench while chewing on her throat. I also don’t remember the part where undead Siamese twins give Harker a blowjob.

Whatever; it worked. Everything in the movie is turned up to 11 so when there’s these extra scenes of flamboyant sexual carnage, they fit with the gaudy sets and Victorian costumes.

Anthony Hopkins plays Van Helsing (sit the FUCK down, Hugh Jackman) and he leads a band of do-gooders around 19th century London while they hunt for Count Dracula, played by Gary Oldman. Everyone knows that Dracula can shape-shift into things like bats and wolves and whatnot but few may know that he can also transform from a crusty, yellow old man in a red bathrobe to a sunglassess-wearing stud with flowing locks in a Dumb-and-Dumberesque silly tuxedo. This is some of Oldman’s best work in my opinion. He plays a creepy Nosferatu one second and then a tortured gentleman the next. You’ve got to appreciate an actor who can act through their make-up, especially when they have lines like “vengeance will be mine!”. You feel Dracula’s pain and actually sympathize with him, unlike the Dracula from the book who is a straight-up asshole.

Dracula thinks that Winona Ryder is the spiritual incarnation of his centuries-old true love and he travels to London to permanently establish himself among the populace and rekindle his romance with Victorian era Winona Ryder. I don’t think ANYONE has ever loved Winona Ryder this much! And if you were worried about her acting spoiling things, don’t worry; her BF is played by Keanu Reeves (he of the undead Siamese-twin blowjob) and he waaaaay out-stinks her. It, like, fucking hurts to watch him speak sentences in this movie.

The film has shape-shifting, telepathic bonds, decapitations, boobs, Tom Waits eating bugs, and computer generated energy force fields. The sets are crazy-detailed and the cinematography is mouth-watering. Dracula steals the show, as he should. Really visually satisfying and evil. I recommend it!

REVIEW: Lifeforce (1985)


Lifeforce: B

I’ll give you one guess what this evil trio of space-vampires feeds off of instead of blood…

If you guessed “lifeforce,” good for you; it’s lifeforce. What is lifeforce? It’s blueish lightning inside of you that you apparently need in order to live. It also dumps out of your eyes and mouth if a space-vampire feeds on you. They suck it out of you and then it makes them stronger. What happens to the lifeforce-less you? You look like a shriveled mummy version of yourself and you wander around like a space-zombie feeding off of the lifeforce of others.

A space crew finds three human-looking, naked aliens – one sexy female and two sexy dudes, in suspended animation on board an abandoned space vessel. I say “abandoned” but maybe that’s not the right word. The ship is littered with shriveled up corpses and a single escape pod is missing. The space crew takes the sleeping aliens on board their own ship. Big mistake…

If you liked the movie Species, where naked sexy-alien Natasha Henstridge stalks and massacres a bunch of dudes, you’ll love the next several scenes of the movie. During the autopsy of the sexy female alien, she wakes up (totally naked) and starts draining everyone’s fucking lifeforce one by one! She’s really good at it too. She just walks from room to room, staring at members of the crew, and they enter into a hypnotic trance. Then she starts to make out with them. The guys are probably thinking “Alright, me! I still got it! This babe is really into me! Yeah!” Then the blue lightning stuff happens and the guys turn into skeletal slim-jims. No more lifeforce!

These scenes I just described scared the piss out of me when I first saw them. I think I was seven. The make-up is great. The drained guys look fucking freaky.

Holy shit now the movie gets nuts. The dude aliens turn everyone in London into lifeforce zombies. It is revealed that they transmit all of their acquired lifeforce to their sexy-alien female leader and she beams it to their spaceship so they can, I don’t know, travel the universe and eat more lifeforce, I guess. There’s shape-shifting, martial law, zombies, telepathic bonds, impaled people, naked people, impaled telepathic naked people, CGI lifeforce all over the fucking place, and St. Paul’s Cathedral is destroyed.

The makeup is real nasty. The effects are some 1985 shit, but whatever; it’s just lifeforce lightning. The ambition is impressive. The plot is batshit crazy but totally fun. This movie is way better than a lot of the other “in space” movies out there. It’s like Species meets 28 Days Later meets Independence Day. It’s Tobe Hooper’s movie, by the way. I dug it. 

REVIEW: The Bleeding (2009)


The Bleeding (2009): D+

Vampires are assholes. They just are. Vinnie Jones looks like an asshole. He just does. Some genius realized both of these truths, called Michael Madsen, some UFC girls, and DMX, and made this vampire movie. They probably tried to get Vin Diesel, but he must have known better. No worries, though. They got some Diesel carbon copy who looks decent in a V-Neck and has no body hair below his eyebrows to play the vampire slaying “hero” in the film.

So this guy, let’s call him Din Viesel, comes back from Afghanistan to find that his family has been killed by vampires. And his brother, Vinnie Jones, is a vampire. Bummer. Vinnie Jones has this cheap wig on and he looks like the bad guy from John Carpenter’s Vampires if instead of human plasma, he ate Sizzler buffet food every night.

Then an extremely convenient coincidence is revealed…

Michael Madsen tears himself away from a bottle of whiskey to deliver lines as a priest who tears himself away from a bottle of whiskey to explain that Din is destined to be a “Slayer” and it’s his duty to hunt and kill vampires. What do you know? It’s Din Viesel’s duty/destiny to kill vampires like the ones who killed his family and the one his brother has become!

There is a really lame sequence in which this Creed sounding band plays for like five minutes while Din runs through a forest alone, realizing he’s going to have to kill Vinnie Jones. It produced no emotions in me at all. It was like watching a glass of water. The rest of the film unfolds predictably with Din hacking through the vampire gang ranks, working his way to the inevitable showdown with Vinnie Jones.

DMX is a plot device. His only job is to deliver a LOT of exposition and show how great Vinnie Jones is at cracking Leprechaun-movie caliber puns while he kills people. DMX thankfully dies before referencing one of his songs. The UFC girls play sexy vampires.

There are a few required elements for a straight-to-DVD vampire movie, which this film shamelessly and thoughtlessly delivers: an abandoned warehouse, CGI blood effects, sexy vampires, a vampire choking a guy with one hand while lifting him off of the ground, rock-techno music, and a priest who smokes cigarettes.