Dracula 3D: A Journey to the Brink of Sanity

Note: This was originally published in 2014.

On numerous occasions, Shawn has proclaimed this movie “the worst movie ever made”.  I believe Chassity has backed him up on these claims.

I took these bold proclamations as a personal challenge.  I sat through Blood Gnome – a movie about knock-off Ghoulies in the world of S&M – in its entirety.  I refused to believe that Dracula 3D could be worse.  It was directed by Dario Argento, for God’s sake.  I’ve never been a huge fan of the man, but at least his films have a visually interesting aspect to them.
And so, with half a bottle of Scotch at my disposal, I hit play and prepared myself for the onslaught of Dracula 3D in 2D.

May my non-existent children forgive me.

My confusion started early, and set the stage for what was to come.  I swore the music playing over the credits was the same music used in Mars Attacks.  Was I to infer that Dracula was actually an alien?  I assumed the answer was an emphatic “yes”.  Dracula – THE Dracula – had given up pork.  I was left to wonder when (not if) Tom Jones would be showing up.  Dracula turning into a mantis.  It’s not unusual, indeed.

Within the first five minutes, I witnessed a busty young lass take off her clothes and get railed in a barn by a local (married) farmer.  In my experience, there’s nothing a woman likes more from her married lover than hurried, dirty sex in a barn.  At least throw on some Marvin Gaye, man.  They had a tiff afterwards (something about him being married, the cross she was wearing, and their differing opinions of the style in which As I Lay Dying was written, I believe), which led to her running through the woods from an owl and becoming Dracula’s newest plaything, while a man with a shotgun smiled and nodded his approval.

At this point, I had come to believe that I had contracted the flu.  Nothing else would explain these images currently being burrowed into my brain.

Not long after that, Jonathan Harker – who looked absolutely nothing like Neo – arrived at Dracula’s castle and noticed the lack of Dracula’s reflection in a mirror.  “Must be a trick of the light,” he said.  “Or proof that your parents haven’t conceived you yet,” I replied, cackling into my glass.  At this point, I went to the nearest mirror and was shocked to find that I also lacked a reflection.  I chalked it up to the Scotch, and not the madness this film was inflicting on me.  While it was still too soon to know for sure, I felt as though I were already past the point of no return.  Soon, I would be pulling off the legs of those closest to me and hearing terrible, disjointed music blared out from the heavens.
Or was that Yellow Brick Road?  At this point, it was impossible to tell.  I ditched the glass and decided to drink straight from the bottle.  The night was getting away from me.  Dracula had already claimed another victim, though I was not ready to admit it to myself just yet.

Naked ladies were everywhere now.  There was one, desperately trying to suck the life of out Jonathan’s bloody hand, stealing pictures of his wife, and engaging in some passionate necking.  There was another, being bathed as part of a sexy bathtime routine by her best friend.  There was another, descending the walls of Dracula’s castle on Rapunzel’s hair.  And still another, being thrown to the ground by Dracula and hissing at him while he bit into Jonathan’s (obviously) delicious neck.
Naked ladies and bad CGI dogmen are the only things that make sense to me anymore.  They are my currency, and I am their master.
At this point, I began to question the decisions of any director who thought it would be completely appropriate to film his daughter getting a sexy naked spongebath.  I may be in no position to judge, but that’s pretty weird.

I watched Renfield running bloody through the streets and wondered if it were him or me.  Had I somehow joined the characters onscreen, like some sort of Brea Grant-less Midnight Movie?  I checked myself, and found no blood.  It couldn’t be me, then.  So why was I howling at the moon?  And how did my clothes end up in tatters?  I looked to my bottle and found it was almost full.  Nothing makes sense anymore.

I watched a sick Lucy Kisslinger in bed and found one way we are similar: we both wear sheer nightgowns in front of our fathers.  Her father seemed more open to it than mine.  Was the Buffalo Bill voice just a bit too much?

“I dreamt a wolf tore a woman to pieces,” a frantic and increasingly helpless Mina Harker proclaimed.  I tipped back the bottle, drank deep and replied, “And I was that wolf.  And I was that woman.  And I was the ground on which it happened.”  I drank again and saw nothing but the wolf.  And he was hungry like he should be.

I recall flashes of activity: of life and death and blood and hope and love and loss.  And all of it washed over me like a waterfall.
I saw Dracula appear in a cloud of flies and lay waste to the establishment.
I saw wolves running around Mina and wondered aloud how Argento got those wolves to ignore the helpless woman on the ground while filming, and whether the first five Minas were torn to shreds.
I saw three cockroaches that I believe were supposed to be Dracula, but I was never quite sure.
I saw Rutger Hauer.
I saw a giant praying mantis climb a staircase and kill a fat man.  I laughed harder than I should have, which frightened my dog.  She looked at me and asked, “What are you doing with your life that you are here, right now, watching this?” but her lips never moved.

When the end finally came, it was swift and unrelenting.  I wasn’t sure if it was actually the end, or just the end of my already fragile mind.  I opened the DVD player and found that there was nothing in there.  Did any of this ever actually happen?

I pinched myself.  I was me.  I am me.  I am one.  I am a rock.  I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar.

I looked up.  The TV was blank.  I got out of the chair to find that two days had passed.

I checked the mirror.

I had a reflection.

I had survived, though I have no idea what kind of life I am capable of anymore.

I left the bottle of Scotch next to my chair and walked outside into the great wide open.  I drank all of it in.  Every single inch.  I saw a bug fly by and smiled knowingly.

“I’ll see you again, Count.  I’ll see you real soon.”

10 Cloverfield Lane: Movie Review

10 cloverfield - poster

Michelle is run off the road and awakens in a bunker with her leg chained to the wall.  She was “saved” by Howard, a large man who is a terrible combination of socially awkward and not-so-vaguely threatening.  He explains that there has been an attack and the air outside is contaminated.  Do we believe him, or is that just something he said so that she wouldn’t try to escape from the bunker?
There is also another man in the bunker by the name of Emmett, who seems like a good guy and believes Howard, although he thinks some of his theories of what exactly is happening are a little nuts.  Aliens?  That’s crazy.  YOU’RE crazy.

I set up quite a bit in the synopsis, so let’s go off of that.
This movie moves in waves.  Michelle is our proxy.  Do we believe Howard?  Is there really something going on outside?  We find out pretty early on that there is, indeed, something contaminating the air.  So now we kind of trust Howard…right?  Maybe?  Just when I started to feel like things were going well, I began to panic because I knew it wasn’t going to be quite that easy.  And I was right.  Man, I’m smart.  Why am I so smart?

10 cloverfield - howard & michelle
I can’t really dig too deep into this movie without giving stuff away, and that would be a real shame.  There are a lot of twists and turns here that really benefit from going in relatively cold.

This is a small movie.  We basically have three characters: Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Howard (John Goodman) and Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.).  With a movie this small, it’s critical that the actors all bring their A game, and they certainly did that.  All the characters were extremely well-developed and the actors knocked it out of the park.  Goodman was the standout – I’ve never seen him in a role quite like this – but Winstead and Gallagher were incredible as well.  Stellar performances from everyone.

10 cloverfield - michelle & emmettWhen Prometheus came out (which I enjoyed…shut-up) I loved how it was a movie that existed in the Alien universe, yet was a completely different story.  I never put much thought into the fact that, while these major events were happening in this movie, there were a bunch of other events happening, either before or after, that may-or-may-not be closely related.  The comic series Gotham Central does a great job with this in terms of the DC Universe.  The events of Cloverfield were not held to Manhattan, and this gives us a chance to see how other areas were affected.  It’s a great concept and terrific execution.

10 cloverfield - howardThis was a good movie.  I liked it.  Please watch it.

Rating: 5/5

Bradley Cooper is listed as being in this, but you never see him.  He’s merely the voice on the other end of the phone.  Which is perfect.  He has a face for radio.  (I kid, I kid.  You’re very handsome.  Please call me.)

The Conjuring 2: Spoilery Thoughts

I already wrote a review of The Conjuring 2, but I have some questions that would spoil the movie, so I opted to put them in a different post.  Because I am a kind soul.

conjuring 2 - valak

1. Lorraine was able to defeat the demon – Valak – by saying his name, screaming other things and condemning him back to hell.  Or something.  She only knew his name because Valak told her his name in a vision.  “I know his name, I know his name, GIVE ME MY BIBLE WHERE I CARVED HIS NAME,” she screamed.
So…why did Valak tell her his name?  They had no leads on the demon.  The only way they could have defeated him was by knowing his name, and he told Lorraine his name.  This wasn’t a case of finding out the name then needing to travel to some distant location to find more information and using it against him.  This was none of that.  This was a case of, “I say his name and he disappears.”  Valak had one weakness: that someone – anyone – speak his name.  And he handed them that weapon for no reason whatsoever.
I don’t understand why and I need someone to explain it to me.

2. Why did Janet float like Jean Grey when she was possessed at the end?

3. Why does Ed Warren have such a lovely singing voice?

conjuring 2 - ed with guitar

4 .Why do the Warrens have a teenage daughter they leave at home when they go on their missions?  Doesn’t leaving a teenager alone in a house with haunted items in the basement for weeks at a time seem like a recipe for disaster?

"There are frozen dinners in the microwave & don't worry about the whispers in the basement."
“There are frozen dinners in the microwave & don’t worry about the whispers in the basement.”

5. The idea of Valak using other creepy things as a way to throw everyone off was pretty crafty.  Who cares about looking for Valak if everyone is concerned about Bill Wilkins and The Crooked Man?  That’s a nice bit of misdirection there, Valak.  Good for you.

conjuring 2 - crooked man

Thoughts on Independence Day: Resurgence

Alien invaders count as horror, right?
I thought so.
Here are a handful of random thoughts about Independence Day: Resurgence.

id4 - city

1. Brent Spiner is a perfectly fine actor, but Dr. Okun was entirely too prominent in this movie.  The first Independence Day was the perfectly amount of Okun: get in, say some awkward things for laughs, have an alien tentacle wrapped around his neck and get out.
For this movie, it was almost like someone said, “Hey, what if we did that but for, like, half the movie?”  Okun is a good character in moderation.  “Moderation” is the exact opposite of what we got here.

id4 - spiner

2. Maika Monroe is great, isn’t she?  Man, she’s great.  I know there was an uproar over the fact that Mae Whitman wasn’t offered the chance to reprise her role from the original, but that doesn’t change the fact that Maika Monroe is great.  (For the record, Mae Whitman is also great.)
So here comes Monroe, stepping into the role of Patricia Whitmore to offer…nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  It ‘s not Monroe’s fault: it was a terrible, shallow character.  The few times Monroe was asked to really “bring it,” she did exactly that, only to see others not return the favor (or for the script to completely fail) and for those scenes to fall flat.

id4 - monroe

3. There was a subplot where Julius Levinson – the great Judd Hirsch – drives towards Area 51 with a schoolbus full of children.  I am very much looking forward to a spin-off in the vein of Cheaper By The Dozen.

Pictured: Julius with all his children
Pictured: Julius with all his children

4.  There were too many characters to really care about any of them.  Our “new blood” was comprised of 5 characters: Patricia Whitmore (Maika Monroe), Dylan Hiller (Jessie T. Usher), Jake Morrison (Liam Hemsworth), Rain Lao (Angelababy) and Charlie Miller (Travis Trope).  That is entirely too many people to care about, especially when most of them are just empty husks.  They could have cut 3 of the characters and allowed us to form a stronger bond with the remaining 2: Patricia and Dylan.

5. It’s not Jessie T. Usher’s fault, but he was playing the role of Steven Hiller’s son and showed exactly zero of the charisma of Will Smith’s Hiller.  I say it’s not his fault, only because there are very few people who have the kind of easy charisma that Will Smith has.
It’s also helpful to keep in mind that Dylan is Steven’s stepchild, so maybe that explains it.

I never said he didn't have smoldering eyes, though.
I never said he didn’t have smoldering eyes, though.

6. Liam Hemsworth is a very handsome man, but he is not a very good actor.

Not pictured: acting.
Not pictured: acting.

7. There is a great part at the beginning with an African tribe who hunted the aliens who crash-landed at the end of the first movie.  The tribe killed hundreds of aliens.  We spend a good bit of time with their leader, Dikembe Umbutu, who killed them with a set of machetes.  “You have to get them from behind,” he says.  He’s the best.
So what does he do for the majority of the movie?  He basically plays second-fiddle to a bumbling, comic-relief IRS stooge named Floyd.  I hated Floyd.  I hate Floyd so much.

id4 - dikembe

8. When in its case, the alien orb looked like The Matrix of Leadership from Transformers: The Movie.

id4 - matrix of leadership

9. What happened to Constance Spano (David Levinson’s ex-wife)?  Their relationship was a story throughout the original movie, and there is absolutely no reference to her here.  Not only is there no reference, but apparently Levinson has had a series of relationships over the past twenty years, including one such instance with Charlotte Gainsbourg (or her character or whatever).  I would have been happy with a simple comment.  Instead we got nothing.
An aside: I like Charlotte Gainsbourg (mainly her music), but, given her film roles (most notably Antichrist and Nymphomaniac), this movie seems like an odd choice for her.

10. On the Memorial Wall, the name “Russell Casse” can be seen, and a single tear rolled down my cheek.  When this comes out on Blu Ray, I’m going to pause that scene and see if I recognize any other names.

All of these thoughts (except the last one) are negative.  Independence Day: Resurgence is by no means a good movie, but it’s not a terrible one.  Sure, there are too many characters and that causes the movie to drag in parts.  But the action sequences were all tremendous and there were a lot of cool ideas (like, A LOT of cool ideas).  This felt like a movie that bit off more than it could chew: it had to fill in the gaps of what happened in the past 20 years, introduce a bunch of new characters, have the aliens return and set up a couple huge showdowns with said aliens.
I went to the theater and saw this as a double-feature with the original Independence Day.  Watching them back-to-back like that – along with the natural hype that comes with a 20 year delay – probably made this movie feel a little more disappointing than it actually was.  Again, this wasn’t a terrible movie: I think I just had my expectations set a bit too high.  I do think a couple changes would have made for a vast improvement (less Okun and fewer characters/storylines, mainly), but it still seems like a perfectly fine – if flawed – movie.  It’s tough to live up to the first Independence Day (some janky green screen aside, it still holds up and I still love it dearly), but this is still a movie I can see myself rewatching quite a bit.  I gotsta see that rampaging queen as much as possible, ya know?

id4 - queen 2

Two more thoughts, because I like to end on a positive note:

1. Jeff Goldblum is still a handsome man.

id4 - goldblum

2. William Fichtner is in this and he’s awesome.  William Fichtner is always awesome.

id4 - general

Poltergeist (2015): Movie Review

poltergeist - poster

As I’ve mentioned many times in the past, I got into horror pretty late in my life.  I remember watching some horror in my early teens, but it didn’t really hook me until my mid-to-late-twenties.
Maybe that is the reason the trend of remaking treasured horror movies doesn’t really bother me. Even if I really like an older horror film, I don’t have the nostalgia for it that a lot of people do.  (Then again, I watched Ghostbusters many times as a child and am still hyped for the remake, so maybe nostalgia doesn’t really play into my views on this at all.)
I’ve seen the original Poltergeist many times.  It’s a perfectly fine movie, but it’s also quite dated.  After the Nightmare on Elm Street remake (which I enjoyed), I remember telling someone that if there was one movie from that era I would really like to see remade, it would be Poltergeist.  I believe the response to that statement was a slap in the face.

poltergeist - mud skeletons
But someone was listening, because I got my wish.  And, to cap it off, this version stars Sam Rockwell.  Oh man, I love Sam Rockwell so much.

poltergeist - family
As it turns out, this movie – like the original – is perfectly fine.  The cast is great, it looked good, and there were a couple pretty creepy moments.  There were also a handful of completely nonsensical moments, but I enjoyed those as well.  It’s 93 minutes long.  It gets you in, shows you some scary stuff and gets you out.  It’s not a masterpiece, but it’s perfectly serviceable as a piece of starter horror for someone trying to get into the genre.  Or even for a normal horror fan looking for something kind of fun to throw on.

Rating: 2.5/5

A couple random moments that made me laugh:

– Griffin (the little boy) was, quite possibly, the most scared child I have ever seen in a movie.  So what do they do?  Why, put him in the room with the secret clown closet, naturally.

poltergeist - clown
Eric (Sam Rockwell’s character) says earlier in the movie how he can’t support the family on a high school baseball coach salary.  So what happens at the end?  He gets a job as a high school baseball coach and they’re looking at pretty big houses.  Because that’s how life works.