Archives for posts with tag: horror

To be honest, I enjoyed the hell out of this. Does that mean it’s any good? Yes and no. Look, it’s not my fault if you expected this to be either the happy-go-lucky nonsense of the Brendan Fraser original or an actual proper film. Would either option have been better? Probably.

You know the plot. An Egyptian princess, Ahmanet (Sofia Boutella), nearly manages to summon Ultimate Evil into the world, but she’s stopped just in time, mummified alive, and buried in the desert. Some time later, an unscrupulous antiquities looter, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise), his dimwitted sidekick (Nick from “New Girl”), and a beautiful archaeologist, Jenny Halsey (Annabelle Wallis), find the mummy, free the mummy, and must defeat the mummy. Since this one is set in the present, there’s more ISIS and science-adjacent goofiness. Neither of these is an improvement.

MV5BMjM5NzM5NTgxN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDEyNTk4MTI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Among the film’s strengths are its energy, Cruise’s commitment, and, occasionally, Nick from “New Girl”‘s comedic chops. One gets the impression that every pitch meeting Cruise attends now ends with him saying, “Sure, but turn it up to eleven.” Mummy not enough for you? Crusader zombies! Tom Cruise has been on screen for seven whole minutes? Drop a missile on him! Archaeologists in films aren’t wifty enough already? Add Dr. Henry Jekyll (Russell Crowe) into the mix! And Edward Hyde (Russell Crowe with less make-up)!

So, yeah, it’s not half-assed. But it’s not really something worth whole-assing. It doesn’t add anything except unnecessary moralizing and special effects. It’s not quite silly enough–one feels the lack of John Hannah keenly. Boutella, one feels, is wasted in her rôle. We all know she’s athletic and beautiful, but Ahmanet could have slightly more personality. And whatever, Jenny. I get that we don’t want to have Evelyn’s cutesy incompetence, but you’re a cipher. And no woman archaeologist wears her hair down in the field.

Everyone told me this was awful, and it wasn’t awful. It was mindless and full of explosions, which is what I expected and wanted. Get a great big bag of popcorn.

Director: Alex Kurtzman
Rating: PG-13
Length: 110 minutes
Score: 3/5

This movie is a mock-documentary about vampires in New Zealand made by half of the team from “Flight of the Conchords.” That’s probably all the information you need to go and get your grubby mitts on it, but if not:

Viago (Taika Waititi) is our main point of contact with the documentary crew. He’s a vampire of the 18th century dandy type, and we encounter him as he’s trying to roust all of his flatmates out of their respective vampire sleeping situations for a flat meeting. First we meet Deacon (Jonny Brugh) hanging in a closet; he’s the newest of the vampires and vaguely rebellious. Next up is Vladislav the Poker (Jemaine Clement), who is having some sort of red satin orgy; he is obviously your bog-standard central European mediaeval-type vampire. Finally there is Petyr (Ben Fransham), an ancient Nosferatu-type who resides in the basement, doesn’t speak, and is surrounded by the remains of his victims, which Viago thinks is gross.

As the movie goes on, you see them do standard flatmate things: argue about whose turn it is to do the dishes, try to go to nightclubs (tricky if you need to be invited in), and have fraught encounters with the local werewolves (led by our old friend Rhys Darby). Deacon’s familiar Jackie (Jackie van Beek) lies to the dry cleaner about bloodstains, irons frilly shirts, and generally shows us (hilariously) how difficult it would actually be, day-to-day, to be a vampire’s familiar. The practicalities indeed often come into play–what if you hit a main artery by accident? what kind of prey would child vampires prefer? how do you learn about technology?–as the gang wanders around Wellington, and it’s perfectly composed and thought through.

The acting is over the top, of course, but consistently hits exactly the right humorous note. There’s some body horror, again of course, but the context makes it less jarring, and it could be a lot less tasteful. And, for all that it is straightforwardly a comedy about, you know, blood-sucking monsters, it gets surprisingly deep and rather touching. The genre is one of my favorites, and this is a terrific example.

Stray observations:

  • Rhys Darby wants his crew to watch their language: “Werewolves, not swearwolves!”
  • Viago is amazingly charming and sympathetic, even when he is in the process of murdering someone.

Directors: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Rating: R
Length: 86 minutes
Score: 5/5

The set-up of Daybreakers is this: ten years ago, humans were infected with vampirism. Now the vast majority of Earth’s population consists of vampires, and the food supply, obviously, is dwindling quickly. Starvation, in vampires, causes regression to a Nosferatu-like state, which is a) gross and b) not societally sustainable. In cities awake only at night, above networks of tunnels (Subwalks), there is a desperate race for a viable blood substitute.

Enter our hero, Ed (Ethan Hawke), a hematologist vampire working on this project. His evil boss (Sam Neill, whose character’s name I forget because it’s not Vassily Borodin) is concerned with profits, either from his blood farms or from the substitute, emphatically not caring which. Ed’s brother (some young Kiwi) is a weirdo soldier in the Vampire Army, and there is some sibling tension.

But Ed is not evil. Ed refuses to drink human blood, Ed helps humans escape from the Vampire Police, Ed really wants to save humans generally. Ed does not, you will be shocked to learn, have sensitive facial hair. Anyhow, he meets some human resistance fighters, Willem Dafoe drives American muscle cars, there’s an attractive lady (Claudia Karvan as Audrey) and an attractive vineyard, yadda yadda yadda fight the powercakes.

An unsubtle critique of capitalism and warning about possible food crises, this movie is nonetheless not terrible. At least two unexpected things happened, and the world-building is well executed. Willem Dafoe is appropriately crazy and Sam Neill is delightfully Mephistophelean. The only real problem I have is the body horror. Sure, you need some, but this…is a bit much, especially in an otherwise suited, fedora’d, stylish world. Which I’m sure is the point, but I still don’t have to like it.

Stray observations:

  • The vampires mostly wear hats. Like, the kind of hats we stopped wearing when JFK did. I don’t know why, because the hats don’t protect them enough from the sun and are worn underground. Style, I guess.
  • Audrey is capable and no-nonsense, not having to be rescued over-much. In fact, she begins by shooting Ed. Could be worse.
  • There is a predictable but still deeply unpleasant rape-analogue scene. It is, in fairness, largely essential to the plot.
  • Everyone in this movie except for Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe is a Kiwi or an Australian. Nonetheless the action occurs in the US, because, sigh, we are the capitalistic and militaristic goons who would create this world. I would like to see the same premise in Australia or New Zealand, mostly, I admit, for the laughs.

Director: The Spierig Brothers
Rating: R
Length: 98 min.
Score: 2/5. Clever, but too gross.