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.

Paper Cuts: 12/5/16


Number one issues can be tricky.  The writer needs to set a world, give compelling characters and leave with something to come back around for the next installment.  All within the confines of 32 pages.

Bad Moon Rising has some elements that intrigue, but unfortunately get lost in the shuffle because there are too many plot points in this first issue.  The book opens with American soldiers trapped in Vietnam, only to be saved by one of them turning into a werewolf.  Truthfully, you could do a whole series on that alone and it would have been compelling and interesting.  After finishing Bad Moon Rising, I am not even sure that has anything to do with the plot moving forward because there were 3 more story lines crammed into this single issue.  There is a story of fringe science doctor who sees ghosts and is desperately trying to get law officials to believe him.  There is a story of a biker gang who have some sort of connection to wolves, although the connection itself is unclear.  And then there is a story of what sets up to be the main character of the series, a guy who ran away to the city, leaving his small town behind, and is back due to an animal attack on his father that killed him.  That is all in one issue.  These elements could work together, but the story execution felt flat and rushed and never let any of these characters develop and breathe, or give the reader a real reason to care about any of them.

One thing to really give credit to this issue is on the art layout.  Newer and smaller publishers really tend to stick to a simple grid format of storytelling and it was a pleasant surprise to see the creative team work with a much wider scope of formats that moved the story along and kept the reading engaging by changing the format depending on how the story needed to be told.  There is some real talent in that and something that is missing from a lot of the horror comics that are published on a monthly basis.

The art in the rest of the book is all over the map.  There are a lot of misplaced shadows and odd coloring choices.  The line work also seems to be really thick in some places and pencil thin in others.  I was a bit surprised to find that the artist, Ty Dazo, has had success working for the largest comic publishers. Looking back over the credits, there were three different colorists on this single issue. That could be the determining factor on the inconsistencies of art throughout the book.  In today’s comic market, that seems to be the norm, with monthly double shipped, big 2 comics.  But for an indie publisher, it is odd to have that many in one book.

Overall, this book is fine.  The couple elements that I liked – the Vietnam angle and the art layouts – warrant another chance on this series for issue #2.

Ratings: 2.5 out of 5

Hemlock Grove Episode 3: The Order of the Dragon

Drink of choice: Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat
It’s a good one.  As far as “pumpkin beers I can find at a store near my house”, this ranks near the top.
My original plan was to finally track down some Southern Tier Pumking.  I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about it (the guys at Blood Good Horror rave about it), so I thought it was about time that I tried it.
But it’s never available in Lexington.  However, due to my odd living situation, I’m in the Cincinnati area a couple days a week.  I looked at Southern Tier’s website, and there’s a “find Pumking” option.  Which I did.  It said there was a liquor store 5 minutes from my apartment that carried it.  What luck!  I figured I would stop by on my way out of town and grab some.  I got my dog in the car, and headed over to the liquor store.
The liquor store was no longer there.  Just an empty storefront in an abandoned strip mall.  An apt description of my life.  (That last statement is not true.  I have a fantastic life.  To quote the poet/philosopher Brother Ali, “I love the life I live.”)
I drove home with my head hung low.

Pre-viewing state of mind:
I was a little disappointed that I would be watching this and not the Patriots/Jets game tonight, but I checked the score to that game and feel like I made the right choice.  I’m not necessarily looking forward to this, but I’m not dreading it.  I feel like that’s as motivated as I’m likely to get.
Also, I went to a used video store today and nabbed Monster Squad, April Fool’s Day, The Devil’s Backbone, Zodiac and Cloverfield, so I’m in a pretty good mood.

Episode synopsis from Netflix:
Christina discovers a new victim, and Sheriff Sworn gets outside help from Dr. Chasseur.  Now a suspect, Peter joins Roman to find the killer.

In revisiting my theme of “what was the budget spent on?”, the dead body at the beginning of this episode was horrible.  Looked almost exactly like a mannequin.  Although the smile in the flashbacks was slightly creepy.
Also, for the record, I could go my whole life without seeing anyone kiss a dead body again (even one as terrible looking as the one we saw here).  Seeing that made me a sad panda.

“Damn fine coffee here in Hemlock Grove.  Damn fine apple pie, too.”
I have no idea what’s going on.

It warms my heart to see Dualla and Chief together again.

I love the idea of a guy with mind control, yet using that power for things like making freshman boys kiss each other.  I’m pretty sure that’s a massive waste of superpowers.  You’re part Jedi, and that’s the best you can do?  Shame on you, Roman.  Shame on you.

We’re all in agreement that Roman used his powers to have sex with (and accidentally impregnate) his cousin, right?  That’s not just me?

In reference to the new, murderous-yet-ultimately-self-destructive wolf in town, Destiny (Peter’s cousin/fake gypsy/“sacred whore”) says this: “This isn’t mild-mannered Bruce Banner.  This is Norman Bates.”
I know I’m picking nits, but I can’t help it.  This is not an accurate statement.  Bruce Banner could be described as mild-mannered.  However, his temper brings out the Hulk.  And, since the Hulk made an appearance quite often, I would say that Banner was not always in control of his emotions.
Norman Bates was also mild-mannered.  Extremely mild-mannered.  It wasn’t Norman that killed: it was his mother (or, rather, his split-personality that took on the traits of his mother).  When he was Norman Bates, he was kind, shy, and funny, if a little strange (or, perhaps, mad?  I heard he was prone to go a little mad sometimes.  We all are, really).
Really, Banner and Bates aren’t all that different from each other.  In their native state, both were good guys.  But, when the switch was flipped, they became monsters.  The Hulk is to Bruce Banner what Norman’s mother is to Norman.
My point is, that scantily-clad gypsy girl made a poor analogy.  Try to wipe the surprised look from your face.

This episode should be called “Roman’s Bulging Eyes”.

Times a variation of the phrase “gypsy trash” has been uttered: 1
Times Christina mentions she’s a writer: 1

Final thoughts:
I’d put it about on par with the second episode.  Not great by any means, but just entertaining enough to not make me hate myself for watching it.  (My standards are very low.)  They’re trying to build a sense of mystery, but it’s just not working for me.  I honestly don’t care where this show goes or what happens to any of the characters.  It’s too wrapped up in trying to be mysterious to actually build that sense of mystery.

Post-viewing state of mind:
Tired.  I’m slightly sick, so that’s not helping matters at all.  I also have a feeling that this is as good as the show is likely to get.  If this season’s peak is “sorta watchable”, then it’s not a good show.  But I’m going to keep watching it, so maybe that says more about me than the show.

Hemlock Grove Episode 2: The Angel

Hemlock Grove - Poster

Drink of choice: Simpler Times Lager
Because I don’t have enough money to keep my fridge completely stocked with good beer, I have to go cheap from time to time.  At $4 for a six-pack, this qualifies as cheap.  It’s not bad, but it’s not really good, either.  I have to drink it pretty quickly; the warmer it gets, the worse it gets.  I tried them koozies the kids are all talking about these days, but they don’t seem to help.  It doesn’t help that my hands are made out of fire.

Pre-viewing state of mind:
Tired.  College football was on all day, which was great.  But I don’t have cable, which is bad.  There was only one game on at a time, and none of them were good.  Watching bad football for nine hours takes a lot out of a man.  I’ve also been converting a bunch of old vinyl to mp3 throughout the day, so I can feel somewhat productive, but not overly so.
In short, I am probably not in a good frame of mind to watch this.  But I’ll power through, because I’m a professional.  (Kind of.  Not really.)

Episode synopsis from Netflix:
Roman confronts Peter at the crime scene, finding common ground.  Letha reveals a shocking secret, and Olivia and Norman fall into old habits.


Tim Messenger would refer to this episode as “The Angle”.  Although, if he were still with us, he’d probably find himself aligning more with Sleepy Hollow than Hemlock Grove.  (Who didn’t love that reference?)

This face-to-face meeting between Roman and Peter is just terrific.  They don’t play well off each other at all.  However, the contrast of their hair is completely delightful.  I call this scene, “Slicked vs. Tousled”.  Who wins?  We do.  We all do.

CG angel wings.  Oh man.  That’s some next level humor.  I feel like this entire show is one big troll session.  This isn’t supposed to be good, is it?  I feel like I’m missing something.  I have never partaken in illicit substances, so maybe that’s it.

I didn’t care for the sex scene in the bathroom.  Something about implying sex but showing blood makes me uneasy.  I know.  I’m a prude.  I’m in my 30s.  Get off my lawn.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like the guy who plays Peter is actually a decent actor in this episode.  Roman, on the other hand…jeepers.  Unless they’re instructing him to makes his eyes kind of big and repeat lines on a page with a complete lack of emotion.  If that’s the case, then he’s killing it.

Apparently gypsys love Night of the Living Dead.  I knew it.

I want Roman to do more accents.  That old-timey one he dropped on an unsuspecting Letha was tremendous.  It was almost like the actress didn’t even know how to respond.  Best moment of the series so far.

“Did you want to come here and talk about hot boys all night, Roman?”
(Okay, so he didn’t actually respond in that fashion, but you know he was thinking it.)

One snake gets out and the entire dance is ruined?  What kind of school is this?  If every dance was stopped in my high school the second a snake showed up, I never would’ve gotten to second base.

Roman just said, “I have legs that won’t quit,” and I swear it doesn’t make any more sense in context than it does out of it.

These driving scenes are like some bad, Cary Grant-era greenscreen scenes.  If the internet is to be believed (it has never misled me, so I don’t know why it would start now), the budget for this season was somewhere between $45-$52 million.  That’s a lot of halibut.  I have to believe they could shoot better driving scenes than this with that budget.

Loved the concept of the transformation.  Very detailed.  Very gory.  Lots of ripping flesh.  But, in the end, it just looked really cheesy.  I laughed pretty hard at least twice.  I really wish they had gone with practical effects, because the CG just didn’t look very good.  Something about seeing the face of a dog come out of the face of a man is very humorous to me, apparently.  I don’t see what the hype is all about.

Times a variation of the phrase “gypsy trash” has been uttered: 1
Times Christina mentions she’s a writer: 1

Final thoughts:
might be crazy, but that episode seemed a bit better than the first one.  Maybe it was just because I finally got to see the transformation, but I doubt it, because I didn’t really like the transformation.  I actually kind of liked the Peter character.  He had more of a personality in this episode.  And, while the rest of the characters and storylines weren’t very good, there was enough in this episode to not make me completely dread watching the next one.  Progress!

There was a distinct lack of Christina in this episode, which is a real shame.  I kind of like her.  I’d prefer more of her than I would more scenes of her young (young young young) sisters talking about having sex.  That was unpleasant.

Post-viewing state of mind:
Cautiously optimistic.  I don’t think this is going to be a good show, but there’s an outside chance I won’t completely hate it.  And that’s as optimistic as I’m likely to get.  “Hemlock Grove: It might not be the worst TV show I’ve ever seen, after all.”  Then put up a picture of me winking and giving a less-than-enthusiastic one-thumb-up.

Hemlock Grove Episode 1: Jellyfish in the Sky

Hemlock Grove - Poster

I was going to post this last night, but my internet died directly after the episode ended.  It was like Time Warner was telling me that they really, REALLY didn’t want to watch another episode.  It was the equivalent of hiding the remote.
Either that or Time Warner has spotty coverage.

Drink of choice: Sam Adams Oktoberfest
On top of being a great beer, Oktoberfest signals the best time of the year.  The pennant races are heating up (as a lifelong Tigers fan in his early 30s, the pennant races rarely held much interest for me until 2006, when they burst back towards relevance.  From the ages of 8-25, this was normally a pretty depressing time of year).  Football is weeks away.  The weather is getting cooler.  And, of course, Halloween is so close you can taste it.

Pre-viewing state of mind: Having just finished a bowl of Reese’s Puffs and listened to the relentlessly upbeat new album from Noah and The Whale (Heart of Nowhere), I think I would describe myself as “vaguely cheerful”.


Immediate nudity is a plus.  Creepy lurking high schooler cutting himself is a minus.  I guess that’s a wash?  I think it’s a wash.

One of the characters actually just said, “There’s so much more happening than what you think you see.”  Subtle foreshadowing, Roth.  Veeeeeeery subtle.

I swear some of these shots look like soap opera production.

With this show featuring gypsy scum and thieving kids, it’s only a matter of time before the crusty jugglers start showing up.

Christina – the self-proclaimed novelist (but God help you if you call her Hemingway) – seems to pretty much be trying to be Summer Glau.  Or, more specifically, River Tam.

An appearance from Chief (Battlestar Galactica).  That was fun.

This acting/dialog is terrible.  Truly, truly terrible.  Even Famke, who is always great, is shockingly bad.  Is that an accent?  She’s in and out of it.  I feel like she doesn’t want to be there.
It’s like they nabbed Famke, Lili Taylor, and a bunch of people who couldn’t hack it on daytime soaps.
I’m going to try not to harp on the acting, but we’ll see how well I’m able to stick to that.  I’m not a strong man.

I feel like the guy who plays Roman is the same guy who was the warlock (Landon?  Is that right?) in Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft.  I know he’s not, but…that hair, man.

This music is awful.  Very overdramatic.  Every note seems like it’s trying to be very important, but it just comes off as cheesy.

I have a feeling the people in the writer’s room sat around trying to craft a Twin Peaks-esque show with werewolves.  (In fact, I can almost guarantee “Twin Peaks With Werewolves” is the mission statement of this show.)  But no one involved has a fraction of the talent of David Lynch.

Times a variation of the phrase “gypsy trash” has been uttered: 3

Final thoughts:
That was pretty bad.  They tried to build a sense of mystery and intrigue, but the story/dialog/acting doesn’t allow that build to happen.  Maybe it gets better, but I very much doubt that’s the case.  I think what I just saw is what I am going to get.  This doesn’t bode well.
Still, it was entertaining, if for none of the reasons it was supposed to be.  I suppose I can do another twelve episodes of this.

Post-viewing state of mind: Confused.  That’s it.  Just confused.