Underworld: A Love Letter

This post contains a ton of spoilers about the Underworld series. You’ve been warned.

You know what I love about the Underworld series? Pretty much everything.

It starts off as a solid vampire/werewolf (or lycan, in the parlance of the movie) action-horror series, taking story cues from Romeo and Juliet and visual cues from The Matrix. The first movie is a fun action movie with monsters that takes itself entirely too seriously. I will fight anyone who says otherwise.

They get into some of the mythology and history behind the centuries-old vampire/lycan war in the first movie, but they really delve into the insanity in Evolution. From the first movie, we learn that Michael – Selene’s arm candy and direct descendent of Alexander Corvinus, the king of the monsters – is the first ever vampire/lycan hybrid and we are straight up told that no one really knows what his powers are. They could be limitless. Or they could not be. Who knows? *vampire shrug*

Selene also gets some of Alexander Corvinus’ sweet, sweet monster-king blood. That blood also has undefined powers.

These two things together really form the crux of the insanity the series embraces. Having two sets of undefined powers gives the writers carte blanche to make them up on the spot. Can Selene’s blood give her a lot of sweet fighting moves? Sure! Does it allow her to stand in the sunlight? You bet! Can it bring vampires back from the dead? I guess. Does it make her a really good baseball player? Never fully explored, but, if I were a betting man, I’d say she and Michael would kill Mike Dexter and his stupid Twilight vampire team.
What about Michael? Can he survive a punch that leaves a manhole cover sized hole in his chest? You bet your sweet bippy he can. Does it make him an accomplished chef? Maybe.

Throughout all of this we get a lot of history of how vampires and lycans came into existence and how they’ve changed, and why the war started and all that fun stuff. Apparently I’m a sucker for a convoluted history of monsters in my action-horror.

They double-down on that history in the third movie, Rise of the Lycans. We actually get to see why the war was ignited. Of course, it was over a love torn apart by a father who hated love and thought that cross-species breeding was an abomination. And also sunlight. And he also probably hated the insanely-dangerous cliff-sex that his daughter was having with a filthy (but also kind of handsome) lycan, but we never got his specific views on that.
I feel like they could have added a few minutes into the movie for him to talk about that, but that’s probably just me. “Before I open this roof hatch through a series of levers and let the sunlight in to kill you, my daughter, I want to bring up the cliff-loving you engaged in with this animal who is currently in human form and has a nice set of abs.”
On second thought, maybe it was good they left that part out.

Then we jump forward to Awakening. It takes place 6 months after the events of Evolution and humans have discovered the existence of vampires and lycans. So, in true human form, they decide to hunt them down and kill them. Selene and Michael decide to run away together in a boat, but are hit with a cryo-bomb which freezes them in time. Apparently the magic blood doesn’t defend against being frozen in time. So there are limits to their powers, I guess.

In a fun little twist, Scott Speedman declined to reprise his role at Michael, so they cast an actor who kinda/sorta/maybe looks like Speedman if it’s dark and you squint and his face is always moving.

Anyway, Selene wakes up 12 years later and finds out she’s being kept in a lab run by lycans and one of them kind of looks like a knockoff Chris Martin (fun fact: that guy is in a show called Lost Girl and it’s awful. He’s fine in it, I guess).

Michael is still frozen, but they have a hybrid child together (Eve) somehow, and the lycans are after her blood because it’s SUPER magic and protects them against silver and probably other stuff. You wouldn’t even believe how magic her blood is, you guys. She’s the first pure-born hybrid which means that her powers are really limitless. Like, for real this time. She probably can’t be frozen in time like her dumb parents.

The science-loving lycans are all wiped out (NERRRRRRRRRRDS!) and Michael escaped from his frozen container thing but now he’s on the run. Or he escaped in a helicopter. Or he was kidnapped by a lycan who looks like Tommy Wiseau and drained of his blood, and now Wiseau is shooting up the blood like it’s heroin and is getting all kinds of powers from it.

It’s the last one. Michael is dead now. His powers are limitless, but apparently you can just hang him upside down and slit his throat and he’s done.

That brings up an odd thing in these movies. Vampires and lycans are immortal creatures. They go to great lengths throughout the course of the series to highlight the ways they can be killed. The lycans developed special UV rounds that burn up vampires from the inside out. The vampires countered with bullets filled with liquid silver so the lycans can’t just dig out the bullets. The lycans do everything they can to harvest the blood of Michael and Eve to make themselves impervious to silver. Yet, despite all that, vampires and lycans alike are killed by something as simple as a broken neck or strangulation by way of metal wire. Human food is toxic and will totally kill them. Regular bullets don’t kill them, but it can cause enough blood loss to kill them. So, basically like humans, except a nice steak would explode their stomach or something. Even Alexander Corvinus – the father of all vampires and lycans – is killed by blood loss. I mean, technically he’s killed by a massive explosion, but he was dying when he exploded the ship he was on.

As near as I can tell, the sole benefit you get from being a vampire or lycan – besides super cool titles like “Death Dealer” – is that you can live a long time if you’re super careful. It seems that most things that would kill a normal person would also kill a vampire or lycan. What’s the point of silver bullets? Just cut their brakes and they’ll die in a car crash.

Now, for the latest entry in the series: Blood Wars. It’s the weakest in the series and also the dumbest but also still awesome. It still takes itself entirely too seriously and it pretty much forces everyone to have an intimate knowledge of the rest of the series to understand everything that is happening. I had no trouble following along, but I can guarantee you that very few people have seen this series as many times as my wife and I have.

As I talked about above, the lycans have killed Michael and now they’re looking for Eve’s blood for reasons. Selene does not know where Eve is, so she is off on her own, engaging in some sweet lycan-killing, but also being hunted by both vampires and lycans. Eventually we discover that there is a hippie vampire coven on the top of a snowy mountain and they know how to transport themselves over short distances and also maybe know where Eve is or something. It’s confusing. There’s also a sexy evil vampire who answered a casting call that asked for, “Just kind of be like Eva Green, ya know?” Anyway, she nailed it.

The Nordic vampires have white hair and hate violence and swear that lycans will never breach their walls because it’s too cold, but then lycans totally breach their walls and kill a lot of vampires. So many vampires.

There’s another showdown and the vampires prevail. Selene accidentally gets some of Wiseau’s blood on her lip and she sees that Michael was killed and then she drinks her own blood to bring back her memories of Michael and Eve and then she pulls out Wiseau’s spine and I was so excited I screamed in the theater.

Now Selene is a vampire elder even though they all hated her 30 minutes ago. The end.

I’ll be honest with you: I don’t know why you read this far. I have no idea what this post is supposed to accomplish. These movies have gotten steadily more ridiculous with each installment, yet they take themselves so seriously I can’t help but smile when I watch them. The black leather, industrial soundtrack and stony faces feel a little out of place in 2017, but I can’t imagine watching an Underworld movie with jokes and bright colors. Just keep it rolling, man.

If there ends up being another installment in this series, here are four things I can guarantee you:
1. I will rewatch all the previous movies again before it comes out.
2. It will be terrible.
3. I will be in the theater opening night.
4. I will love it.

Anyway, if you ever have any highly specific Underworld questions, you know who to ask.

31 Days of Horror Day 20: Dracula 3D

Dracula 3D - Cover

Just kidding.
Don’t watch this movie.
It caused Dusty to question his sanity.
It cause Shawn to refer to Dario Argento as “Nature’s Greatest Monster”.
(You should read both of those articles.  Shawn’s is a great rundown of why he doesn’t like Argento, and mine is still one of my favorite things I’ve ever written.)

My real pick will be coming later today.  But let this post be a reminder: don’t watch Argento’s Dracula 3D.  You’re better than that.  We all are.
(But, if you’re looking for a film to make fun of while being drunk with friends, you could do a whole lot worse than this.)

The Strain S1E13, “The Master”

Strain Poster 2

We find ourselves at the end of the season.  It took 13 episodes, but I’m now finally coming around to the sight of Corey Stoll with hair.

This season showed us a show with promise, but was ultimately unfulfilling.  It had some flashes of greatness, but mostly it was maddeningly inconsistent.  It went to the school of building drama by having characters make the worst decision at the worst moment.  So, basically, I’m all warmed up for the start of The Walking Dead.

I love the mythology behind the vampires, but they didn’t get into it too much in this season.  I guess we’ll have to hang on the promise of more of that in the second season.  I really liked Fet, but I could have done without every other character.

Let’s talk about this episode in particular.


1. Why is Palmer so eager to be turned into a vampire?  Isn’t being healed of his thousands of ailments good enough?  Has he seen the vampires?  With the exception of Eichorst, they’re all unthinking monsters.  Why would you want to be that?
I could go my whole life without hearing the phrase, “The Master gave you the white, but not the worm,” again.  Although it is nice to have a name for some Strain-centric erotic-fiction already in place.

2. Zach asking Eph when they can go home.  Eph’s face was as perplexed as mine.  “We can’t go back.”  They have tried to portray Zach as a composed, intelligent kid, but they have no problem turning up the ignorance when they need to.  “Quick.  Let’s have the kid say something that will pull at the heartstrings or whatever.”  Poor writing.

3. Gus’ insistence on acting tough and trying to punch vampires.  It never ends well for you.  Just stop.

4. The plan of heading out in sunlight to battle vampires is smart.  The plan of then traveling by sewers and secret tunnels is not.  That completely negates your advantage.

5. Zach playing a game of Plants vs. Zombies as a way to kill time.  That’s the wrong game, kid.  You should be playing Infect Them All.  That would help your preparation.

6. While I liked Fet using dynamite to make “munchers go boom-boom”, it doesn’t seem like the smartest idea to blow up a bunch of creatures with infectious blood.  All season they’ve made a point to say, “Just one worm will infect you.”  It’s how Jim died (well, technically a bullet to the brain is how Jim died, but you get my meaning).  Yet they have no issue blowing up a bunch of vampires in a confined space, or slicing-and-dicing countless vampires in closed quarters without any kind of protection.  The blood is only as infectious as the writers need it to be in that particular scene.

7. The Master – assumed to be the smartest of the vampires – knew Eph & company were coming, yet he decided to keep himself in a room filled with windows in the daylight.  Why not move to somewhere no sunlight could possibly get into?

8. The attack on The Master seemed to work fine.  They got him out in the sun, where he was clearly in pain, then Setrakian stood over his body for a while and talked instead of slashing at him.
After The Master made his escape, Eph said, “If sunlight doesn’t kill him, what does?”  Were you not paying attention?  Sunlight was doing fine.  Another minute and he likely would have been dead.  Or perhaps an assault with weapons while he was writhing in sunlight would have finished the job.  You stared at him instead of attacking him and you wonder why your attack didn’t succeed.

9. Zach.  Stupid, stupid Zach.  He faked an asthma attack just to get back to his old house.  It was dark, the city was crawling with vampires, and they had just survived a siege on Setrakian’s pawn shop the day before.  The smart move was to stay away from anywhere the vampires would think to look for them.  Instead, he really needed to see some pictures, so he lied to get back to his house.  Again, smart when they want him to be, stupid when they need him to be.  Zach is the worst.

10. The voiceover at the end annoyed me to no end.  Not a good way to end a season.


1. The idea of using hordes of vampires as security.  Sometimes I wish I was The Master, because that sounds like an amazing use of resources.  “I’m going to turn all of you into vampires, but then some of you will just stand in my general vicinity during the day and be willing to die for little to no reason at all.  Cool?”

2. Fet talking about Eph and Setrakian: “You two are falling in love.  It’s a beautiful thing.”  Kevin Durand’s Fet was absolutely the best part of this season.

3. Speaking of Fet, I loved him opening up the sewer cap to flood the tunnel with daylight to stop more vampires from filling the theater before they could get there.  Really smart.

4. Nora finally throwing down on Eph in regards to Zach.  It’s a new world, man.  No time to coddle your kid.  If you want to protect him, give him a sword and keep him at your side.

5. Eldritch Palmer throwing that woman over the ledge.  I laughed pretty hard.

6. The glowing eyes of the vampires in the club.  I don’t remember seeing that before this episode, but it was a great visual.
I think I really liked the scene where the vampires all backed out, but I’m torn.  On the one hand, it looked cool.  On the other hand, I don’t understand why the humans stopped their killing.  The vampires are vulnerable and not in the fight.  Why not try to take out as many as you can while their guard is down?

7. I’m a big fan of Quinlan the vampire hunter, and I like that we saw The Ancients towards the end of this episode.  Delving deeper into that side of things should help make the second season more interesting than the first.  I say that it should, but I don’t have a ton of faith that it will.

Final thoughts: Not a great end to the season, but it wasn’t a great season, so I suppose it was fitting.  I had high hopes for this series, but those expectations have been lowered greatly.  It wasn’t terrible, but it was remarkably inconsistent.

Make sure you read CC’s take on this.  She’s better than me.

Also read LC Fremont’s take.  She’s one of the best writers I know.

The Strain S1E12, “Last Rites”

Strain Poster 2

It’s been a rough week, and your old pal Dusty hasn’t had much of a chance to write.  With that in mind, let’s skip over the unwieldy intro and get straight to my loves and hates.


1. The stuff with Setrakian’s wife felt really forced.  There wasn’t a ton of emotion, even though I know they were trying to force us to feel something.  Also, Young Setrakian’s face seemed to be made out of wax, which was off-putting.

2. The scene with Dutch and Fet on the rooftop.  They both played that scene as well as they could – and I thought Dutch talking about her childhood was terrific – but I really didn’t feel any chemistry between them at all.  It also ended with a ridiculously clichéd exchange:
“I specialize in passionate, destructive relationships.”
“The best kind.”
So dumb.

3.  Setrakian’s half-hearted apology to the gang about his outburst.  It basically sounded like, “I got too emotional.  My bad.  I’ll try to be better about it or whatever.”  David Bradley has been pretty good so far, but this little speech was really weak.

4. The escape from the pawn shop was entirely too easy.  There were vampires bursting in from windows and doors, yet the back exit was left unguarded.  Eichorst was trying to take out Setrakian and his crew before they became a bigger threat.  I’m supposed to believe that he’s not smart enough to block off all exits?

5. Eldritch Palmer, crying for joy in the rain at his newly gained immortality.  It’s almost like he doesn’t know that it takes Eichorst hours to make himself look somewhat normal every morning.  Let’s see you celebrating when you’re putting on your nose every morning, fella.


1. Gus dropping the line, “A plague done broke out.”  Terrible line, but it made me laugh.

2. The vampire lady in the well, speaking to Setrakian in The Master’s voice.  Really creepy stuff.  After last week’s episode, it is obvious that balding vampire women in dresses are a fear of mine.  Seems like a perfectly reasonable fear to have.

3. The initial raid of the pawn shop was terrific (vampires bursting in from the windows), and Boliver showing up to kill Nora’s mother was legitimately shocking (especially given that she is still alive at that point in the books).  I’m not sorry to see her character go, which kind of makes me feel terrible about myself.  “Yeah!  They finally killed that woman with dementia.  About time.  Her terrible disease made me dislike her immensely.”  I’m the worst.

4. Quinlan and his vampire hit squad finally showed up again.  I wanted to see more of them in this season, but, with the season finale next week, it looks like we’ll have to wait until next season to see them in full force.

Final thoughts: Kind of glad this season is winding down.  This episode wasn’t terrible, but it was pretty much like the rest of the season: remarkably inconsistent.  It’s wearing me down.  At this point, I’m ready for the season to be over.  I want them to take stock of the season, figure out their strengths and weaknesses, and come back next season fully loaded.  Here’s to hoping for a big season finale that sets up an improved second season.

The Strain S1E11, “The Third Rail”

Strain Poster 2

The season is winding down.  While the show has gotten better, it’s still maddeningly inconsistent.  There are some great scenes – and there have even been some truly great episodes – but there are too many moments of drama driven by the stupidity of the main characters.  This episode had a little bit of each of those.  Let’s get to it.


1. I proclaimed my hatred for Zach last week, and he did nothing this week to change my mind.  He kicked off the episode by saying, “epic fail,” and I nearly punched through my TV.  He spent the rest of the episode either staring blankly at Nora’s mother or making an ill-advised trip out of the pawn shop in search of cigarettes for her.  I really can’t stand this kid.

2. This exchange between Zach and Eph:
“Why can’t I go?”
“I can’t control that environment.”
Did you guys know that Eph is a control freak?  Me neither.  They’re totally subtle about it.  They haven’t driven that point into the ground or anything.

3. The gang left Zach and Mrs. Martinez alone in the pawn shop.  That seems like a bad decision anyway, but it seems like an even worse decision when it was revealed that there was an entire wall of weapons in the basement, just hanging out.  Sure.  Just let the child and the woman with Alzheimer’s – who has been acting erratically all day – alone with a weapons stockpile.  That seems like a pretty uncontrolled environment, Eph.

4. Gus, you just killed your vampire brother (who, oddly, looked slightly better as a vampire than he did as a human.  RIP Vampire Weevil).  Don’t wander around the house in the dark.  Turn on a light.

5. Wandering around subway tunnels, looking at items of the deceased, dropping lines like, “It’s everything that defined these people.”  Knock it off.
Another word about the subway tunnels.  They had just come across a nest of vampires that they had to sneak by.  They also talked about how sound travels.  And yet minutes later, they’re out there yelling at each other.  What part of “vampires in tunnels” don’t you understand?  For as smart as all of these people are, they’re pretty stupid most of the time.

6. The Master looks really dumb.  He’s like some mash-up of Nosferatu, Admiral Ackbar and Clem from Buffy.  Probably not a good sign when I laugh really hard every time the main villain is on the screen.


1. Fet making a UV bomb.  I love the image of Fet hunched over a work bench, desperately trying to make a UV bomb.  Fet is the best.

2.  Nora’s mom smokes Morleys.  I bet her and CSM hooked up on more than one occasion.

3. The vampire lady sitting in the basement of the shop Zach got the cigarettes from was really creepy.
Of course, Zach saw her, freaked out and dropped his phone.  (This is your reminder that cell phones don’t work anymore.)  What does he do?  He jumps down from his spot to retrieve his phone, losing track of the vampire lady in the process.  Zach, you are remarkably dumb.

4. I loved the vampire crawling after Fet in the tunnel.  The way his head moved was supremely unnerving.

5. Setrakian’s coffin-smashing.  We saw a lot of pent-up rage come flying out of Setrakian this week.  I liked it.

6. Fet proclaiming, “That’s a lot of munchers,” when seeing a teeming horde of vampires bathed in red light.  I like the term “munchers” and I love that visual.
Quick story: we drove up to Wisconsin to see Radiohead on their Hail to the Thief tour.  It was an outdoor venue, and we had our spot near the back, on the top of the hill.  There were thousands of people between us and the stage.  All we could see was the backs of their heads.  Around the middle of the show, they played “We Suck Young Blood”.  It’s a slow, lurching song that eventually explodes.  For the beginning of that song, the lights facing the audience were green.  The band sang the first line, “Are you hungry?” while the green lights washed over a sea of heads, all nodding simultaneously in a slow, hypnotic fashion.  I had a terrifying thought that they were all going to slowly turn and come after us.  It was one of the creepiest things I have ever seen.
The image of thousands of vampires milling around in the glow of the red flare took me back to that moment.

Final thoughts:

More bad than good in this episode.  There were entirely too many annoying moments that distracted from the good ones.