Kbatz: Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Coppola’s Dracula is Indeed Bram’s

By Kristin Battestella

You know the story I’m sure. Bela Lugosi, the widow’s peak, creatures of the night! Even Leslie Nielson’s spoof Dracula: Dead and Loving It shares those cliché vampire stereotypes. In a hundred years of films, only one Dracula film affirms to the spirit of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel. In 1991 director and producer Francis Ford Coppola threw out the widow’s peak and presented the ambitious Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Gary Oldman (Batman Begins, Air Force One) stars as Dracula, the lovelorn count from Transylvania. After his first lawyer Renfield (Tom Waits) returns to England raving with madness, Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) is dispatched to the Count. Dracula grows obsessed with Harker’s betrothed Mina (Winona Ryder, Beetlejuice), and after arriving in London, Dracula preys upon Mina’s friend Lucy Westerna (Sadie Frost, An Ideal Husband). Lucy’s suitors Lord Arthur (Cary Elwes), Quincy P. Morris (Billy Campbell) and Dr. Steward (Richard E. Grant) are helpless against her ailments. Suspecting something unnatural, Dr. Steward contacts his mentor, Abraham Van Helsing (Anthony Hopkins).

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You’ll notice there’s a lot more characters than your garden variety Dracula picture. Coppola and screenwriter James V. Hart adhere as closely to Stoker’s novel as possible. Previous legal issues with the Stoker estate and stage productions forced dramatic changes and character combinations. Of the many actors, only Keanu Reeves seems out of place. Not far enough removed from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Reeves’ Tiger Beat persona did however appeal to teenage girls not likely to chance a period piece.

Despite her previous issues with Coppola, Ryder holds her own with Oscar winner Sir Anthony Hopkins. Today’s actors don’t really look the part when making costume pictures. Hopkins, of course, fits in with perfection, as does The Princess Bride veteran Cary Elwes. I can go one about the entire cast-there is something to be said when an entire production clicks together; Fine direction, acting, story, and sets.

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Naturally, Coppola had sound source material. If you don’t like Stoker’s gothic, yet erotic and horrific Victorian novel, this film version is not for you. Some lines and scenes are word for word out of the book, and Coppola pays homage to the writing styles of the book by actually showing the characters typing, dictating, or composing the letters that tell the story. Outside of the love story bookends created by Coppola, I don’t think any motion picture has ever been so faithful to its book or origin- except for staple productions of A Christmas Carol.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula has its fair share of blood- blood and sultry vampire brides. While the film is not in itself all that scary, the ideas presented are dangerous and somewhat frightening. Coppola captures Stoker’s original intentions in the character of Van Helsing. Hopkins strikes the perfect balance between kinky eccentric and fearsome vampire undead hunter. His narrations on sex, blood, vampirism, and other beastly incarnations remind us that Stoker’s original tale wasn’t to glorify Dracula-unlike modern takes on vampires in film and literature.

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Not only do Oscar winning costumes and sets show off Dracula, impressive effects also highlight Coppola’s production. Misty ships, werewolf transformations, and all those slithery Dracula moves fit seamlessly with the spooky subject matter. All the gruesome scenes and decapitations are on DVD-forget watching Bram Stoker’s Dracula on basic TV. Too much is edited from the film to be appreciated.

Lighting effects and music cues spotlight Dracula’s attention to detail. Dracula’s castle is perfectly shadowed with candlelight, and the gaslights and early technical wonders of London add to the period atmosphere. Likewise the film’s score ups the creepy ante. The haunting work by Wojciech Kilar (The Pianist) enters every scene at the right moment. When the audience hears Dracula’s particular theme, we know something naughty is about to happen. When I heard the closing song in its entirety on the DVD, I knew it was Annie Lennox. As with her Oscar winning vocal performance for Return of the King, Lennox’s unique vibrato tops Dracula.

 

Of course, Dracula’s length and pacing are its only strikes. The slow pace and more talking less action sequences make the picture seem longer than its two hours and fifteen minutes. The finish however, is fast paced, and Coppola resolves his time traveling love triangle bookends-his only deviation from Stoker’s work.

Not a family film by any means or for the eyes of the squeamish or prudish, Bram Stoker’s Dracula also might not be enjoyed by the traditional period piece audience. Although there is no outright sex in the film, Coppola’s illusions to the vampire bite as penetration, heavy petting and nudity from the vampire brides, a touch of homoerotic undertones, and one count of potential bestiality rape might be too much for fans of films like The Remains of the Day. Quirky Ryder fans will no doubt eat up Dracula, as will Hopkins and Oldman fans. Horror enthusiasts, romance lovers, and proprietors of all things goth can enjoy Dracula with each viewing. Several editions of the DVD are available-from affordable older copies to new anniversary editions with features. Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a must have in any budding horror fan’s library. You can’t be a definitive Dracula fan without it.

 

Kbatz: Vampires versus…Vampires?

Vampire versus…Vampire?

by Kristin Battestella

book3 200x300So often vampires and werewolves are pitted against each other in the battle of the genre beasties.  However, more often then not, these terror titans work in tandem in fiction and media, creating a broader, richer tug and pull sharing in the horror medium.  My 2008 Eternal Press novel The Vampire Family has a family of vampires that can shape shift and transform into wolves and scary weres- and scary werecats, too.  My follow up series Fate and Fangs: Tales from the Vampire Family serves up vampires who prefer their wolf shapes in Book 3 Struggle. 

While it is easy to have books and ebooks either have all the monster magic together or for readers to find literature specific to vampires and werewolves and all the mixes in the spectrum, films have also scored on the presumed animosity.  The Underworld franchise tells of ancient vampire and werewolf wars- but fans of either creature can get their fill in these features.  Likewise Twilight has made the Team Edward and Team Jacob themes top sellers.  Vampires versus werewolves ideologies are good for business, simply put.  Whether for or against, reluctantly working together or struggling to love or hate one or the other, in the end, vampires and werewolves are good for each other.

Unfortunately, the current subdivision of the vampire genre is getting too divergent for its own good.  The watered down, lovely dovey, youth and glitter love vampire movement spurred by the Twilight craze has helped the vampire literature and media culture just as much as it may have damaged the genre.  Book, television, and movie markets are now flooded with vampire material- all in the same youth, teen romance driven trends.  As knock off begat knock offs, the quality pool has dropped considerably.  People are tired of vampires.  They think horror has been played, and all the sudden the same editors, publishers, and powers that be are now turning on the massive overdrive they helped to create.  Backlash is inevitable.drac_1513745c1

Soon people even forget what came before the glitter vampire.  Readers are afraid to take on another vampire story because ‘they all suck now’.  (No pun intended) The quality vampiric horror gets lumped into the problematic downward glitter spiral.  And when you the writer submits your hard worked, scary horror, medieval furthest thing from contemporary teenage vampire vampire manuscript, what does the publisher tell you?  The worst thing a writer can possibly hear:

No.

And it isn’t just the ‘no’ that is the worst part.  It wasn’t that your story wasn’t well written or not just good enough.  It might be damn decent perfection and fit in just perfectly with what this publisher’s interests are.  But no, it is the fact that the marketing, timing, and overblown played mayhem of that other vampire type has just ruined your publication chances.  Well, doesn’t that just suck? (Pun intended)

So then, you see, the vampires versus werewolves theory is not what hurt your novel’s chances.  Rarely does a publisher say, ‘we already have a werewolf book, so we can’t take your vampire story.’ In fact it is quite the opposite, editors often look for both together to balance out  their catalogue and reader varieties.  They might even prefer books or series dealing with both monsters so they can cross reference all their categories.  How many times have you clicked on a publisher’s store links for both ‘vampire’ and ‘werewolves’ and seen the same books? Quite a bit I suspect.

Now, have you ever seen separate links for ‘vampire horror’ and ‘vampire romance’? The breakdown between the vampire medium is almost nonexistent in appearance, even if those readers and writers and vampires lovers in the know immediately know there is a difference.  How many times have you been in conversation with a fellow vampire lover and they say either ‘oh, that was too scary for me!’ or ‘This vamp was too lovey dovey for me.’  What’s sad is how many times has a reader passed on your book because they like one or the other and dismissed your book as being the wrong vampire type for them.

What then, must a vampire author do to remain relevant in a subgenre at war with itself?  Keep writing damn good copy!  Whichever side of vamps your on- either pure horror or paranormal romance- keep it good.  Keep your universe, characters, and tales true to what the manuscript needs to be its best.  Don’t give in to the mislabeling and trends.  Vampires rise and fall, go underground and subculture or rise up from the dead and reign supreme over media. Not too long ago, everyone wanted exclusively paranormal light and vampire romance, now call outs are returning to pure horror and uniqueness.  Make your creatures of the night stand out from the pack.  Keep them worthy of the hand in hand werewolf antagonism.  Good competition is healthy in fiction, writing, selling books, and reader’s choice.  Write crap copy and no creature wins!

To read more about Kbatz’ vampires, read her contribution to The Great Vampire Dispute.

Kbatz: Dracula (2013)

Late Dracula Flawed but Still Entertaining

By Kristin Battestella

draculaI was excited for NBC’s 2013 prime time limited series Dracula. However, network demands and a rocky start seem to have unfortunately done in the series’ potential, and gothic, horror, and steampunk audiences are sadly left to wonder what could have been with this entertaining one shot.

The latest suave American inventor in 1896 London is none other than Dracula himself! Posing as Alexander Grayson, Dracula (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) seeks vengeance against the corrupt Order of the Dragon with the help of Professor Abraham Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann) and R.M. Renfield, Esq. (Nonso Anozie). Meeting Mina Murray (Jessica De Gouw), however, expedites Dracula’s desire for a vampirism cure. He hires Mina’s paramour Jonathan Harker (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) as his assistant, using his newspaper know how whilst also romancing the Order’s lead huntsman Lady Jayne Whetherby (Victoria Smurfit) away from her vampire killing duties. Unfortunately, Mina’s best friend Lucy Westerna (Katie McGrath) also has romantic folly on her mind…

Episode 1 “The Blood is Life” jumps right into resurrecting Dracula from his spiky prison in proper bloody fashion, but this first installment feels ironically slow paced with seemingly little actual set up and too many new characters and changes to the Stoker tale audiences were probably expecting to see. Couldn’t Dracula take down these angry, interfering businessmen with supernatural ease? Conflict over fantastic industrialism and wannabe Tesla designs feels unnecessary and takes up valuable narrative for purists, and steampunk enthusiasts – who, despite what the recent mainstream bandwagon would have us believe, have been around for decades – may be put off by these very changes meant to attract such an audience. Though historically based and possibly interesting, the Illuminati-esque Order of the Dragon and its thinly veiled but thickly laid modern technology talk of wireless power versus corrupt oil detracts from Dracula’s opportunities as the tormented villain. “A Whiff of Sulfur” shows Grayson’s blackmail cunning and character conflicts and thus does much better in getting to the action of how and why Dracula was resurrected. Had Dracula begun here with Episode 2 or as a full 90-minute premiere the reasons behind his revenge may have been more hard hitting. Dangling the weekly carrot with flashbacks to start each episode feels uneven, as does the mix of steampunk and seers horrors. Stockholder plots and majority shareholder papers in “Goblin Merchant Men” feel limp or easily played and gay blackmail comes across as too trite. We didn’t need this villainous organization against Dracula’s intimate quest for a solar vaccine – his psychic battles and eerie visions with the seers are far more occult fun then the Order’s gents playing at being bad. Early on Dracula simply can’t decide with which vein it wants to tell its tale, industrial allegory or gothic good times.

Fortunately, Lady Jayne gets her fight on with the vampire coming out party in “From Darkness to Light,” and guest star Alec Newman (Dune) makes the intrigue between her and Grayson as both lovers and antagonists more complex. These juicy elements should have come a lot sooner in the series in order to hook the audience – energy scenes and power demonstrations are simply not as wondrous to us and feel tacked on amid superior past vampire angst and threats on who knows Grayson isn’t the romantic do gooder scientist he claims to be. Despite an excellent progression on the Van Helsing character and his daylight serum, this lingering, feeling itself out writing and drastic book changes all at once do not work on network television today. Familiar vampire intrigues and an already delightful core story don’t need Ottoman Empire conspiracies, either. Thankfully, “The Devil’s Waltz” continues the great cliffhanger from Episode 4 with sexy dreams and Victorian torture. It’s on the nose perhaps, but also violent, kicked up, creepy yet nonchalant. Up close cinematic filming, askew angles, and dark Frankenstein turns for Van Helsing up the demented fantasy horror along with the delightful Renfield developments. Loyalty, laboratories, predatory blood and violence – the scenes of horror and irony in Dracula are excellent. Subterfuge and deceptions tie together perfectly with vampire sexy, shocking, and tender. “Of Monsters and Men” also ups the saucy and suspicions over Grayson’s plans – daylight meetings increase the intensity and Mina is far more interesting as a snooping Van Helsing assistant. Lady Jayne and Lucy manipulate wonderfully and great skin and bloody special effects keep the pace, confrontations, and toppers entertaining.

The excellent blackmail and character entanglements continue in “Servant to Two Masters,” and Dracula gets close to showing some scandalous for NBC. Primal filming distortions, tempting heartbeats, sensuality, and angsty vamp out resistance accent the simmering man versus nature and himself. Likewise “Come to Die” brings stimulating personal dynamics, and with such medieval takedowns and revelations, it’s baffling why Dracula ever began with generic overreaching revenge. I would rather have seen Lady Jayne’s pursuits and dramatic love triangles before the early Order of the Dragon piecemeal. Renfield and Dracula both play devil and angel on each other’s shoulders as needed while torn arms and impalements remind the audience that Dracula was always going to be a show about vampires – even if the series got away from that foundation at its start. Grayson’s orchestration goes deep, and the Order framework was never needed if “Four Roses” can bring all the abductions and character revelations together like this. The innocent are caught in the bloodbath crosshairs, and the pace upticks thanks to daylight interference and changing allegiances. I don’t want to spoil these final episodes, although “Let There Be Light” does inexplicably return to laying the Order’s purpose on thick when huntsmen versus fangs action and gruesome threats are done better. Bombs, horror violence, and questions on who is really the hero or the villain counter any quibbles. Granted, some maybe, maybe not character fates are unknown thanks to the show’s cancellation and seeds left for more in hopes of continuation remain hanging. Dracula, however, concludes with the confrontations that needed to happen and a quality dramatic finish.

In recalling his early, pale, androgynous roles, it’s surprising that Jonathan Rhys Meyers (The Tudors) has not played a vampire previously, for he is perfectly cast as both the medieval warrior Vlad Dracula and his incarnation as the Victorian entrepreneur Alexander Grayson. Yes, it’s unusual that he puts on an American twang rather than simply coming from the continent as the Stoker source says. However, Meyers embodies the charisma and scandal nonetheless thanks to animalistic nuances for the more toothy scenes, a sexy stealth making his lady victims so ecstatic, and a well aware, calculating slick. I’m not sure why Grayson is made to drink so much considering Meyers’ off screen alcohol difficulties, but he carefully accents the character within a character suave using the glassware and props. There is unfortunately some flat foil and weak dialogue hampering him, scenes without Meyers tend to drag, and playing politics with a different Order of the Dragon chap each week is a waste of Dracula’s primal potential. Why does Dracula need outside revenge or romance? Why can’t he be a vampire for good energy or bad daylight power for his own motivation? Grayson’s desperation over not being able to keep his proverbial fangs in his pants adds more dimension – his vampire nature is the very thing that mucks up his plans most.

Victoria Smurfit (Ballykissangel) as Lady Jayne may seem shoehorned in to Dracula for no reason or too Selene ala Underworld to start thanks to an off kilter mix of slo mo fights hindering her suspicion of Grayson – she looks unnecessarily played and stupid in not knowing he’s a vampire. Fortunately, her Old World pretty and kick ass make for a unique, sexy conflict, and Jayne’s chemistry, dialogue, physicality, and confidence match Dracula’s game. Her intriguing upmanship with Katie McGrath (Merlin) as Lucy Westerna adds a fresh element as well, and where Mina’s bemoaning seriously impedes Dracula, Jayne and Lucy’s twists work wonderfully. Simply put, McGrath should have played Mina instead. Her flashy style and flirty pish posh perfectly hide Lucy’s subtle lady leanings, and again, this viewer aside is a pleasing character improvement upon Bram. We know the reasons why Lucy may seem too pretentious, but despite these positive strides, Lucy isn’t fully utilized until the later half of the season. Jessica De Gouw (Arrow) as Mina is far too bland in comparison and remains typical as the off and on, wishy washy, maybe reincarnated love interest instead. It’s quite progressive that she is a Victorian medical student, but Mina is also squeamish and set back with nervousness and romantic idiocy. Her seemingly feminist dreams and juvenile behaviors don’t match the character’s would be strengths nor Grayson’s sophistication, and one wonders why all these people are so desperately enthralled with her.

Likewise, Oliver Jackson-Cohen (World Without End) overplays the wannabe rich and snot reporter Jonathan Harker. The potential for early old-fashioned newspaper designs and muckraker happenings is ruined with his clunky – Harker does not have the who’s who and what’s what finesse to be an insightful investigative reporter and conflict is created purely by his being a jerk or stepping into it with everyone or everything. Along with the equally plodding Order of the Dragon, the character could have been written out with the show no worse for the wear. Blessedly however, Nonso Anozie (Game of Thrones) as R.M. Renfield is an ingeniously urbane henchman. He likes that Grayson is not a “proper” employer and dislikes Dracula’s bouts of morality but stands firm and remains loyal in wise, quiet villainy. This Renfield smartly sees through people, deduces their nature, and will use or dismiss anyone as needed. Another very positive character development for Dracula along with Thomas Kretschmann’s (Avengers: Age of Ultron) cantankerous Professor Van Helsing. Old time medical gear aids his rocky relationship with Dracula and the debating between these expected enemies now allied is meaty fun. Science and revenge both help and hinder, and again, Dracula could have been solely about this search for a desperate daytime cure with Van Helsing’s side dose of revenge. His retribution feels far more believable, and his ruthless motivation leads to some intriguing questions on who is the worse monster on Dracula.

Though not as costume bespectacle as big screen productions of old and a bit too modern in hairstyles, fabrics, low cuts, and pants wearing women, the 19th century style on Dracula is high end, flashy, and colorful – frocks, feathers, jewelry, long coats, and top hats! The elegant men are refreshingly refined alongside quality blood, creepy graves, cobblestone streets, carriages, early cars, and plenty of fog and rainy feelings. Delicate society highs and lows are here along with skeletons, medical gruesomes, and head choppings. Sometimes the false illumination technologies seem overhyped, but dangerous window light and swaths of streetlight make for mood and interesting shadows. CGI rooftop battles are obvious as are Highlander style swordfights and too much slow motion, but thankfully, these designs are gone after the first few episodes. Did someone realize such action was unnecessary? The blink and you miss them opening credits, however, seem trapped in a contemporary blue tinted and steampunk atmosphere – complete with gears and goggles as if NBC felt they had to package the show with such forced edge. Ironically, these expensive production values and showy misfires when compared against the resulting ho hum Friday night numbers are most likely what cooked Dracula’s goose. Different writers and directors across the series created no clear vision of progression, and with only 43 minutes per episode, the story felt like it was just getting started when it was time to stop. I had hoped NBC might develop other gothic properties or literary works for a rotating classy prime time block. However, network television is increasingly cutting its nose to spite its face, and Dracula is no longer available On Demand or Hulu while one awaits the incoming 3-disc set from Netflix. With its faulty start, it was tough enough to watch Dracula from week to week. NBC could have made a real autumn event by having several Dracula episodes airing on back to back nights or even showcased the entire show in the true mini series format of old with two hour television movie chic. Viewer styles have changed and the production team here was simply not up to pace.

Longtime Bram Stoker fans can’t go into this Dracula expecting a faithful book retelling. In fact, the plot as ended feels more like a prequel to the novel we know and love. Yes, it is slow to start. Yes, mixed motivations will have you yelling at the TV. Fortunately, progressive characters, excelling performances, and superior plots save Dracula. Despite its brief life, the intriguing changes, gothic style, and moody spins here are perfect for a sophisticated vampire viewer’s macabre weekend marathon.

Kbatz: Horror Documentaries

 A Macabre Documentary or Two

By Kristin Battestella

Looking for some non-fiction programming to spice up this festive, macabre season? Here’s a round up of informative and spooky documentaries, biographies, and shows for demented minds young and old!

anneAnne Rice: Biography – This 2000 television hour focusing on the Interview with a Vampire author is nothing new. Ironically, it is actually dated and somewhat inaccurate thanks to Rice’s more recent life and literary changes and thus this feels somewhat incomplete. A one-minute add-on to encompass the new millennium doesn’t cut it. That aside, it’s still great to see photos from Rice’s early life, hear friends and family recount her childhood and road to publication greatness, and listen to Rice herself talk of religion and the personal tragedies that inspired her writing. In fact, Anne’s familial losses and literary struggles may even be more poignant thanks to the conversations with her late husband, the poet Stan Rice. I’d like to see A&E revisit Rice with an updated two-hour special, but until then, scholarly studies and Rice aficionados can always enjoy this quick profile.

A Cemetery Special – PBS’s 2005 hour-long spotlight doesn’t have enough time to explore this exhaustive subject matter- and it bemusing admits that along with a respectful dedication to those buried in the featured cemeteries. From Pittsburgh to Vermont and Key West to Alaska, lovely footage of graveyards and gardens accents the bent but thought provoking discussion on death, remembrance, art, and the monuments we leave behind. Perhaps lesser-known graveyards are featured, but interesting tales from the Civil War and sleeping place origins are recounted in an almost heartwarming manner. This is the perfect little video for classrooms studying the specific locations and history or macabre scholars researching burial customs. I wish there had been a whole series like this!

hammerFlesh and Blood: Hammer Heritage of Horror – It took forever for this elusive 1994 documentary to arrive from Netflix! Nonetheless, this hour and forty minutes narrated by Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing is chock full of great photos, retro posters, archive footage, and film trailers illustrating the behind the scenes stories and production highs and lows of the famed Hammer Film Studios. Lovely reflections by Michael Carreras and Anthony Hinds help recount the earliest Hammer films- from struggles in the thirties and World War II to The Quatermass Xperiment and budding science fiction success. Interviewees such as Hazel Court, Freddie Francis, Ingrid Pitt, Caroline Munroe, Joe Dante, Rachel Welch, and our dear narrators seemingly touch upon nearly every Hammer picture- the Frankenstein series, assorted gothic monsters, the Dracula disagreements, blood, bosoms, and the studio’s eventual seventies downfall. Understandably, some of the footage is lower in quality, the sound remixing is tough, and there’s an obviously dry, British style to the presentation. This documentary also shouldn’t be confused with The Horror of Hammer trailer compilation companion or several other similarly themed documentaries. However, this treat is essential for die-hard Hammer fans, horror enthusiasts, and film historians.

His Name Was Jason – Everything you’d ever want to know about the Friday the 13th series, with clips from all the films and extensive behind the scenes interviews with every one who was ever involved with Jason-plus his or her grandma!

In Search of Dracula –  Christopher Lee hosts this old school look at the history of Dracula and vampire lore. Young folks might not like the old styles and footage, but vintage vampire fans will delight. You don’t catch classics like this on television anymore!

karlKarloff: The Gentle Monster – This 2006 38 minute documentary is not the hour long Biography episode of the same name but rather a lovely little retrospective found on the Frankenstein blu-ray releases. Although the beginning briefly mentions Karloff’s pre-Universal film appearances, the focus here is with the subtle, silent sympathy of Karloff’s monstrous characters and his long lasting horror appeal. From Frankenstein to later stage work beyond horror such as Arsenic and Old Lace, film scholars and historians discuss early comparisons to Lon Chaney, difficulties with horror make up’s infancy, and more scary film glory with classics such as The Mummy and The Black Cat. Attention is given to Karloff’s quiet success as a character actor thanks to his physicality and ability to be both frightening and sensual at the same time along with his spooky television series and his tireless work across mediums and generations. This is the voice of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, people! It’s also interesting to see movie buffs theorizing on the over reaching and decreasing quality of the studio’s Frankenstein series, beating it into the ground as the franchises, sequels, and remakes do today. Boris fans and horror lovers can eat up the clips and nostalgia here, for sure.

Lon Chaney: Behind the Mask – Rare, unseen silent film footage, vintage photos and clips, charming family home movies, and archive interviews with co-stars and crew anchor this 76 minute 1995 documentary illuminating the Man of a Thousand Faces. From early bit parts to his iconic horror heights, the pain, emotion, and melodramatic catharsis of his tragic portrayals is examined against Chaney’s stanch need for privacy amid the fame orchestrated Hollywood system. Collaborations with director Tod Browning are highlighted, and quotes on the craft from the man himself are smartly reiterated – wisdoms on how to utilize makeup or character flaws to accentuate the performance and create redemption in villainous roles. Of course, the presentation focuses on The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera but ends somewhat suddenly with Chaney’s death rather than any retrospective summation or legacy. Fortunately, there are lots of behind the scenes snippets, photographs, and factoids, for it’s really quite sad to realize how much of Chaney’s work is gone – over 30% of his films have vanished. 56 lost pictures – that’s more movies than some people today make in their entire lifetimes! The dated nineties design, uneven editing, jumping back and forth timeline, and a very dry narration don’t quite hit home here. However, this informative presentation remains classroom ready and will delight new film enthusiasts, longtime Chaney fans, and horror historians.

vlcsnap-5876655Lugosi: The Dark Prince – Like Karloff, Bela Lugosi’s early life and acting career before Dracula go unnoticed in this 36 minute documentary accompanying the 1931 Dracula blu-ray video. Interviews with genre directors Joe Dante, Jimmy Sangster, and other film scholars and authors instead spend the majority of time here on Lugosi’s quintessential appearance in the budding horror cinema and discuss how his phonetic learning of lines accentuated his hypnotic, handsome, somewhat scandalous and always sensual acting style. This masterful paranormal charisma of course unfortunately typecast him, but clips and analysis on Murders in the Rue Morgue, White Zombie, Son of Frankenstein, and The Raven will be a treat for those interested in the irony of Lugosi’s long lasting iconography but relatively short-lived success and underatedness as an actor. Even if the talk isn’t about the man’s personal life per se, there are great insights into the craft here, making for a lovely little bittersweet study on the quick rise and fall of a horror icon.

Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film – In covering a hundred years of scary cinema, this 2009 documentary was bound to miss a few things. However, this hour and half also provides extensive clips from early silent films, Universal monsters, the Roger Corman era, seventies zombies, eighties slashers, and more. Interviewees like George Romero, John Carpenter, and more experts on the genre examine how the social and political statements onscreen, both overt and veiled, influenced film making and audiences thru the decades. Horror has gone from early B-movie child’s play to red scare allusions and now a blockbuster industry- who knew? Some of the more recent conversation and post 9/11 thoughts are perhaps nothing new or could have been dealt with more deeply, for today’s viewer is familiar with these sociopolitical cinema influences, after all. But seeing the paces of vintage horror film thru the years is a real treat for both new and veteran fans. This one’s a great starter for younger folks just getting into horror films or a good accompaniment to a sociology discussion.

Tales from the Crypt: Comics to Television – Very insightful special about the ups and downs of the naughty in naughty comic books and how the guts and glory survived in serial television. Maybe not for mainstream fans, but horror and comic enthusiasts will love this.

Kbatz: Jennifer’s Body

Unsure What to Make of Jennifer’s Body

By Kristin Battestella

MPW-44318So, I was sick in bed watching some other random movie. After it went off, the 2009 Diablo Cody horror comedy Jennifer’s Body came on. I couldn’t reach the remote control to change the channel, and had no desire to move anyway. And thus, here I am, confused still at what could have been.

The popular Jennifer (Megan Fox) drags her nerdy but long time friend Anita- called Needy (Amanda Seyfried) – to a crappy bar to meet Low Shoulder, for Jennifer thinks the band’s lead singer Nikolai (Adam Brody) is hawt. After a mysterious fire suddenly burns down the bar, Needy survives unscathed; but Jennifer is whisked away in Low Shoulder’s van. When she returns, Jennifer gains an insatiable appetite for gutting and devouring male schoolmates. Needy both suspects and fears the changes in her friend, but no one believes her demonic claims against Low Shoulder- the band has become a major success since the fire. As Needy decides to confront Jennifer herself, she must also protect her boyfriend Chip (Johnny Simmons) from her hungry and deadly BFF.

I like most of the work I’ve seen from quirky screenwriter Diablo Cody- namely United States of Tara. The writing from Cody- an Original Screenplay Oscar winner for her debut Juno- is not necessarily the problem with Jennifer’s Body. The dialogue is frank, witty, and relatively realistic in the way the sassy younger generation speakeths. It’s amusing to hear and see some of the things these kids say and do. In some scenes, the right blend of black comedy, preposterous horror, and even a few scares are just right. However, director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Aeon Flux) never decides in which vein Jennifer’s Body actually falls. If we are supposed to laugh and appreciate the social cynicism, why are you giving us such lengthy and scary gorefests? But, if this is supposed to be straight horror, then there should be plenty more guts and gore than received. In some ways, I can’t believe this is rated R! This bipolar nature strikes an audience blow, because Jennifer’s Body never decides who its audience is. Hardcore horror fans will find it lightweight and dismiss- and frankly, the precious 18-34 male demographic is going to be seriously disappointed in the lack of nudity and lame girl on girl teases. I don’t think Diablo Cody meant the implied lesbian angles as such cop outs, but the relationship here is not handled with its due respect. Seeing Amanda Seyfried and Megan Fox make out was just too much of a gimmick not to employ. And oh, they gimmicked it- and I must say, it fails woefully. The visual put ons make Jennifer’s Body look like all fluff and no substance. Sadly, I think it could have been much more.

 

jonahhex13

(Soft glow in Jonah Hex much?)

 

After her woeful turn in Jonah Hex, Jennifer’s Body has not helped my opinion of Megan Fox at all. I must say, she fits the part of the dangerously hot cheerleader. She handles the witty dialogue just fine, and even delivers a few well-placed zingers in perfect comedic timing. With the proper grooming from an acting coach and un-conflicted approach from Kusama, perhaps she may very well have had some sardonic talent. Sadly, it just seems like Fox is playing herself, saying and doing what she would normally do to tease any weak and horny little boy. Her tongue in cheek ‘I’m hot, look at me, but no nudity!’ taunts completely destroy the illusion this film is trying to create. Are we supposed to like Jen? Hate her? If she is such a pimpin’ succubus, then we better see some pimpin’ succubus! It’s ironic, for Megan Fox actually seems to be a relatively tame personality on the Hollywood scene. Yes, she seriously says some bizarre things, but weird talk is nothing compared to the Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears types’ antics and issues. Instead of showing its promise, Jennifer’s Body is completely indicative of Fox’s just fucking with audiences and seeing how long she can make her fifteen minutes last without actually really having to do anything. You shouldn’t screw with a fickle audience as it is, honey, and if you want to stay in Hollywood, you will eventually have to do something worthwhile onscreen.

Whew, having said all that, I do like Amanda Seyfried’s (Mamma Mia!, Big Love) Needy. Instead of just pulling her hair back and adorning the glasses, Seyfried adds nuances of geeky style. Her skin seems oily, she wears weird clothes, and Needy does seem to have more than a subtext of feeling for Jennifer. Seyfried delivers the mix of irony, humor, and mousy Jennifer’s Body needs; and she still has enough left in the tank to kick it up a notch for the end. I can see the charm of the script that most likely brought Seyfried to the project, for sure. However, after having seen the outcome of the film and she as the only bright spot in it, I wonder why Seyfried is dumbing down to play such mediocre horror fair. She seems to be worth far more- and oily face aside, she completely outshines the supposed hottie Fox.

Sadly, the boys in Jennifer’s Body don’t come off as well. Who the hell is Johnny Simmons (Evan Almighty, The Spirit) and how did he get this part? While we can take leaps of faith and admit that 20-somethings, nay even 30-somethings often play our onscreen high schoolers, this guy looks seriously like he is 12 years old. No way is this kid 24! Maybe I’ve grown super old now that my 30th birthday is in sight, but I found it disturbing seeing this pup in a sex scene. It was just weird. Too Bieber. While I’m also not really sure what Adam Brody’s done to be so special (apparently, The O.C.), he was much more fun as Low Shoulder’s satanic band leader Nikolai. The whole film should have been about Low Shoulder with an ambiguous Lance Henriksen in pursuit! My favorite part of Jennifer’s Body is when the band breaks into a chorus of ‘Jenny 867-5309’ before the titular sacrificial deed is done. This was the Generation Y horror comedy irony for which this film was looking, but never fully found. Or was trying to hard to achieve. I (and it) can’t decide.

Eh, Cody fans or lovers of the cast can tune in and enjoy Jennifer’s Body. There’s enough with and entertainment placed few and far between for a fun night in with the gang. However, serious horror aficionados looking for social statements or those looking for a kinky late night scary or otherwise titillating thrill shouldn’t bother. I wasn’t going to bother with a review, but I had to make the two hours of viewing totally worthwhile somehow. Why are Fox’s movies always a superficial shadow and a miss of bad editing, design, and presentation? Aaaaaahhhhhh!!!

My Sucky Teen Romance Review

Live Action Reviews!

by Crystal  Connor

 

In the early morning hours of July 12, 2014 Crystal Connor, with a bowl of popcorn and a coke, settled down in to watch a movie. For the next 77 minutes her neighbors were subjected to screaming, crying, and expletive outburst…

The following is from the unedited fanpage journal chronicling the harrowing experience her neighbors were forced to endure as she watched Emily Hagins 2011 My Sucky Teen Romance

Reader discretion is Advised

330644464Entry1: That’s what you get, he was running from her for a reason. Dummy.

Entry 2: Lol, they’re all getting ready for horror convention.

Entry 3: Yep, your preaching to the choir. That’s exactly why I am completely over anything YA.

Entry 4: LMMFAO!

Entry 5: …and Edward from Twilight has a gun.

Entry 6: #teamredhead even though I just hated her moments before.

Entry 7: LOL!

Entry 8: Really?! Your just gonna stand there…run, ok see I fucking told you.

Entry 9: Finally, a character in a horror movie who knows how to mind their own business! You don’t need to follow the body that’s being dragged down the hall…

Entry 10: Seriously?! Fat ass! You just fucked it up for everybody.

Entry 11: Your either gonna sparkle or burst into flames. LOL

Entry 12: Are you fucking serious, I wish I would be at a con and hear a panel speaker talk that way to a kid.

Entry 13: And I hate the red head again.

Entry 14: Garlic’s not gonna work…

Entry 15: But that wooden stake sure did.

Entry 16: Please, please don’t cry. Awww I wish I could hug you.

Entry 17: And que the tears…

Plotline: When 17-year-old Kate (Elaine Hurt) and her friends decide to attend the science fiction convention they traditionally go to each year, they aren’t prepared for what they find. For it is at this convention that Kate meets and falls for Paul (Patrick Delgado), a handsome teen boy and newly turned vampire. He accidentally bites her, beginning her transformation. Her friends must find a way to return Kate’s humanity while fending off the attacks of other vampires that attend the event.

Scariness Factor: Zero, zilch, zip! This romantic comedy is a family friendly ‘horror’ movie.

Gross-out/Gory Factor: This is a vampire movie, so of course there’s blood. On a scale from 1 to 5, it’s a solid 1

Complaints: Absolutely none

High Points: The fact that this movie revolved around a horror convention! I first started attending cons as a volunteer and then as a vendor after the publication of my first book. The depiction of the con culture, the people who don’t ‘get it,’ the type of people you see there, the security guards … all of it is spot on.

When Kate is ‘turned’ her friends use everything they’ve seen in horror movies and video games to try and save her. The garlic and Holy water scene made me cough up Coke I was laughing so hard.

Overall: When Em asked me to review My Sucky Teen Romance I didn’t look up anything about this movie or watch the trailer. I’m a tough customer and I can be pretty unforgiving when it comes to the myopic way in which I prefer to be entertained.

Not knowing anything about this amazing movie allowed me to enjoy it that much more. I think watching horror movies should be an ‘interactive’ activity (which is why I watch them alone) and the more I yell at the people on the screen the more fun I’m having.

I really liked this movie, with pretty good, rounded out characters, a solid storyline, special effects that weren’t over the top, and plenty to yell at the characters about it was blast!

Stars: 4 ½ Stars

Where I watched it: Netflix Streaming

***************

1795961_803788772983725_1553304502_oWashington State native Crystal Connor has been terrorizing readers since before Jr. high School and loves anything to do with monsters, bad guys, rogue scientific experiments, jewelry, sky-high high heel shoes & unreasonably priced hang bags. She is also considering changing her professional title to ‘dramatization specialist’ because it’s so much more theatrical than being just a mere drama queen. Crystal’s latest projects can be found both on her blog and Facebook fan page at:

http://wordsmithcrystalconnor.blogspot.com

http://www.facebook.com/notesfromtheauthor

 

Nosferatu: The Vampyre 1979

NOSFERATU THE VAMPYRE. 1979. DIRECTED BY WERNER HERZOG AND STARRING KLAUS KINSKI, ISABELLE ADJANI AND BRUNO GANZ.

by Sandra Harris

MCDNOPH FE005

This film doesn’t have a silent psychopath in a mask stalking half-dressed women and unsuspecting men with his butcher knife. It doesn’t have a Mother-fixated madman stabbing people to death in the shower, and neither does it have a well-spoken maniac who likes to eat people’s internal organs with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. In this sense, maybe, it’s not what some people automatically think of when they think of horror movies. What the film does have, however, is a lead character of such subtlety, cruelty and even human-like frailty that he surely deserves his standing as one of the creepiest and most notable horror icons of all time: Nosferatu The Vampyre.

 

The film was written, produced and directed by Werner Herzog, a German film-maker who made his first movie in 1961 at the age of nineteen and who now has more than sixty feature and documentary films to his name. It is one of five he made with German actor Klaus Kinski, with whom he enjoyed a well-documented relationship that was both productive and wildly tempestuous, given the intensely passionate nature of each of the protagonists. When people think of Nosferatu, their minds frequently conjure up an image of Max Shreck who played him so brilliantly in the silent production of nearly a century ago, and fair play to old Maxie, he did a cracking job but for me, Kinski is Nosferatu. He is the bald-headed, sunken-eyed, strangely melancholy creature of the night who resides in his crumbling castle in the Carpathian mountains and feeds off the blood of any humans unfortunate enough to cross his path.

 

The film begins with Jonathan Harker being told by his employer, the decidedly odd Mr. Renfield, that he must cross the Carpathian mountains to bring legal papers to the rich and reclusive Count Dracula who has decided to buy a house in their area, the pretty and picturesque town of Wismar. Jonathan’s wife, Lucy, played by the beautiful Isabelle Adjani, begs him not to go as she has had premonitions of the most profound evil but Jonathan disregards her fears and sets off blithely on his journey. The film is worth watching solely for the shots of the countryside through which he passes on his way to Count Dracula’s castle and also for the superb musical score by German electronic band Popol Vuh. As Jonathan nears the castle, he is warned by the locals to turn back and go home before he loses his soul but he has come too far to turn back now. Disquieted and edgy, he continues on his way. The music reaches a crescendo as he finally enters the courtyard of Count Dracula, then it fades away as the giant castle doors creak open to reveal… Nosferatu himself, standing at the top of the steps with a smile of quiet welcome on his colourless face.

 

For Jonathan, events take on a surreal appearance from this point onwards. Nosferatu begins to feed on his blood from the first night of his arrival. While poor Lucy frets and works herself up into a right old state about her absent spouse back in Wismar, Jonathan is trapped in Nosferatu’s castle of mould-stained, whitewashed walls and silent, dusty rooms, powerless to prevent the vampire from feasting on him nightly and gradually sapping his strength and will. There are some moments of genuine heartstopping horror in this part of the film, which incidentally is my favourite part. I dare the viewer not to jump when Nosferatu appears soundlessly in Jonathan’s bedroom in the dead of night, his claws expanding as he moves in for the kill, or when Jonathan pushes back the slab of rock in the dungeon to reveal a sleeping Nosferatu, claws folded and sightless eyes wide open, staring at nothing.

 

The latter half of the film sees Nosferatu travelling to Wismar by sea with his black coffins and the plague of rats. The scene where the ship of death sails silently up the canals of Wismar while the unwitting inhabitants of the town slumber peacefully in their beds sends a shiver down my spine every time I see it. In no time at all the town is overrun with rats and the plague. Mr. Renfield, who is revealed to be Count Dracula’s loyal servant, is beside himself with happiness at the arrival in the town of the ‘Master.’ These are trying times indeed for Lucy Harker, however. Jonathan has found his way home but he no longer recognises her and sits in his chair all day giggling and chattering nonsense, his mind and body destroyed by Dracula. The love-starved and lonely Nosferatu comes to Lucy in her bedroom and begs her to be his concubine and companion down through the centuries to come, but Lucy holds fast to her love for Jonathan and sends the Count away empty-handed.

 

Now we come to the climax of this gorgeously-shot film. The town of Wismar has been devastated by Nosferatu and his plague of rats. The scene where some of the townspeople gather for a grotesque parody of a ‘last supper’ in the town square while the rats climb all over them is a chilling one indeed. Lucy tries to tell the town physician, Dr. Van Helsing, that Nosferatu is the reason for all the death and destruction but the good doctor is a man of science and refuses to believe in the existence of such supernatural creatures as vampires. (Unlike in most other versions of the film!) When Lucy’s closest friend, Mina, is murdered by the Count, Lucy does the only thing left to her to do. She offers herself to Nosferatu, in the hope that she can keep him occupied throughout the night and make him ‘forget the cry of the cock’ in the morning, thereby causing him to be killed by the first rays of the morning sun.

 

The scene where Nosferatu comes to Lucy in her bedroom and finally feeds on her is erotic in the extreme. Lucy is dressed all in white, her bedclothes are white and flowers in shades of pastel sit on the night-stand. The Vampyre gently pulls back her clothing to look at her body, then rests his claw on one full rounded breast as he lowers his head to her neck and begins to softly suck. They remain locked together in a beautiful and moving sexual congress all night, and when the first rays of the sun begin to filter into Lucy’s bedroom the following morning, she pulls Nosferatu back down to her once more. The besotted Vampyre thus ‘forgets the cry of the cock’ and dies. Lucy listens to his death agonies with a smile on her face and then, knowing that she has saved the town of Wismar from the horror of Count Dracula, she closes her eyes and dies.

 

There’s a great little twist at the end which I won’t tell you about here. You’ll just have to go and watch the film for yourself, which I hope you will anyway. Personally speaking, if I had to choose only one film to watch for the rest of my life, it would be this one. I want to be buried with it. In the absence of Nosferatu coming to me in person in my flower-strewn bedroom and bending his head to my newly-washed neck, then I want to be buried clutching my copy of the film, the coffin lid closing for all eternity on the sight of my fingers laced around his deathly-white face on the front of the DVD box. And when you watch this film, I promise you that you will too.

 

sandra 1fixedSandra Harris is a Dublin-based performance poet, novelist, film blogger and short story writer. She has given more than 200 performances of her comedy sex-and-relationship poems in different venues around Dublin, including The Irish Writers’ Centre, The International Bar, Toners’ Pub (Ireland’s Most Literary Pub), the Ha’penny Inn and The Strokestown Poetry Festival. Her articles, short stories and poems have appeared in The Metro-Herald newspaper, Ireland’s Big Issue magazine, The Irish Daily Star, The Irish Daily Sun and The Boyne Berries literary journal. She is addicted to buying books and will swap you anything you like for Hammer Horror or JAWS memorabilia, and would be a great person to chat to about the differences between the Director’s Cut and the Theatrical Cut of The Wicker Man.

http://sandrafirstruleoffilmclubharris.wordpress.com/

https://www.facebook.com/SandraHarrisPureFilthPoetry

Kbatz: 20 Feminine Horror Films

20 Random Lady Horror Treats!

By Kristin Battestella

In the mood for some scary chick flicks? Here’s a sampling of new and old lady vamps, witches, ghosts, werewolves, killers, and more macabre with a slightly – heck who are we kidding – outright feminine spins!

The Awakening – I’m glad this 2011 ghost tale remains period and utilizes plenty of post-war traumas along with fun spiritualism and early ghost hunting gadgets, and a great, spooky English house turned boarding school keeps the paranormal pace going, too. Although some of the said supernatural equipment and unnecessary character clichés are a touch too modern, the fractured Dominic West (The Wire), perfectly nuanced Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter), needs no one Rebecca Hall (Vicky Cristina Barcelona), and innocent Isaac Hampstead Wright (Game of Thrones) keep the audience interested even when the back story gets confusing towards the finale. Are these ghosts, personal demons and memories, or something more? There may not be enough scares here for a hardcore horror fan – and wise viewers may see through the bump in the night clichés and saucy innuendo thanks to similar ghost films. However, this mood and atmosphere does what it sets out to do and fits the pain, loneliness, and isolation perfectly. Those period designs, cars, clothing, creepy dollhouses, even the way they hold their cigarettes keep the dramatic before scary scenes classy. Despite some brief nudity and a few twists, there are no contemporary cheap thrills here, and the mystery is intriguing enough to keep the viewer invested for the full 100 minutes.

Burn Witch Burn – A creepy, blank screen opening narration sends this 1962 British thriller a-simmering beneath the campus innocence, great cars, ivy covered cottages, and seemingly fine period drama – but that’s before the sudden spider souvenirs hidden in the bedroom drawer! Not so nice and magical wife Janet Blair (My Sister Eileen) has all sorts of Craft curios amid the great set dressings, cigarettes, period style, and black cats. It’s a lighter take then most witchy pictures, but the secret practices are no less creepy thanks to sinister suspense music and scary discoveries. The well framed, black and white prospective photography, mirror uses, and shadow schemes parallel the fractured, marital debates, too. Peter Wyngarde (Jason King) is a disbeliever relying on logic, education, and intelligence versus the implausibility of positive charms and evil hexes. Screenwriters George Baxt (Circus of Horrors), Charles Beaumont, and Richard Matheson (The Twilight Zone) add scandalous student/teacher allegations to this breaking Cleaver surface and send the fears and desperation boiling over as spells go awry. The car chases and titular fires mount, but the original Night of the Eagle name matches perfectly as well. Thunder, wind, eerie tape recordings, even the old-fashioned abrupt ringing of a telephone puts one on edge here, and the pace come to a pinnacle to finish this excellent, deadly thriller.

 Byzantium – Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace) and Saiorse Ronan (The Lovely Bones) anchor this 2013 vampire spin from director Neil Jordan (Interview with a Vampire) co-starring Jonny Lee Miller (Hackers), Maria Doyle Kennedy (The Tudors), and Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class). The cinematography from Sean Bobbitt (Hunger) is intriguing, and a golden, antique patina contrasts the bitter daylight, nightclubs, boarded windows, and harsh concrete. Ironic uses of Etta James standards and melancholy piano music add to the slight sense of abstract– the contemporary still has a feeling of the past in old décor, fedoras, and aged computers. Nostalgic paper, pens, and handwriting or scandalous red lights and saucy lingerie establish the ladies’ personalities better than the in medias res mellow narration, which takes too long for viewers who didn’t know this movie would be about vampires. Fortunately, Arterton is sexy yet deadly and nude yet refined – she’s a killer in every sense of the word but bizarrely maternal, loving, and considerate. Although Ronan’s depressing, woe is me burdens are a bit much, her somber, hypnotic blue eyes are classy and bittersweet. Her flashbacks provide interesting snippets of period piece macabre; the past wasn’t glamorous but dirty, grimy, and violent thanks to Miller. Clearly, the emo Eleanor just wants attention, and those ready to die recognize her for what she is. Aren’t there better ways to go about your hidden existence until disbelieving authorities, prodding schools, and teen angst disrupt it? Each vampire seems trapped in easy, cliché mindsets from centuries ago – nobody can learn anything or mature in 200 years? The fine but disorienting flashback within flashback and non-linear two hours make the audience wonder why writer Moira Buffini (adapter of the 2011 Jane Eyre, where the flashback pacing worked wonderfully) didn’t put the storytelling in order or tighten the slightly long and uneven vampire mythos instead of calling attention to the hip framework. Brief shots of the seemingly aware police in pursuit go unexplained until the finale, and perhaps the plot should have been all period or totally present. Thankfully, the brooding feminine spin, artsy blood and gore, and a unique vampire creation and organization combine alongside the subtle but expected sharp nails, wrist bites, and jokes about fangs or daylight. These ladies dab the blood from their lips, quietly wait for the invitation to enter, get tempted by the sight of blood and injury, take the lives of the ill or elderly – and they watch Hammer movies! This isn’t scary, and the assorted accents and Brit-ness may bother some. However, this isn’t a sparkly teeny bopper love triangle either. The viewer doesn’t always know what happens next in the intense finish, and this tale makes for a surprising, worthy piece of vampire storytelling.

 

Daughters of Darkness – This 1971 Elizabeth Bathory suave and swanky Euro bend starring John Karlen (Willie from Dark Shadows getting it on!) and Delphine Seyrig (The Day of the Jackal) gets right to the saucy, up close, wet, near soft core action and full frontal nudity. Aristocratic family secrets, deceptions, kinky newlyweds, and suggested lesbian jealousies add to the traditional vampire staples – from unexplained perpetual youth, lookalike ancestors, and a reflection-less countess with a beautiful, mysteriously bound ward to straight razor cuts on the neck, fear of running water, and no trace of blood at the scene of the crime. Toss in meddling, aged bellhops, astute old cops, the local morbid curiosity, and a bevy of babes – namely Danielle Oulette and Andrea Rau – and the murders, violence, and homoerotic twists are complete. The cars are seriously cool, too, as are the symbolic fashions, flashy frocks, and colorful velvet décor. The perfect Ostend Hotel and other European locales more than make up for the tacky but sassy and fitting music, and the nice mix of accents on the English dialogue adds more foreign flair to kinky descriptions of medieval torture – nipple pinchers, hot tongs, and all that. Red lighting and blue tinted photography add to the creepy jump scares and frights, but this isn’t horror per se, rather something more voluptuous in mood. It’s a little dark and tough to see at the end and confuses some of its own vampire lore but stick with the uncut 100-minute DVD version with the added features and commentaries if you’re in the mood for then-updated, now period gothic vamps with a feminine twist. Remember, the key to beauty is “A very strict diet and lots of sleep.”

 

Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde – This 1971 Robert Louis Stevenson meets Jack the Ripper mash up from Hammer has psychedelic DVD menus, nice Victorian interiors, and pleasant period scoring, yet it feels like it should be more stylish than it is thanks to cheap costumes and shabby London streets. Though the fog is moody and this side of town was supposed to be seedy, we don’t really see the Ripper Murders, and tossed in Burke and Hare grave robbing and Whitechapel investigations further muddle the narration and confuse the timeline. Ralph Bates (Lust for a Vampire) is slow to start – it takes half the film for the decidedly out of place and sixties looking Martine Beswick (One Million Years B.C.) to do anything, too – and this lack of Hammer stars dampens the fun. The studio’s later day decline perhaps stems from the absence of second generation star power; Oliver Reed or Michael Gough and Bates were groomed, but no other team stood out to replace Lee and Cushing. Such B styled, stale stock design hampers the unfulfilled potential from writer Brian Clemens (The Avengers). Director Roy Ward Baker (Quartermass and the Pit) mixes pieces of The Lodger with Frankenstein bodies but this detracts from any personal, interior examinations. The audience has no reason to care about nosy neighbors – not only would I move if they kept walking in on my secret experiments, but they never notice the Clark Kent/Superman happenings. Dialogue hints on the doing bad to do good quest for science are interesting but too brief, and if one seeks immortality by killing hookers for their female hormones, there should be more sex, nudity, and violence. Fun transformations and filming trickeries develop this crazy premise, but things fizzle under too many external happenings. Where are the moral explanations or psychology of the sex change? Is Jekyll gay or harboring cross dressing or transsexual feelings? Subtle uses of the word “queer” in both definitions may or may not suggest more. The blurred line between the good and evil of the identities is well done, but the pacing meanders. Sexuality and bodily consequences on both sides are not fully explored, and this 97 minutes just doesn’t feel as depraved as we might expect. Yes, there are certainly plot holes, misdirection, flawed execution, and an absence of Hammer flair. However, this is nonetheless entertaining just for the battle of the sexes novelty and the all encompassing, ambitious Victorian macabre.

 

Drag Me to Hell – Sam and Ivan Raimi (Evil Dead, Army of Darkness) present this 2009 tale of curses and consequences starring Alison Lohman (White Oleander) as the likeable and realistic Christine. She’s trying to change her accent, forget her ‘porker’ past and family issues, and keeps doubting or compromising herself, yet she’s also trying to pin her problems on someone else. Lohman carries the increasing paranoia nicely with honest pace and progression as her true colors come forth amid the good jump moments and the not so gruesome that it’s overdone gore and grossness. Justin Long (The Apple Guy), however, is annoying and simply not believable as a college professor; his Freud versus paranormal debates and supposed love for Christine are unconvincing. Reggie Lee (Prison Break) and David Paymer (Mr. Saturday Night) are jerks, too, but their antagonism helps the plot along against the stereotypical gypsy curses as Lorna Raver (The Young and the Restless) makes for a very creepy, gross old lady thanks to that weird eye and a variety of vomit, bugs, and won’t say die dead body encounters. But if she can do all this summoning evil goat demons, why couldn’t she just pay her loan? Although it’s okay to laugh in some scenes – and props for bemusing stapler uses – there is a bit too much sunshine, modern trappings, and a decidedly CGI feeling. This isn’t quite as dirty or desperate as it should be, and we know what’s going to happen the whole time – even the title and poster reveal the predictable twist untwist endings. Fortunately, most of the scares and suspense are well done what you don’t see shadows and wind effects, and the Spanish spins and multi language mythos add flavor along with Dileep Rao’s (Avatar) unique take on the usually clichéd psychic. There are subtle Evil Dead references, of course, but one can certainly laugh or be scared by this entertaining little flick – eyeball in the cake at the dinner party and all.

 

Ginger Snaps – This quality Canadian horror drama will be too teen girl angst for some adult male audiences; it’s not for animal lovers and today, such teen sex, drug uses, school violence, juvenile morbidity, and obsessions with death would land sisters Katharine Isabelle (American Mary) and Emily Perkins (Hiccups) in serious hot water. Director John Fawcett (The Dark) and co-writer Karen Walton’s (Orphan Black) puberty is horror theme, however, was new during the Y2K era and this Red Riding Hood equals Big Bad Wolf combination fits the solid coming of age progression and lycanthrope twists. Unlike recent in your face horror clichés, there’s sexy here without cheap nudity, the handsome blood and gore isn’t too gory, and the non-CGI wolf get ups are well done. The sharp editing isn’t hectic or seizure inducing, and the likeable, witty, sardonic characters are given full room to blossom or wax irony– the go to expert on wolfs bane is the town’s resident pot dealer! The audience doesn’t know how far the scares and suspense will escalate or if this sisterly core can survive the wolfy puberty. Unfortunately, there is a big, slightly unsatisfying problem with the typical house under construction chase finale and all the potentially worthy plot lines and red herrings left hanging in its wake. How much did quirky mom Mimi Rogers (Someone to Watch Over Me) really know? She’s giddy on periods and womanhood and just happens to buy the deadly poison needed at a craft store – seriously? Deleted scenes and extended DVD editions once again rear their head here, but none of that answers one very critical question: Who’s the original dang wolf? Yes, this lovely werewolf build up and fine feminine sisterhood feels imbalanced in the end, however this is a great, morbid teen thriller for budding macabre young ladies.

 

The Innkeepers – A lovely, historic atmosphere and setting accent the brooding suspense of this 2011 thinking person’s haunted hotel tale starring Sarah Paxton (Darcy’s Wild Life) and Kelly McGillis (Top Gun). The situational scares, ghost investigations, touches of quirky humor, and genuine conversations feel much more realistic than those so-called reality ghost shows. The subtle fears, whiff of gore, and shock scares are quality, but the what you don’t see whispers, overnight isolation, unknown paranormal activity, and psychic reactions are better. The simple lack of a camera and reliance on EVP gear for the onscreen investigation forces the audience to pay attention. While some modern viewers may dislike the slow burn pace or find the unambitious characters annoying, the lack of easy explanations and typical boobalicious scream queens is refreshingly honest. We need to see the personal normalcy so we know when the scares push people to the extreme. Yes, people don’t listen, let the paranormal go to their head, and go into the forewarned basement – but people close to death also see things differently. Granted, writer, director, and editor Ti West (The House of the Devil) wears too many hats and should have someone else sit back objectively and say, “Clarify this.” Perhaps there’s nothing fancy here – just a straightforward curiosity killed the cat self-fulfilling prophecy. However, today’s increasingly too in your face fancy horror films are becoming a problem, and this well-done little picture is more than worth a look.

 

Lady Frankenstein – I’m not normally a fan of classic film star Joseph Cotton (Citizen Kane), but his blend of grave robbing, unethical desperation, and father/daughter compassion is perfect for this 1971 Italian twist on the Shelley theme. “Man’s will be done,” Cotton says, but it is Rosalba Neri (99 Women) doing the titular monstrous mayhem, evil deeds, and uniquely saucy spins instead of just being the cliché horror victim or resurrected bride. Ethical debates about money, man, and God accentuate dialogue of radical Victorian science and a woman’s place in the medical profession. The gothic mood, snow, and firelight work wonderfully with the cool mad scientist laboratory – complete with clockworks, bubbling Rube Goldbergs, and perfectly timed thunder and lightning of course. Ugly blood, surgeries, and reanimated monsters smartly contrast the feminine wiles; the progression of the experiments and escalation of the monstrosities are well paced, too. Though the sound is poor and I would have liked more of Mickey Hargitay (Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?) as the deducing inspector on the crimes, this is a good looking, well done film. Unfortunately, there are various editions in need of a proper restoration – including an edited 85 minute print in the public domain and a longer 90 minute plus Shout Factory release splicing together several foreign versions. Perhaps this isn’t as depraved as we might expect nowadays and a little too quick toward the finale, but this macabre period delight is worth the pursuit.

 

Let’s Scare Jessica to Death – This hour and a half from 1971 doesn’t feel PG-13 thanks to askew camera angles, bent up-close shots, bizarre suggestion, tension, and innuendo. The simple tunes and steady beats make for a quiet, eerie orchestration – toss in a Hearst, fall leaves, grave rubbings, female apparitions, empty rocking chairs on abandoned porches, hippie vagrants, and séances and the mood is set! The narration, however, is a little dry. The immediate unreliability and suspect nature is fine – she was “away” veiled mental institution talk and all that – but the inner monologue feels redundant thanks to the sleepy inlet setting and already established atmosphere. Early 70s stylings and more historical decor and accessories accentuate the fear and isolation far better, even if the brief yuppie sing-along is dated. Zohra Lampert (Splendor in the Grass) is a little annoying and flaky as our titular would be victim to start, but her fears become a worthwhile anchor as the proverbial plot thickens and the jump scares increase thanks to freaky townsfolk, evil history, and morbid antiques. No one wants to say things like crazy, supernatural, ghosts, or vampire, which makes for some confusion or deduction that today’s spoon fed audiences might not be used to doing. Granted, the title is also misleading; the scares here may seem like all the obvious, cliché staples, too. Thankfully, the lack of nudity, little blood, and disturbing water scares make for a very effective, well-paced, thinking person’s serious horror picture.

 

Lights Out– I like short films and wish they got more mainstream attention and recognition, but I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed something this short at under three minutes. I can talk longer than this is! However, director David F. Sandburg’s (Earth Savers, Ladyboy) winner of the Bloody Cuts Horror Challenge 2013 starring Lotta Losten got me. Not many purportedly scary films these days can capture this unseen suspense, the increasing infringement of the unknown in the sanctity of the home, bedroom, and childhood under the covers safety. How can you flight or fight when fear is coming to you? Sure, jaded viewers may balk at the lack of dialogue or motivations. Why not call a friend in the night? Leave? Lock the door? Scream! Perhaps the end isn’t as fulfilling as the initial shocks that either glue you in for the topper or make you drop your precious mobile viewing device, either. The lighting, shadows, and design, however, are top notch, and we’ve all been there – thought we saw something in the dark or retreated at the paranormal possibility. This relatable hook and scares totally works. If bigger industry names or Hollywood studios don’t notice Sandburg and this smartly simplistic viral sensation, they should certainly take note at the taut tension and straightforward filmmaking. Is it easy to keep up this intensity at this short a sample? Sure. Was the minimal design required by the competition and an indie shoestring budget? Probably. But is this how modern horror should be done instead of all the in your face 3D mayhem, fluff, trite, and obnoxiousness? Yes. View if you dare on Sandburg’s page here: http://vimeo.com/82920243.

 

Mama – Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) lead this 2013 scary fairy tale from producer Guillermo Del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth), director Andres Muschietti and co writers Barbara Muschietti (from their original Mama short film) and Neil Cross (Luther). Dangerous snowy roads, car action, and police radio immediately establish the isolated cabin and wooded perils for these adorable little girls and their innocent statements. Firelight only scenes, dark surroundings, and creepy noises accent the almost livable but messy designs and wild child state of mind. Eerie observation rooms, case study reports, medical analysis, and research montages anchor the scary amid a reality of courtrooms, technology, and red tape. Some of the brighter colors do seem too pretty or oversaturated; however, pleasing shadows, reflections, and flicking lights keep the spooky subtle. Megan Charpentier (Resident Evil: Retribution) and Isabelle Nelisse (Whitewash) create an excellent mix of sympathy and disturbing – their child artwork, whispers, and games are both cute and eerie along with moth symbolisms and leaf motifs. Although she has stunning eyes and cheekbones, Chastain doesn’t quite fit her character’s short, dark hair and punk style. Her attitude and problem with kids feels fake or without cause, and she’s more worried about her own safety then helping these girls. Her Annabel is more like a stunted teen babysitter, complains this isn’t her job, and what bass we hear from her isn’t that good. Psychiatrist Daniel Kash (Hannibal) is right when he tells her to grow up, but he also foolishly doesn’t share all his case findings. Is this film about a doctor and a woman trying to help in this unique child tale or is it about scaring the obligatory but rocker babe? Realizations come too easy, the rules of the scares change, the motivation or abilities of the entity become purely opportune, convenient file folders and information are stolen without consequences, and research ladies who claim to not know anything sure do drop a load of exposition. The bump in the night scares or jump moments are typical don’t look in the closet, haunted house hijinks, and the extra boom chords and flashes of light are unnecessary, for the audience only ploys when the troubling video sessions with the girls or seeing and hearing their reactions suffice. The CGI also looks iffy and dark, and though fittingly eerie, askew and distorted coma visions and dreamy flashbacks look cartoonish. Most of all, however, I’m disappointed that the rental blu-ray is full of previews and shows the menus and features before blocking them with “This disc is intended for rental purposes and only includes the feature film.” Hmph. There is a nice pace, mood, and atmosphere here, but the lack of answers, plot holes, and thinly drawn characters will be too much for some viewers to ignore. I mean, not only do the psychology and relationship possibilities fall prey to womanly doing right by the spirit sacrifices, but explanations to the authorities are never considered and what happened to the &^$#% dog? Longtime horror viewers won’t be fooled by the surprising moments and twists here, but fortunately, there is enough child likability and ghostly traditional style for a disturbing watch or two.

 

The Resident – I didn’t like the last Hillary Swank horror attempt The Reaping – actually I dislike any time she goes off her Oscar winning type coughP.S. I Love Youcough. Thankfully, she’s solid as a strong but socially awkward and somewhat man needy doctor in an ominous apartment for this 2011 nuHammer thriller. Likewise, Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Grey’s Anatomy) is effective, even if it’s obvious he’s the too good to be true handyman in a horror movie. At the standard 90 minutes, precious time is wasted with cool opening credits – not usually a good sign for a recent horror film – and the story is slow to get going and ultimately quite predictable. The cheating boyfriend explanation for her moving comes a little too late and the color gradient looks over processed, but the hospital blood and gore are well done. Of course, Christopher Lee has a great introduction. He looks like a perfectly respectable grandfather, yet there’s something just a bit creepy old man about him, and I love it! Although the casting and plot could have easily gone the college bimbo route and it sets up some naughty, eerie hi jinks, the brief Swank nudity and up close lingerie shots are surprising. Fortunately, smart shadows, lighting, reflections, and some unique camera angles add to the suspense. The frenetic flashback answers a lot of questions and ups the stalker vibe, too. Yes, it turns this film from a seemingly haunted house bump in the night horror tale to a nasty if somewhat typical real world thriller, and there isn’t a lot of mood, atmosphere, or truly spooky feelings as a result. Though pleasant, the New York contemporary city vibes and final reliance on plot holes, tools, hardware horror, and chases hamper the “it could happen to you” fears. It’s a bit misguided and could have been more, but the cast is likeable and some quality character twists win out.

 

The Sentinel – A big name cast and lots of familiar faces- including Chris Sarandon, Eli Wallach, Jerry Orbach, Beverly D’Angelo, Burgess Meredith, Jeff Goldblum, Christopher Walken, John Carradine, Ava Gardner, Arthur Kennedy, and hey look its Tom Berenger and Nana Visitor- appear in this 1977 pseudo satanic thriller. Although I’ve never heard of model turned actress Cristina Raines and her undefined training is apparent in some scenes, her confused woman is very likeable and holds the picture together as the unexplained events, bizarre dreams, suspect mental issues, and suicidal baggage intensify. Complex blends of religious iconography, nighttime scares, and plenty of twists and twisted-ness create some fine subterfuge. The fantastic NYC locations mix wonderfully with a suspiciously unsuspicious Old World look and feel, too. Yes, some scenes are silly and there might be some iffy plot holes. However, toss in some kinky, nudity, and devilish debauchery with the evil plots and the demented atmosphere here remains entertaining throughout.

 

Sleepaway Camp – The woefully laughable acting in this 1983 coming of age slasher is so bad it’s good, and intentional or not, the nostalgic delights keep on coming – from short shorts and cropped shirts, homoerotic innuendos, and camp abuses to twisted point of view killings, foul-mouthed humor, and the expected youth shenanigans. Yes, there may be too little blood and gore. Without subtitles, it’s often tough to tell who is who amid the capture the flag competitions and mean girls bitchiness beyond the bad acted front and center folks. A sharper script would have clarified the back-story and not left the plot hanging on the twists and kickers, too – for the history, trauma, and catalysts will definitely be at best confusing or at worst unexplained to modern, spoon-fed viewers. Franchise creator Robert Hiltzik perhaps wears too many hats in directing a serious slice and dice picture mixed with near parody humor writing, and potential statements on mind, body, society, and possibly homophobia are hampered by the quick but no less shocking finale. Which of the traumas actually puts the killer over the top? The severity and escalation scale of the crimes is also uneven – a potential molester is badly burned while a water bomb thrower is stung to death. Fortunately, the bad scene chewing keeps these sexual topics, dirty old men implications, nasty cooks, and unseen suggestions surprisingly light. We don’t blame the killer for doing in this lot, and it is fun to spot the clues and avoid the red herrings in solving the murder mystery. Both wise audiences and retro fans can enjoy the thinking person’s movie potential and bemusing eighties shockers here.

 

Spider Baby – Talk about an awkward dinner table! Lon Chaney Jr. sings the catchy little song matching the opening cartoon titles of this bizarre 1964 family cannibalism tale written and directed by Jack Hill (Coffy, Foxy Brown). Though the introduction seems slow to start – we only have 80 minutes and it takes too long for all the players to arrive on the scene – the ominous drive to the decrepit Victorian house, crazy knife killings, and cut off ears establish the twistedness. Quirky beatnik music, mellow pace, and low quality black and white photography belie the increasing suspense as those incoming ruthless cousins explore the house at their own peril. Our older, aged Creighton with the sweet Hearst seems like a reasonable, loyal caregiver yet he’s harboring a trio of seriously demented killers. The titular Jill Banner (The President’s Analyst) and her sister Beverly Washburn (Old Yeller) would seem to live quietly in peace – so long as no kids hop their fence or mailmen knock on their door that is. Internal references to classic horror film clichés and The Wolf Man add to this witty whiff of comedy, but veiled statements about trying not to be bad, being unable to help one’s behavior, or possibly not knowing any better perfectly contrast the humor and the ironic, supposedly normal but snotty and infiltrating rival family branch. Society vilifies the sick or ill it can’t understand, and the contorted and creepy to see yet innocent and tragic Sid Haig (House of 1,000 Corpses) initially has our sympathies. Of course, when the disturbia turns kinky, we know why these people remain under lock and key. Along with the scandalous inbreeding, cannibalism, family murder, black garter belts, and intriguing commentaries, the not for the feline faint of heart scene, eerie dumbwaiter uses, crawling spiders, and the general dementedness of seeing older people act like evil kids sets the bar for future macabre domestic horror pictures.

 

Triangle Black Death director Christopher Smith creates a great mind bending and smartly head-scratching ride in this watery 2009 Bermuda triangle thriller. There are a few scares, but the within within storytelling and multi level camera work develop more of a thinking viewer’s Twilight Zone heavy before full on gore or modern slasher horror. A decrepit and sinister ship, carefully placed mirrors, dual appearances and deceptions, and altered audience perceptions layer the plotting and paths for desperate mother Melissa George (Turistas). Though it boy Liam Hemsworth (The Hunger Games) is iffy, his role is relatively small. Hefty concepts, time twists, and intelligent debate outshine any small scale productions here, too. I’d like to say more, but I don’t want to spoil anything!

 

Vampyres – Late Spanish director Jose Ramon Larraz (Symptoms) gets right to the unabashedly naked lesbian soft-core action and slobbery kisses for this 1974 blood and spicy. Despite our contemporary love of sex sex sex, one might initially groan at this potentially unnecessary boobs before violence – yet the kitschy mood and sensuous gothic tone works with the blended British seventies style and Old World, cluttered Victorian creepy. Outside of some great cars and sparse electricity, the viewer may not know when this takes place, and the Oakley Court estate and churchyards are perfectly isolated eerie. Couple Sally Falkner (Doctor Who) and Brian Deacon (The Feathered Serpent) give the audience a likeable believer and a relatable skeptic to set up scares and shocks while Murray Brown (Dan Curtis’ Dracula) learns the dangers of picking up beautiful hitchhikers in dark capes Marianne Morris (Lovebox) and Anulka Dziubinska (Lisztomania). Though the foul afoot is certainly suspected, the simmering, alluring build doesn’t reveal the juicy all at once. Sure, some plot points don’t make much sense – sharper editing or script clarifications would have helped – and the seventies sex and kinky lingerie strip teases can be laughable, I grant you. However, the strong titillation provides comfort, rough, or bemusement ahead of the bloody kickers. The predatory approach is traditional but there are no fangs and quick, demented, near cannibalistic feminine twists keep the pace unconventional. Viewers who prefer their gore, language, and sex fast and furious may find the action slow or the plot lame, but the meant to be hazy and dreamy mood belies an intense finish. Although the volume and sound are soft, the new blu-ray release has commentaries, interviews, and by golly makes this movie look brand spanking new.

 

What’s the Matter with Helen? – Debbie Reynolds – America’s fifties sweetheart, the mother of Princess Leia – in a scary movie? Oh yes! I’m not exactly a Shelly Winters (A Place in the Sun) fan, for she always seems so frumpy and annoying. However, that stuffy works for writer Henry Farrell (Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane) and director Curtis Harrington (Games) here. We know it is wrong, and these broads aren’t exactly kosher, yet there’s something about watching old ladies get terrorized onscreen. The diverging juxtapositions of the toe tapping, Hollywood star struck Reynolds and increasingly reclusive, paranoid Winters is quite genius. Simple delights such as early newsreels, radio broadcasts, and early prank phone calls add an extra accent to gruesome crime scene photos, great Depression era cars, and stunning styles to enchant any fashionista. Sweet jazzy tunes like “Goody Goody” are surprisingly perfect for a horror picture; recitals and almost musical sequences further pull the viewers out of the expected scary genre comfort zone, too. Although “Oh, You Nasty Man” performed by a little girl is just a bit too creepy. It’s funny to see vintage crazy stage moms- dolling them up in great hats and frocks doesn’t change their stripes! The photography is a rich, classic, almost antique or patina palette of colors, and the Depression period really makes this 1971 picture stand out. Today’s teen slashers-fed audiences don’t expect to see sophisticated scares in this time or place, and it adds to the unsettling feelings onscreen. Classic audiences, fans of the period, or those just looking for a unique, subliminally scary picture will be entertained here.

 

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? – We can’t imagine anyone but Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in a sibling rivalry this extreme! The two Oscar winners (Jezebel and Mildred Pierce, respectively) finally clash onscreen in this 1962 adaptation from director Robert Aldrich (Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte). The introductory rise thru the show business eras, fun vaudeville tunes, vintage film reels, swift editing, period clothing, cool cars, and plenty of suspense all cap off the warped drama and black and white demented nostalgia. De Vol’s (Pillow Talk) over the top yet on form and fitting music adds to the fun weirdness of seeing the slovenly done up Davis. Perhaps we tend to think of her as so nice and grandmotherly today- unlike Crawford. Thanks to the likes of Mommie Dearest, it’s a little ironic to see her as Ms. Sympathy. And yet…both ladies put our expectations on end, and it’s a tough call on whose is the better performance. Although the shock moments are probably well known now, the audience wonders how far off the deep end the wonderfully cruel and simplistic scares will go. There’s great, bemusing trepidation in the little things we take for granted in the 21st century- getting a letter to a neighbor, not knowing what’s for dinner, leaving the phone off the hook. Minds, mirrors, twisted selves- the unraveling of this relationship train wreck is quite horrific- or at the very least criminal! Where is the desperation greatest? Who’s more deserving of their internal hostage via the wheelchair or the childlike mind? This staple is perfect for classic film fans, fans of the cast, and anyone looking for a sophisticated feminine horror spin.

 

Kbatz: Dracula 2000

Dracula 2000 A Guilty Pleasure Fun Fest

By Kristin Battestella

The 19th century had Bram Stoker’s original Dracula, the 20th Century had the likes of Nosferatu, Bela Lugosi, Christopher Lee, Gary Oldman, and more scary, sensual, or comedic vampire spins. The turn of the millennium, however, had Dracula 2000 – producer Wes Craven’s authorized revision of now dated camp, clichés, twists, and so bad its good delights.

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Alerted by the amount of impressive security around her boss Matthew Van Helsing’s (Christopher Plummer) antique shop, Solina (Jennifer Esposito), her boyfriend Marcus (Omar Epps), and his team of thieves (Sean Patrick Thomas and Danny Masterson) break into Van Helsing’s vault, steal a dazzling silver coffin, and inadvertently unleash the imprisoned Count Dracula (Gerard Butler) on their getaway plane. Once the plane crashes outside New Orleans, Dracula quickly makes vampire brides (Jeri Ryan and Colleen Fitzpatrick) as he searches for Mary (Justine Waddell) – a young woman who shares his visions thru a unique blood connection. Van Helsing and his assistant Simon (Jonny Lee Miller) pursue Dracula and the undead in his wake – but can they stop him before Dracula takes Mary as his next vampire bride?

Although it is probably common knowledge today, I don’t want to spoil everything about the solid Van Helsing family plots, vampire blood connections, smart use of leeches, and Biblical concepts anchoring Dracula 2000. The first time you see it; these unique topics from director Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3D) and co-writer Joel Soisson (Highlander: Endgame) stand out in very pleasing, memorable twists. However, the more one watches Dracula 2000, the more flaws and campy over substance mistakes appear. Despite the tremendous potential of these unique vampire spins, this is unfortunately not a Dracula adaptation for the new millennium, but rather a very of the moment, cliché vamp tale. From its then-hip cast, action styles, and dated fashions to turn of this century tunes and ridiculously obvious product placements, most of the excessive flash and over the top, uh, excess of Dracula 2000 has not stood the test of time. Longtime Dracula fans will spot book references like Dr. Seward, Carfax Abbey, and other Stoker connections, but there should have been more of these nuggets included even if you are updating the tale. It’s a pity, as this picture could have been a lot more than just a cheesy, pop excuse for some great bad, very bad to the point of quotable lines. I still use, “I don’t drink….coffee.” Dracula 2000 is certainly watchable and even down right entertaining if you indulge in the formulaic fun, but you have to forget the glorious potential and what could have been in order to enjoy.

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Naturally, part of the joy in watching Dracula 2000 is Gerard Butler, and I actually don’t really like him without a beard. That aside, there’s still enough hotness here from the 300 star, oh yes – he’s wet, open-shirted, black trench coat wearing, kicking butt, and biting necks. Thanks to his more recent action or sour romantic comedy films, one probably wouldn’t think of Butler for a horror movie, much less as a vampire these days. Here, however, he’s the perfect mix of pale, svelte, mysterious, bewitching, and deadly. Granted, some of the vamp flying leaps and theatrics that were so popular fifteen years ago are over the top, but Butler also keeps the eponymous Count just cheeky enough alongside his angry, century long battle with Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, Beginners) as Van Helsing. He’s always classy and simply perfection, yet Plummer’s Van Helsing is also wonderfully shady at the same time. He’s the good guy gent who has royally messed up, yet we trust his wise ways and vampire hunting skills to out do Dracula. Plummer adds a much needed elder statesmen panache to Dracula 2000 – his potential father, son, and daughter emotions belies a hope that the film will stay a serious undead with consequences picture. Much as Dracula 2000 is remembered for Gerard Butler’s youthful glory and his 2,000-year-old twist, it’s a pity Van Helsing ends up as a secondary character. Though Direct to Video retconned sequels Dracula II: Ascension and Dracula III: Legacy do follow, today’s model would have been to keep stars like Butler and Plummer for some Hammer-esque, big ticket franchising. I would have liked to see that!

I liked Justine Waddell’s period piece turns in Great Expectations and The Woman in White – her later work perhaps proves she has the best acting skills of all the ladies here – but her Mary in Dracula 2000 nearly sinks the entire picture. Even for the Y2K era, Mary is woefully dated, too innocent, simple, and small. She’s erroneously set up as Dracula’s main foil, but the telepathic connections and when and how she uses her ties to the vampire are conveniently utilized as needed for a plot deus ex machina or cool, dreamy effects. It’s not fresh, since Dracula and Mary so uncomfortably lack chemistry, and it’s simply unbelievable that she is the object of his affection and main foe in this battle of undead wits. Their dynamic just doesn’t register – this is the one? Really? I know it is a stupid thing to notice, but Mary also wears little flip-flop sandals for the duration of Dracula 2000’s vamp mayhem. This is just such impractical footwear when battling the nosferatu! I’d much rather have seen the blood ties between Van Helsing and Dracula explored. Two men at odds sharing such a personal, suggestive connection – now that would have been interesting! Thankfully, Jonny Lee Miller (Hackers) works as the then-cool hipster turned sudden vampire hunter in training. Yes, he has some greatly stupid but fun lines amid the preposterous slow motion action. His Simon, however, looks good with the crossbow and vampire hunting gadgetry, and Miller’s scenes with Plummer are delightful. The Van Helsing legacy comes thru far better in their early scenes than in the inexplicable Mary metaphysical moments. Besides, “Never, ever fuck with an antiques dealer!” is far more memorable.

 

Fortunately, Dracula 2000 is also littered with fun to spot appearances by everyone and their grandmother from back in the day. Some performances are better than others, some live longer than they should, and most of them have ridiculously bad lines, yet this, “Hey, it’s that guy!” humor adds to the audience’s good time. From Omar Epps (House) and Jennifer Esposito’s (Blue Bloods) seriously campy and innuendo-laden dialogue to brief appearances by Danny Masterson (That 70’s Show), Sean Patrick Thomas (Save the Last Dance), Lochlyn Munro (Scary Movie), and Shane West (ER), there’s a pun for everyone. And did I mention Nathan Fillion (Firefly) as Mary’s resident Priest?  Colleen Fitzpatrick, better known as then-hot singer Vitamin C, gets to stand beside her own CD for posterity, and Star Trek’s own Seven of Nine Borg hottie Jeri Ryan asks a victim if he’s ever thought about making it with a TV star. I also love how Dracula’s brides all magically get curly hair after being bitten – nyuk nyuk nyuk!

While some of the special effects and paranormal designs in Dracula 2000 still look pleasing, other makeup and visuals look very poor compared to today’s high definition and CGI. Again, the of the moment need to look cool trumps any possibilities for lavish or timeless style, and what suave scenes are present are purely there for the style over substance. What is that red hallway with all the breezy red sheers supposed to be? Some of the aforementioned slow motion also contrasts with the too fast and flashy editing at times. It all looks nice and fancy when it wants to be, but the pace can be undecided if you think about it too much. Of course, all the Virgin Records symbolism, logos, Megastore fronts, and products also immediately date Dracula 2000 – our heroine works in a record store that no longer exists stateside! But it’s cool, this record store had, like, escalators, dude. The loud, unnecessary music is so in your face, and honestly, I don’t think any of it is very good. Great New Orleans locations are somehow not as cool as they could be either thanks to the cliché, unsexy Mardi Gras scenes. Clues hidden in the quick, blink and you miss it montages, dreams, and visions also don’t make sense on an initial viewing – Dracula 2000 should be viewed once for the tale, twice for the twists, and everything else thereafter is a giddy pleasure.

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Younger, contemporary audiences may not pick up on all the dated charm in Dracula 2000, but today’s generation can enjoy the indulgence of it all along with vampire viewers and fans of the cast. Keep Dracula 2000 for a goofy, brainless late night alone or for a mature Halloween party drinking game. It’s campy, cheesy, and of its time, but a blood sucking good occasion nonetheless.

Kbatz: Buffy Season 5

More Goodness in Buffy Season 5

By Kristin Battestella

As if slayerage, college, and boyfriends weren’t bad enough, Buffy perhaps faces her toughest foe yet in 2000’s Season 5.  No, it’s not Spike’s unrequited love or hellgod Glory’s might, but rather the horrors of a new little sister named Dawn.

Buffy_Season_(5)Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) scales back her college plans when her mother Joyce (Kristine Sutherland) is diagnosed with cancer.  Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Tara (Amber Benson) help take care of Buffy’s unknowingly mystical 14-year-old sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg), who has a little crush on Xander (Nicholas Brendan).  Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) gets used to the retail life when he opens The Magic Box, and Anya (Emma Caulfield) discovers her love of money.  Unfortunately, Spike (James Marsters) has fallen in love with Buffy- but she has bigger demons to fry.  Fallen god Glorificus (Clare Kramer) wants The Key so she can return to her hell dimension and thus break down the barriers between worlds, and you know, destroy the universe.

Well, “Buffy vs. Dracula” had to happen eventually, and creator Joss Whedon puts plenty of nice spin on the season opening traditional vampire lore whilst keeping the story familiar and fun. Again, there’s a little bit of filler at the start of the season- cleaning up the Riley mess in “Into the Woods”- but we need to get to know Dawn in “Real Me” before the introduction of Glory and the big plot this season in “No Place Like Home.”  The Previouslies get a little long in the tooth as the season goes on, but it’s intriguing how seemingly unrelated events from “Shadow,” “Triangle,” and “Listening to Fear” come together.  Of course, “The Body” is the most awesomest episode and certainly my favorite hour of Buffy.  One might even argue that Joyce’s illness is the mini bad of the first half of the season.  Year 5 is best as it twists the realistic cruelty of cancer along with the fantastical fight against Glory.  From “I Was Made to Love You” thru the finale “The Gift,” every episode leads off one right after the other, creating the tightness and intensity of a miniseries.  It’s all so wonderfully juicy because unlike end of the world apocalypse terrors from previous seasons, we have bads that actually best Buffy.  “Tough Love,” “Spiral,” and “The Weight of the World,” perfectly lead to her ultimate answer in “The Gift,” and it’s just dynamite.

Yes, it’s great television when the titular Buffy can’t prevent death and hell on earth. We’ve seen her not deal before; but it’s nice to see some sort of proactive non-dealing or mistakes that make things worse.  She tries with Riley and screws up, she fights with kid sister Dawn, and she gets her butt kicked by Glory.  Buffy also clings to the notion that her mother’s illness is supernatural, because supernatural is something she is supposed to fix and make better. Oh, if only that were true! These intelligent and heartfelt dilemmas set off the monster hijinks and keep us rooting for Buffy. We all fight demons of one kind or another, don’t we? It’s inspiring that a show that should give us more fantasy allegory instead takes time to keep it personal and real.  And in addition to all the heavy, props to Gellar for also having some honest but no less tongue in cheek fun as the BuffyBot in “Intervention.”

buffy_005Unfortunately, you just know from the opening episode’s sunshiny beach funfest, that stinky do-gooder Riley is not right for Buffy.  He just isn’t her type of guy, no matter how hard she tries for him to be, and eventually even Buffy seems annoyed by his presence.  Why are we wasting time with Riley’s weak and unloved issues when there are more important things blooming? When he goes medically AWOL in “Out of My Mind,” no one but the trying to hard Buffy seems to care, so why should we give a hoot?  Would be- at least in his mind- boyfriend Spike is once again far more interesting. He does more in his “out for a walk…bitch” quip then the wasted Riley centric episodes.  The “Fool for Love” crossover and its visits from David Boreanaz as Angel, Juliet Landau as Drusilla and Julie Benz as Darla looks period piece cool while intercutting with Spike’s revisionist and love blind narration. We need to know where Spike comes from in order to accept his moving forward and the character changes to come. Even if some dislike his direction in the last two seasons, his growth here and the juicy fighting with Buffy have more depth and chemistry than the ho-hum Rileyness. Spike sees right thru his rival for Buffy’s affections, and he uses his insights and manipulations to his own advantage in “Crush.”  While he certainly isn’t without feeling or morals, Spike is, after all, supposed to be evil, so how does he end up doing so much good sans a soul?

Giles also initially wonders where he fits in Buffy’s world- only to realize how critical he becomes to her and Dawn.  He gets to have some fun, too, with the new Magic Box angles and a mid life crisis sweet car. Sometimes it even seems like the show could be Giles in the Magic Shop with merchandise and customers gone awry and still be cool.  Little touches such as how after such a relatively patron-less and traffic free library, Giles is at first overwhelmed by capitalism adds new purpose for him beyond Buffy.  The juxtaposition also works great for Magic Box clerk Anya.  It’s about time Caulfield became a full fledged cast member, and Anya is given more to do then just being Xander’s girlfriend. Although I don’t understand why she’s always changing her hair, it’s great how Anya says bad and untimely but perfectly pertinent things. A lot of her role still hinges on Xander naturally, but their relationship has also progressed into seemingly solid coupledom.

Xander, of course, is the only person who could get away with using a word like “quell.”  However, it’s a little bit of a retread to have him so intrigued by the potential lesbian action and his crappy useless selves in “The Replacement.” Fortunately, Xander seriously grows up and proves his worth to the gang and even forms a quirky, almost dare I say it friendship with Spike. But why, why, why is Amber Benson not a regular cast member?  “Family” wonderfully and firmly places Tara in the Scoobies – even if the allegory of closed mindedness and lesbians must be demons!  is a bit much. For her soft strength and support and what she goes through in “Tough Love,” Tara becomes far more likeable as an individual and as part of a couple than Riley had been.  Her alternative lifestyles aren’t forced upon the audience or in your face- and Benson does wonderfully when things get drastic for Tara. Willow and Tara’s romance is portrayed with skill, kindness, and sympathy instead of golly gee shocks macho. Their groundbreaking kiss in “The Body” isn’t played for lesbian hurrahs, just honest and natural affection amid such grief.  Likewise, Willow takes care of Tara, as any one in a relationship would do.  She takes charge late in Buffy’s absence and grows into a powerful witch proving her might against Glory.  Willow has come a long way since high school indeed.

dawnSome viewers may be shocked, even pissed at Dawn’s sudden entry this year, but the foundation had been laid for those that were paying attention. Yes, she is a little juvenile and annoying to start, to say the least; going for the treat in the cereal and not understanding the true extent of Willow and Tara’s relationship. However, Dawn is supposed to be clueless, new, and annoying.  Nowadays we’re probably used to scratching our heads over drawn out, seemingly meandering series like Lost and Heroes.  But even audiences who are upset with Dawn’s random placement early in Season 5 should hang in there and have faith.  Everything is explained all in good time, and debate about whether her presence is good or bad and how Dawn feels about it all adds sweet human touches to the mystery and mysticism. She doesn’t know; it’s not her fault.  Our sympathy over “Blood Ties” and “Forever” wins out because Buffy does what she does best with Dawn- give compassion and protect the innocent.

Kristine Sutherland is also a delightfully bittersweet Joyce Summers, and Clare Kramer (The Thirst) is equally love to hate worthy as Glory.  Her bridezilla style and ultimate bitch ways are great against Charlie Weber (Everwood) as Ben- the good guy who isn’t really good. At first, we can say his behavior isn’t his fault, but later his survival instincts take over his morality in a nice antithesis to Dawn’s innocence.  Mercedes McNab is again fun as Harmony, the big bad in her own diluted unicorn-loving mind.  Adam Busch (Sugar & Spice) as Warren will of course return for more in Season 6.  His robot designs are considerably more advanced in the Buffyverse, but the snake effects always kind of stink on this show.  At least the Knights of Byzantium look sweet, and Buffy has a lot of nice action filming, lighting, dream like sequences, and slow motion designs this season. Of course, the lack of the traditional effects and bells and whistles in “The Body” are ingenious.  Its simplicity never gets old, unlike some of the bemusing effects for Glory.  Thankfully, the new Magic Box is cool- even if they can talk about end of the world secrets at their Scooby round table in the middle of a commercial venue full of customers!

Naturally, thanks to renewal wars and rights technicalities for The WB, the future move to UPN, and the downhill trend of the subsequent two seasons, some enjoy debating the merits of “The Gift” as Buffy’s would be or should have been series finale.  The possibility is intriguing, and the great opening clip reel sums up the entire show in speedy fun. Are enough character arcs and series long storylines rectified in Season 5 and the finale itself to create closure? I believe so.  Buffy does her duty, Willow uses her witchy ways for good and saves Tara, and Xander takes pride in his “glorified bricklayer” self. Like a true guardian and father, Giles does what Buffy cannot in order to help her and Dawn, and even Spike almost becomes a full-fledged Scooby: “Till the end of the world. Even if that happens to be tonight.”  Perhaps a few things are left unanswered in the wake of “The Gift,” yes. But these postscripts also work wonderfully.  Like life, not everything is going to be resolved, and no one knows what will happen next or if they can handle the real life dilemmas or monster drama.  Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da.

Again, some of the juicy and/or bland sex between the couples in Buffy is getting a little mature and not always appropriate for the youngins.  However, the introduction of Dawn and the return of youth through her while our core players really grow up is a nice element for newer audiences to join in.  In fact, Season 5 of Buffy almost plays like a contained season; one need not begin prior or proceed after.  Of course, after seeing the finale, you can’t not watch Season 6, even if it’s just to see how the hell they get Buffy out of this one! Return to the Hellmouth and save the world with Buffy Season 5 one more time.

Kbatz: Buffy Season 4

I Really Like Buffy Season 4

By Kristin Battestella

buffy4Despite some of my uneven misgivings on Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s third season; for the most part, Year 4 twists the pains of college, Scooby dissention, and monster military corruptions just right.

Slayer Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her best friend Willow (Alyson Hannigan) brave the new and bright halls of UC Sunnydale despite the usual vampires, demons, and evils above the Hellmouth.  Pal Xander (Nicholas Brendon) and former watcher Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), however, can’t quite find themselves without Buffy.  Of course, she’s too busy potentially romancing Riley Finn (Marc Blucas), psychology Professor Maggie Walsh’s (Lindsay Crouse) seemingly All-American teaching assistant. Unfortunately, back in town vampire Spike (James Marsters) is captured by The Initiative, a secretive and possibly nefarious military unit also hunting demons on campus.

Joss Whedon hits the ground running with “The Freshman,” the 1999 debut of Season 4, and remains solid and filler free straight thru to the brilliant finale “Restless.”  So, college changes life for the slayer, who knew?  Buffy’s shell shock amid continually fighting the forces of evil, battling “Beer Bad,” sleeping with bad boyfriends, and turning on scary roommates is all balanced wonderfully with Willow’s academic happiness and Xander’s ho-hum basement living.  College experimentations on sex, alcohol, and well, experimentation works this season- the real life issues mixing with monsters and demonic government interference put the supernatural angst a step above the rest.  Individual episodes range the spectrum on all our emotions and players superbly, from “Fear, Itself” and “Something Blue” to “Pangs” and “Superstar.” The three-fold finale with “The Yoko Factor” and “Primeval” wraps everything delightfully. Of course, I could spend an entire thesis talking about the near silent gem “Hush,” too, so I’ll just stop there!

Well well, four years in and come to find out, Buffy isn’t perfect.  Having our superhero suck at the college lifestyle is sweet.  Her mistakes are just so realistically superb in how un-heroic they are.  The mid-season two-parter “This Year’s Girl” and “Who Are You” also gets the Faith antithesis angle done right this time- and the reflection on Buffy is dynamite.  So, bad slayer Faith would really like to be Buffy and gets very used to walking in the do-gooder shoes of The Blonde One.  After seeing Buffy deal with so much crap, it’s delightful to see someone else think her life is so grand.  Toss in the ongoing theme that she is still superior in demonology compared to The Initiative and yet can’t deal without her core support group is just…well, it’s so dang real. I love it when science fiction, fantasy, and speculative genre make such great true to life allegories!

Buffy_Season3

Naturally, Willow makes the biggest strides this season.  Firstly, her relationship with Seth Green’s Oz comes to a hairy and angsty head in “Wild at Heart.”  In his departing storyline, Oz is finally given something to do and this pushes Willow into her full-fledged witchcraft. “New Moon Rising” and the brief return of Oz again do more than all his episodes combined.  Instead of the hey, wolf okay, no big from Season 3- his affliction causes conflict in his person and his relationship with Willow. Awesome. Where high school held her back in many ways, UC Sunnydale gives Willow room to bloom- both in positive and heartbreaking ways. Fellow Wicca Tara’s introduction in “Hush” is also just lovely.  Yes, the gay and magic exploration amalgams are a tad obvious thanks to stupid network censorships substituting the latter for the former. However, overall the feeling between the ladies is developed nicely in honest, personal, realistic ways.  What’s more telling than the network innuendo is that Willow doesn’t share her new friendship with Tara right away.  Not only is the awkwardness great when Oz and Tara meet, but it’s juicy when everything comes into the open. The situation is understandably askew and shows us so much about everyone.  Buffy’s reaction to Willow’s relationship with Tara is also handled wonderfully- although it is ironic that Faith saw it coming  a mile away yet the Scoobies didn’t even notice. This romance works for Buffy because it strengthens all the characters involved and isn’t played for the sake of some lesbian gimmick- and props also to Amber Benson (The Crush) for being beautiful, real, and not super Hollywood thin. Africkinmen.

It’s actually a little ironic that both Xander- in a post high school crisis- and Giles- in a mid life limbo- struggle to find their place in Season 4.  We would never think these characters are so similar, but the parallels work nicely. Xander’s run around with jobs and back and forth with sex addicted Anya seem so youthfully aimless against Giles’ fears of uselessness.  His different sides of the same view similarities with the wonderfully crotchety Lindsay Crouse (Slap Shot, Places in the Heart) as Maggie Walsh cast further doubts, too; Professor Walsh’s even demeans Giles’ endearing and fatherly way with Buffy. Ouch! Ethan Rayne’s (Robin Sachs) taunts of the dark side in “A New Man” are great as well. There’s just so much subterfuge with significant life changes, isn’t there?  Unlike the mismatched presentation in Season 3, “The I in Team” captures the division of the Scoobies and The Initiative perfectly.  All this crap and there’s still a Big Bad to handle!

And no, the Big Bad of Year 4 is not, despite what many viewers may think, Buffy’s new dreamboat Riley Finn.  Coming off the favored boyfriend Angel, Riley has not been popular, to say the least.  While we do need the good guy possibilities for more Buffy angst, Riley seems a little incomplete as an independent character.  His first half of the season recurring status with Forrest (Leonard Roberts, Heroes) and Graham (Bailey Chase, Saving Grace) seems like a more interesting triumvirate, rightly or wrongly asking demonic questions and debating military strategy! Riley’s a homeboy do-gooder- but he can’t compete or fit into Buffy’s world and it destroys him.  Even clouding his image doesn’t make Riley any more intriguing, and the audience doesn’t like it when Buffy is with someone just because she thinks she should be.  It’s a little too depressing and real world to be likeable.  And excuse me, it’s also unfair that Riley just shows up and becomes a regular in the span of a few episodes. The far more significant Anya and Tara must wait several seasons for their opening credits and storyline dues.  The apparently too good to be Riley is thrust upon us too soon, his relationship with Buffy never goes anywhere, and in the end, he is kind of a big waste.  At best, he should have been recurring and, well, briefer. Swap him and Oz and maybe things would have been a-okay. I didn’t think I hated Riley, but I do find myself zoning out during his screen time.  Perhaps that is more telling?

buffy spikeBy contrast, it’s about damn time Spike stuck around.  Even when he doesn’t have much to do- at first it seems like the writing team didn’t really know what to do with Spike- his great antagonism and sardonic humor do far more than googly eyes Riley.  There’s certainly more history with Spike, we’ve at least grown to love him or hate him over several seasons.  We know his style and the audience needs someone to tell it like it is.  His outside the gang perspective also adds some fun and innuendo.  Where the censors didn’t like lesbians really being lesbians onscreen, Spike’s Brit bits, gestures, and witticisms escape the radar. His expressions in “Hush” are classic, and his need to cause petty trouble is just so dang human. We all know a wannabe follower who thinks he’s something that he’s not, and we wouldn’t expect this layered flaw in a previously ruthless vampire. Spike is “formerly dangerous and currently annoying” as Buffy says, and it’s bloody refreshing!

Not to be out done, guests and recurring players add to Season 4’s fun and angst. Former classmates Mercedes McNabb as the dimwitted vampire foil Harmony and Danny Strong as Jonathan have some delightful moments, as does our old spin-off friend David Boreanaz in “Pangs.”  I do however, wish we saw more of Phina Oruche (Footballer’s Wives) as Giles’ visiting girlfriend Olivia.  Emma Caulfield is also wonderful in distinguishing her sardonic style from the departed Cordelia.  George Hertzberg (Friday Night Lights) as Adam is a little dry and wooden in his delivery, sure, but he’s a mixed bionic Frankensteinion demon dude, we shouldn’t expect so much.  At least his effects and design look good.  The styles are actually catching up now on Buffy- except for some of the weird patterned pants and boho long skirts.  Those fashions were a little too brief even then!  Guest werewolf Veruca (Paige Moss, Beverly Hills 90210), however, gets a minus in the music department.

Although it is risky when a series does a big lifestyle or location change, Season 4’s new UC Sunnydale college design works better than the now seemingly dark and small high school library of Seasons 1-3. Of course, that library was sweet at the time, but the big and bright campus is both a refreshing step up and yet new and overwhelming.   The kick up of sexual relationships, unfortunately, may be a bit much for super young folks.  Though Anya’s sexual comments are pretty funny and all of it’s probably tame now, maybe “Where the Wild Things Are” is an episode you might want to clarify with the kids before watching.  Some of the crossover episodes and storyline references may also be a little confusing to some newer viewers if they aren’t also watching Buffy’s spin-off Angel. However, most of that is explained in the Previouslies when needed; and fans who still can’t get enough can always tune in for double the fun.  Actually, now that we’re rolling along in Season 4, there’s nothing to stop you from watching Buffy. Go, shoo!

Kbatz: Buffy Season 3

Buffy Season 3 Falters, but Turns Round Right

By Kristin Battestella

season3I stalled for a bit in my rewatching of Buffy the Vampire Slayer over other things, but I also have never been super enthusiastic over Season 3.  After great strides in villainy and growing up in its sophomore season, round three seems somewhat uneven in its portrayal of rogue slayers, corrupt politicians, and romance run amok.  Thankfully, the latter half of the season hits its stride and says goodbye to Senior Year in style.

Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) returns to Sunnydale High a little less than on the ball after running away last year.  She competes with Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) for Prom Queen, hides the resurrected Angel (David Boreanaz) from school librarian Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), and butts heads with new watcher Wesley Wyndam Pryce (Alexis Denisof).  Oz (Seth Green) still struggles with being a werewolf and Xander (Nicholas Brendan) can’t find where he fits in the Scooby Gang.  Willow (Alyson Hannigan), however, takes a liking to witchcraft- and faces newfound guilt over kissing Xander.  As if Buffy’s world couldn’t get any worse, bad girl slayer Faith (Eliza Dushku) comes to town and corrupt Mayor Wilkins (Harry Groener) has more than a few demonic tricks up his sleeve.

Creator Joss Whedon takes Buffy on a slightly darker path this season.  The core cast is a little older, somewhat wiser for the wear, and the first fractures of the gang show thanks to love, slaying, and graduation.  Perhaps I’ve been watching too many mini series or short British shows, but Season 3 here is weak to start with moody, melancholy episodes that seem more like filler then a slow brooding build up.  Plots pick up with the introduction of wayward slayer Faith and the villainous henchman Mr. Trick (K. Todd Freeman, The Dark Knight) in “Faith, Hope, and Trick,” but the first half of the season spends more time on individual character episodes and high school allegories.  Some are a little slow and dated like “Homecoming” and “The Zeppo”- this season seems uneven and fractured itself because it has the uneasy task of showing us our gang as individuals.  What alternatives are their outside of the group?   What are the possibilities beyond high school? Is the season about the individual standouts and explorations of characters or is it about the slayer antithesis and the political Big Bads?  There are some seriously dazzling one off gems here including “Band Candy”, “The Wish” and its follow up “Dopplegangland”, and of course the controversial but brilliant and still relevant “Earshot”.  Beginning with “Bad Girls,” however, every episode speeds up the season long storyline and continues to build on the Mayoral villainy.  Once we return to the strong bond and relationships being the glue against the monsters of life and high school, Season 3 conclude on a great two-part “Graduation Day” whopper.

I imagine there are some fans that prefer the dark and wild slayer Faith to our titular blonde cheerleader. It’s not that I don’t like Faith, but her up and down appearances don’t do the character justice.  Faith should have been much more involved early in the season; and with the considerable amount she is there for the later half, why isn’t she in the opening credits? Now that we’ve had a few years to know Buffy and her world, why not always have a bad girl slayer around to further antagonize and remind us how uneasy Buffy’s balance between life and school and good and evil is?  Interesting notions on how Faith should take up the primary slayer mantle while Buffy goes on with her life are dismissed for other ho-hum explorations before Faith goes too uber bad too quickly.  Some of her physically different dark looks and style to Buffy’s sunny charm is also obvious, and her angry over Angel all the time and latent yet still totally jealous thing gets annoying, too. Her storyline is wonderful once it gets rolling, but it seems there are more Faith, bad Faith, and Buffy versus Faith opportunities to explore.  Fortunately, later seasons do rectify some of the Faithy goodness, and it’s refreshing to have someone who doesn’t always do the right thing or has her own motivations for doing so. Faith- despite being so strong and capable- is so quick to err and get on everyone else’s bad bandwagon.  How could two slayers be so much alike yet so truly different? In many ways, Faith is correct in her ideas that Buffy’s got bad in her blood and a secret joy at killing just below her do-gooder sensibilities.  Her antagonism does indeed push Buffy to put her claws out and do the extremes she wouldn’t have previously done.  In some shows, the writers would just keep going and going with nothing major ever really happening for these opposites.  For each slayer to be true to herself, however, their relationship has to come to an end.  Faith’s mirror half to Buffy serves to strengthen our fair leader.  Buffy thought she wanted out of the Hellmouth, but her stance against Faith fully allows her to accept the slayer as who she is and will be.

btvs-season3Adding nicely to the somewhat uneven slayer dynamic is the great fatherly relationships and examinations with both Giles and Mayor Wilkins. Giles supports Buffy wholeheartedly in her schooling and her slayer training only to have their bond fracture thanks to her secrecy over Angel and the Watcher’s Council interfering in “Helpless.”  For better or for worse, everything seems to break at some point this season- and it all leads back to the Mayor. Wilkins takes a while to build up exactly what he is – almost all season in fact.  However, his equally fatherish dynamic with Faith is kind of refreshingly bizarre.  Because they are bad and crazy, we expect neither to care; but Wilkins supports Faith the way the Scoobies uphold Buffy. Their affection is no less genuine-even bad crazy people can have feelings.  I actually can never decide if I like Mayor Wilkins or not.  He’s the evil politician with a hand in everything dirty in Sunnydale- and yet he is obsessed with cleanliness.  Groener (Las Vegas, Dear John) plays it all a little too tongue in cheek and ironic- a corrupt official who is actually eevvviill!  Perhaps one could find something kinky between him and Faith, sugar daddy jokes and all that.  It’s also creepy that the Mayor sees many truths Faith seeks to hide- as well as the real dynamic between Buffy and Angel.  Competent villains with a seed of the right are the scariest of all, even with the snake monsterness aside.  In fact, if it weren’t for the monster bits, Wilkins might have been a good guy.  He provides frank advice to the gang and even delivers the Class of 1999 commencement speech.  His solid rearing and giving Faith the attention for which she so yearned also comes back to bite Buffy, too.

The ambiguous pairing explorations continue as our secondary players get somewhat deduced thanks to make ups, break ups, and illicit kisses. Xander spazzing over kissing Willow seems very annoying to me now.  Cue the sappy music every frickin’ time, too, as if we don’t get it!  Likewise, Willow gets weird with the make out guilt, and her ugly pink clothes and orange graphic shirts with overalls seem like a geeky regress- especially when we meet her cool vampire doppelganger. Again, it’s this antithesis what if I were bad possibility that allows Willow to come out of her shell more than silly boys. These seeds of witchcraft and gay leanings do nicely in combining the good, bad, positive, and negative characterizations that are to come for Willow much more than the smooches could.  Unfortunately, the overplayed Xander and Willow attractions completely cheapened Oz even more. Hasn’t this character been disused enough? He’s barely a part of the gang, and his werewolf issues only appear sporadically as the plot requires. While we explore all these new difficulties with everyone else, we still know next to nothing about Oz.  He’s in a band, likes Willow, and is a werewolf occasionally. Wow. One wonders why they graduated Seth Green to the opening credits if Oz was going to be so abused this season.

Angel’s return from the hell dimension is also a little slow and sometimes painful. Outside of his stand out episode “Amends” and a critical point between Faith and Buffy in the finale, I’m not really sure why they went through these repeated motions of the slayer and the vampire making googly eyes at each other.  That part of Buffy’s life seemed over, why reopen old wounds?  Frankly, this is a stagnant relationship that can’t go any further, and it is very nice that Whedon was able to spin off the character into something much more than Buffy’s wannabe boy.  By contrast, the once shallow and one-dimensional Cordelia grows up plenty.  We spend more time with her beyond the weird relationship with Xander and see that the popularity, wealth, and fashion of high school are behind her.  Buffy, Xander, and Willow may learn up and down lessons about themselves in Season 3, but Cordelia is the one who has completely changed and developed into an adult ready to move on.

Season-3-I know I’ve been very picky and probably whining and uneven and annoying just like my Season 3 complaints.  Nevertheless, the players both regular and recurring and the guest stars do wonderfully all around.  In addition to his pertinent observation, “Why couldn’t you be dealing drugs like normal people?”, we bid adieu to Armin Shimerman’s Principal Snyder in style. Kristine Sutherland’s Joyce also has some fun and becomes a more equal figure with Giles for Buffy’s slayer welfare. Robin Sachs as Ethan Rayne has always been more entertaining to me then Mayor Wilkins, and future Angel cast member Alexis Denisof’s Wesley is greatly repressed fun compared to how uptight we thought Giles originally was.  Of course, James Marsters’ lone appearance this season as Spike in “Lover’s Walk” is sweet- simply because he isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. And future importants Emma Caulfield (Beverly Hills 90210) as Anya and Danny Strong (Gilmore Girls) as Jonathan make their presence known in memorable Buffyverse fashion.

Again, we may find quibbles with such old television effects in our CGI stylized eyes.  However, the dusting designs in Buffy are more than tolerable; and though the “Graduation Day” finale would look a lot different if made today, the visuals in Season 3 are better than previous years. Boys will still eat up the dual gal slayer action and fight sequences, but fashions again have not stood the decade. Some of the short skirts and skimpy dresses are iffy at best and mostly kind of hoochie. Dingoes Ate My Baby is also still dumb, and most of the music presented has become really nineties dated now.  There’s also a slightly different credit design and remix for Buffy, and sometimes, you just like to watch the opening sequence for all the cool action and sound effects, admit it!

Budding vampire fans looking for some quality examinations or old school audiences returning to the ups and downs of high school can find what they are looking for in Buffy’s Third Season.  With so many characters coming and going or changing with too many things happen here, perhaps Season 3 is not the place to introduce one to Buffy.  However, returning fans can revisit Senior Year and walk down memory lane with Buffy anytime.  After all, only she can blow off high school in such style, literally.

Vampire Kisses by Ellen Schreiber

vampire_kisses-v1The Vampire Kisses series by Ellen Schreiber has been a staple of the YA horror community for quite some time and now, you can read it in manga form.  Though I have not read the books in this series, the manga can stand on it’s own as a work of art.

Vampire Kisses #1: Blood Relatives is a cute, teenage romance about an adorable goth girl named Raven and her gorgeous vampire boyfriend.  Raven reminds me of a young Death from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics.  They added just a dash of chibi to make you forget you are reading an American produced manga.  The art, by REM, is gothic and modern with a beauty all it’s own that will have any gloom cookie loving it from cover to the last scene.

This is the first successful book adaptation turned manga I have seen.  The art is well done, the story is edited well, and it accomplishes what it is meant to, which is encourage you to read the book series.  I can say confidently that this team “gets it” and I give them credit because not many trying to break into the manga market do.

We manga fans have come to expect extras in the back and we are not to be disappointed here.  They have included some cool behind the scenes sketches of all the characters.  I adore the goth-loli-punk sketches of Kat.

My only complaint with this little book is that it is too short.  It is a measly 98 pages while most mangas run 150-200.  Considering the novel this manga represents is on the slim size, I suppose they didn’t want to stray from the series format and make it larger.  I am, however, hopeful for an all-encompassing omnibus of these mangas like TokyoPop did with the Princess Ai series.

I have high hopes for this series to continue in like style.  If you’re looking to move from traditional manga into book-inspired manga, this is a great way to start.

 

Kbatz: Buffy Season 2

Buffy Season 2 Ups the Ante

By Kristin Battestella

One can make the case that Buffy the Vampire Slayer actually begins in 1997 with its full-length Second season.  Any growing pains from the quick debut season are corrected, and the Buffyverse hits the ground running here in fine paranormal form.

buff2Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) begins another school year still trying to balance teendom with being the Vampire Slayer.  Mom Joyce (Kristine Sutherland) and Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman) are still clueless about her secret identity, but Buffy’s friends Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) and Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) help her deal with the ruthless new vampires in town: Spike (James Marsters) and Drusilla (Juliet Landau).  School Librarian and watcher Rupert Giles (Anthony Steward Head) finds romance with Computer Science teacher Jenny Calendar (Robia LaMorte), but the dark forces drawn to Sunnydale’s Hellmouth spell doom for Buffy’s relationship with reformed vampire Angel (David Boreanaz).

Show runner Joss Whedon (Firefly) springboards from Buffy’s first season into more wit, dark comedy, and seriousness.  The ongoing storylines and continuing mythos have grown up considerably- already stand out or multi-part episodes like “What’s My Line”, “Surprise”, “Innocence”, and “Lie to Me” take things beyond high school towards the bigger life picture.  Despite the fantastical scenarios, Buffy never lets us forget life is just as scary as vampires or other fictitious demons. Some stories do borrow from the same old Frankenstein, mummy hijinks, and Anne Rice references; but the second half of Season 2 brings the series into its own.  As the episodes progress, there’s less and less outside influence and more and more of the nuances that make Buffy Buffy.  The mix of stand-alone shows and two part episodes is finely balanced, and from Episode 6 “Halloween” to the double finale “Becoming”, the viewer is hard pressed to find filler or fluff.

Nowadays, teeny vampire goodness and forbidden dark romance is an inescapable phenomenon.  Did this hysteria begin with the ill-fated romance of Buffy and Angel? Perhaps. Though a complicated and realistic relationship, the periodic make out sessions are now a little redundant to older viewers.  The first romance and sexual experience scenario is also dated, but the tact here is angsty, relatable, even mature and well done.  This is not my favorite couple from Buffy, but the innocence lost here is still superior to Twilight.  Sarah Michelle Gellar (Scooby Doo) wonderfully walks the difficult line between being the tough action hero and the hurt and broken young woman.  Despite superpowers, Buffy can’t always deal with everything.  She’s flawed, screws up, and it’s delightfully refreshing to watch.  Likewise, David Boreanaz (Bones) struggles with the romantic feelings amid his 200 years of vampire soul and conflict.  When Angel returns to his evil ways, again its refreshing, tragic drama.  Sure we’d like our couple to live happily ever after, but where’s the fun in that?  Angel’s extreme take on the bad ex-boyfriend puts the exclamation on Season 2.

spike durOppositely balancing the polarity of the slayer loving a vampire is the fun introduction of James Marsters (Smallville, Torchwood) as punk vamp rocker Spike and Juliet Landau (Ed Wood) as his demented love Drusilla.  The pair is visually at odds themselves- platinum, wild Spike and dark, classical Dru- but the vampy affection of the couple adds another layer of bizarre emotion.  Evil demons who take over one’s souls can’t be affectionate, endearing, or in love- can they? There’s plenty of history, love triangles, and kinky vampire goodness for Season 2 and beyond. The fact that these vampires can comment and even laugh at their own dynamic drama makes heavy episodes like “School Hard”, “Passion”, and “I Only Have Eyes for You” all the better. Likewise, we have time to explore Buffy’s flawed adults and the skeletons in their closets.  Anthony Head (Merlin) and Robia LaMorte (Beverly Hills 90210) add fun and bumbling flirting amid dark and ruthless histories, and even Kristine Sutherland (Honey I Shrink the Kids) has a chance to have some twisted romantic fun with delightful guest star John Ritter (Three’s Company) in “Ted”.  Armin Shimerman (Deep Space Nine) as anti-student Principal Snyder and Robin Sachs (Babylon 5) as Giles’ antithesis Ethan Rayne also add seriousness and maturity to make life even more difficult for Buffy’s Scooby Gang.

Nicholas Brendon (Kitchen Confidential) and Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother) also gain a little growing up thanks to more relationships.  Though the Buffy, Xander, and Willow trio is the core of the show, the interconnecting character relationships add depth and conflict nicely.  While Brendon looks to be having a lot of fun as the wisecracking Xander, his lady foil Charisma Carpenter (Veronica Mars) still doesn’t get her full glory.  Is making out and being pretty all there is to Cordelia?  We get hints that there’s more, but again she does all the screaming and seems more like a reflexive character meant to strengthen or interfere with the lead three.  And but of course, the underutilization of Oz begins. Though Alyson Hannigan continues to wonderfully grow with the budding Willow, boyfriend Oz’ coming out party in “Phases” is one of this season’s few missteps.  Although the teenage werewolf scares and fun are there, such a big character development demands more than a mere 45 minutes. This storyline could have been an ongoing mystery through Season 3.  Instead, we go from barely knowing Oz to being intimate with all his secrets too soon, and he never fully fits in with the rest of the gang. I like Seth Green’s (Austin Powers, Robot Chicken) quirky performance and sardonic delivery; but despite fine dialogue, this is one place where Whedon’s writing wasn’t there for his character.  Even the snips of Danny Strong (Gilmore Girls) as geeky Jonathan, Elizabeth Anne Allen (Bull) as teen witch Amy, and Larry Bagby (Hocus Pocus) as macho Larry are a lot of fun as supporting high school stereotypes that develop in later seasons.

Once again, the dated fashion, hairstyles, and music from Season 2 aren’t so longstanding twelve years on.  Though somewhat critical in storylines this season and next, the onscreen band Dingoes Ate My Baby is kind of silly and seemingly a ploy for music fun more than anything else.  Some graphics and horror makeup aren’t up to snuff anymore either- especially the werewolf design. I suspect this might have been part of the reason we don’t see the full beasty so much, but with the right treatment, who cares what the doggy suit looks like.  Even the vampire dress style and brooding goth motifs aren’t in today’s ala mode. Nevertheless, this is a decade old television show, visual imperfections are to be expected; and frankly, the focus on characters and story angst before glittering effects is not dated, but refreshing against today’s trend of visual desensitization over intelligent substance.

New fans can meet Buffy the Vampire Slayer or returning viewers can rekindle their love here with Season 2.  There’s more paranormal romance fun and some scares, but things this season are tame compared to later seasons and modern television.  All this goodness without the introductory hiccups of Season 1, too.  Fans of recent vampire motifs can definitely turn to Buffy; and with rental options, streaming sites, and affordable DVDs, there’s really no reason not to enjoy Buffy Season 2.

Kbatz: Buffy Season 1

Buffy Season 1 Imperfect, but Lays the Foundation Nicely

By Kristin Battestella

buff1It’s been a long time since I’ve watched Season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  When the series first premiered in 1997, I didn’t care for this season and only returned to the beginning after seeing Seasons Three and Four in syndication.  Though short and imperfect with typical storylines and high school clichés, Season 1 establishes the mythos of the Buffyverse in fine form.

After burning down her previous high school’s gym, Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her divorced mother Joyce (Kristine Sutherland, Honey I Shrunk the Kids) look for a fresh start in Sunnydale.  Buffy’s past rubs her new teachers and the suspicious Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman, Deep Space Nine) the wrong way, but she quickly makes friends with goofy Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) and nerdy Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan).  Bitchy Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter) warns Buffy these friendships are popularity suicide-but Buffy has bigger problems than cheerleading and boys like the older, mysterious Angel (David Boreanaz). She’s the Vampire Slayer; the chosen warrior against vampires, demons, evils, and whatever else comes out of the Hellmouth underneath the not so sunny Sunnydale.  Despite her reluctance, watcher and school librarian Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) never lets Buffy forget her true calling against the local demons-including an ancient, ugly and power vampire called The Master (Mark Metcalf, Animal House).

Not many in today’s Hollywood would be able to reclaim their ideas after the lackluster comedy performance of the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer starring Kristy Swanson (Early Edition, Skating with Celebrities) in the titular role.  Joss Whedon (Firefly, Dollhouse) however, has done it. Whedon’s direction, writing, and storylines are allowed their proper expression in the less constrained television format; and his attention to character, detail, and wit shines through Season 1’s introductory growing pains.  The series’ universe, vampire mythos, and foundation are laid early, and the seeds of returning players and events are established here.  Some of the storylines are indeed a little juvenile or too obviously teen metaphors, such as Episode 3 ‘Witch’ or Number 5 ‘Never Kill a Boy on the First Date’.  However, spooky twists and mystery, reversals of typical horror stereotypes, and good old vampire fun go a long way in these episodes –as well as the opening and closing battles against the Master in ‘Welcome to the Hellmouth’, ‘The Harvest’, and ‘Prophecy Girl’.

It may seem strange to say, but there isn’t really a perfect standout episode here in Season 1.  Some are better than others are; but it’s all just neat, cool, or somewhat entertaining.  Unlike subsequent seasons, nothing here leaves you thinking, ‘this is a damn fine show’.  Perhaps this is due to the mid-season replacement-styled limit of 12 episodes and their relatively uncomplex or straightforwardness- again unlike later interweaved and full length story arcs.  However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  Buffy tests the waters with familiar, relatable storylines and kooky fun, attracting commitment-free viewers.  If you miss one of these shows, it’s no big deal. The introductory narration before each episode gets you up to speed, for onscreen time is better spent on character development here.  Even if you think a particular episode is sub par, the cast is fun, fresh, and likeable enough to bring you back to Buffy.

buff1buffSarah Michelle Gellar (I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Grudge, Scooby Doo) takes the eponymous Buffy and makes the character her own.  We like the Slayer-because of and also despite her superhero strength and blonde good looks. Gellar keeps Buffy light hearted, witty, and endearing in the face of some potentially preposterous evils.  She has her troubles with boys and grades thanks to her calling-but she isn’t afraid to hug with her mom if need be. We believe Buffy could be the awkward new girl in town, just as we relate to geeky Willow and goofy Xander.  Alyson Hannigan (How I Met Your Mother, Veronica Mars, American Pie) starts out more nerdy before being toned down a bit, but her charm and innocence wins out against the stereotypes.  Nicholas Brendon (Kitchen Confidential, Criminal Minds) also perfectly represents that awkward teenage boy phase between keeping girls as his best friends and liking the new Slayer at school.  The core dynamics between this leading trio holds fast here and lasts through the rest of the series. It’s also nice to see fine supporting players here at the gate that go on to later prominence on Buffy– including Julie Benz (Dexter) as vampire Darla, Mercedes McNab (Addams Family Values) as snotty blonde Harmony, and Elizabeth Anne Allen (Bull) as future naughty witch Amy. And wow, does everyone look so young or what?

Pre-Twilight lovers of vampire romance and ‘vamp with a soul’ Angel fans will notice David Boreanaz (Bones, Valentine) isn’t the spin off star just yet in Buffy’s first season.  Not listed in the regular credits, Boreanaz makes the most of his selective appearances as the brooding and mysterious vampire Angel-and the bulk of this comes in his titular Episode 7.  Personally, I have never cared for Buffy and Angel’s budding and tragic romance-it’s just a little too sappy and pedophile-ish this season. Thankfully, the relationship really heats up-for better and for worse- in Year 2.  Likewise, Charisma Carpenter (also later of the Angel spin off and Veronica Mars) doesn’t appear as much as the other billed cast members this go around.  It’s understandable that there isn’t always room for the snobby girl to scream, but it gives the impression that’s all there is to Cordelia-something we would later find out isn’t always the case. Her eye candy style and snotty dialogue are great fun, and her supporting antagonism creates great quips for the rest of the ‘Scooby Gang’- especially in Episode 11, ‘Out of Mind, Out of Sight’.  Anthony Stewart Head (Merlin, Little Britain) is also wonderful as the mature figure of the group.  The chemistry between Head and his charges is, in many ways, what makes Buffy, well, Buffy. His upper crust Brit attitude is tough when needed but not above a touch of sardonic wit and slapstick humor.  Giles’ opposites-attract bumbling with computer sciences teacher Jenny Calendar (Robia LaMorte) in ‘I Robot, You Jane’ is also delightful and will lead to major events next season.

Ironically, some of the things that made Buffy such a hit in its day have dated some of these earlier episodes.  Not all the mid nineties music featured prominently through the onscreen guest bands has stood the decade, nor has the then-in fashions and ‘Rachel’ haircuts.  Yes, this was a fictional representation of a hip-and richy thanks to Cordelia- California high school; but my goodness, I can’t believe young girls actually dressed like that back then!  Did we really wear such short skirts with knee-high socks, mini backpacks, and tiny tank tops?  The costumes make me think of two things: Clueless and jailbait. Some of Buffy’s tight plaid pants are seriously laughable through modern eyes,  as are some of the obvious school facades that we’ve seen in every nineties high school show- from Beverly Hills 90210 (the first one, folks!) to She’s All That.  Though many ‘Whedonisms’ are now part of our cultural lexicon, some of the colloquial slang and slightly Valley speech might actually make Season 1 tough to understand for the uninitiated.  The vampire dusting effects and facial makeup are neat, but some of the graphics and featured creatures might make a CGI spoiled viewer cringe, too. Overall, the production seems a little small and poorly lit-understandable, of course, but noticeable compared to the colorful and stylized later seasons.  Do these factors deter from repeat viewings and promise for next season and beyond? Absolutely not. 

Thankfully, all seven seasons of Buffy are available online at sites like Hulu and are available for rent or streaming at Netflix.  Reruns can also be found on Logo and occasionally MTV-but beware the usual cuts for those precious commercials.  It’s also frustrating that the credits are rolled over the final scene on Logo-no nothing critical is going to happen, no not at all. Fortunately, used DVD sets of Season 1 can be found fairly cheap.  However, do your research before deciding to purchase- as the original DVD sets, slim releases, and the complete series box sets do not always have all the same features, Easter eggs, and bonuses.  Subtitles, fortunately, go a long way in confirming spoken layers and those aforementioned Whedonisms.  (I’m sorry, but I have to say, ‘You want to come with?’ annoys me to know end!  Just say the ‘me’, please?)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 1 suffers from its share of introductory season syndrome, yes.  However, the cast gems and the series mythology are firmly established here.  New fans can certainly begin at the beginning, and old fans feeling nostalgic can go back and enjoy.  Obviously, this season is the youngest in tone, so tweens or younger viewers growing out of Twilight and the like can relate here at Buffy’s debut-there are no potentially scary, inappropriate, or super dark and mature themes yet.  Go back to high school with Season 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer any time of year.

Underwood and Flinch: Bonded In Blood

18209165The last time we heard from Underwood and Flinch in Resurrection, Flinch discovered he has no choice in being Underwood’s guardian. He also can’t stop Underwood from killing people.  In Underwood and Flinch: Bonded In Blood  by Mike Bennett, the story picks up right after the first one ended.

With David and Lord Underwood both knowing where each other stand, Underwood decides to find out what the local nightlife of Almacena is like. They go to a bar, owned by friends of Lydia, and Underwood sets his sights on the wife of the bar’s co-owner, Michelle.  Underwood wants a new mate, but things are not that easy as David and Lydia do not approve of his choice.

To make matters worse, the Russian mafia is hunting down the owners of the bar and Michelle’s husband does not want to give up his wife. Also, Lydia has plans of her own to get Underwood to make her and the other members of the Black Circle into vampires, even if she has to trick her master to do it. There is also the question of whether David can handle the  job of being Underwood’s guardian.

That’s not all you get in Bonded In Blood. This book also talks about how Underwood  became affiliated with Flinch. His origin story starts in the early 18th century and explains how Underwood was forced to become a pirate and how his escape attempt lead him to become a vampire. The story shifts seamlessly from the present to the past and then back to the present.

Mike Bennett has a great story here and the book was hard to put down. I think what I liked best about the book was how it worked as drama, horror, action and comedy. I loved when Underwood starts talking about butts and also when Underwood starts dancing to Motorhead with Michelle.

There were also some great horror scenes such as when four pirates are being stalked by something in the dead of the night and when Underwood looses his cool in a strip club. Mike Bennett adds a lot of different ingredients to his story and it works well even if you’re not a horror fan. There were also some great fight scenes throughout the book and the story itself is very deep.

This story also looks at the theme of redemption, loyalty, love, and friendship. You get to see Underwood and Flinch’s relationship change throughout the book and even when they don’t see eye to eye, they still work great together. Even some of the minor characters in Bonded In Blood get some great scenes. One part where the Russian Mafia shows up at Michelle’s bar is memorable and there is a scene where even though both Michelle and her husband are under Underwood’s influence, they still manage to show their love for each other.

The only thing that bothered me a little was the ending. It made sense and kept true to the themes of the book, but there was one loose end that needed to be tied up. There are more books scheduled in the Underwood and Flinch series and I hope Mike Bennett does as good with the next book as he did on the first two. Bonded In Blood is a good example of how great vampire fiction can be. Even if you don’t like vampires, you will find something to like here.

Underwood and Flinch: Resurrection

18209151David Flinch is a recovering alcoholic that has made a decent life for himself. He is a an English teacher and has a nice girlfriend named Lisa. David’s family has a dark history which he wants to escape, but you just can’t walk away from the family business. When David gets a letter stating that his older brother, John, is dying of cancer, he has no choice but to go to Spain and take his rightful position as servant and guardian to the vampire, Lord Underwood.

David doesn’t want to be the guardian, but he swears to his dying brother that he will do it, much to the disappointment of his sister Lydia who wants the position herself. Now that David is guardian he vows to stop Underwood from killing and turn him into a kinder, gentler vampire.  But how do you stop a vampire from killing and how will he stop Lydia from taking his job and using Underwood for her own plans?

Underwood and Flinch Resurrection by Mike Bennett is an excellent horror novel that shows books about vampires never get old. I was hooked on the story right from the beginning when you get to see the relationship between Underwood and Arthur Flinch who is David’s father. They are a team and work well together. I loved the part when Arthur and Lord Underwood have a conversation on the meaning of life right before Underwood goes into a casket for a 50 year hibernation. Mike Bennett did a good job of creating multi-dimensional characters and creating a vampire that you can’t help to root for.

Flash forward to the present and you have David who is the opposite of his father. He looks at the family business of taking care of a vampire as evil and wants no part of it. You see when he is introduced, he has trouble with relationships and doesn’t trust people. He wants to make a difference in the world, but his past  is dictating his future and his life is not his own.

There seems to be a theme in Resurrection of how everyone is a shade of gray. Lydia and Lord Underwood both look at themselves as evil, but both of them show several times how they have a conscience. Lydia feels guilt when someone close to her dies even though she says it was for the greater good. Underwood kills two people and then apologizes for it, saying he had to do it. David threatens to kill his neighbors at one point, but he still wants to stop Underwood from killing. All of the characters in this book are fascinating and not what they first appear to be.

What I liked most about Underwood and Flinch Resurrection is how it blends comedy with horror. Leading up to the resurrection scene, the exchange between the three people who are reviving Underwood was funny along with Underwood’s worshipers who try to get a closer look at the resurrection. I also liked how all the followers run off when they discover that Underwood may not be the savior they thought he was. Underwood And Flinch Resurrection is an excellent vampire tale that has everything you could want in a horror novel. I’m looking forward to what Mike Bennett has in store for us in his the second Underwood and Flinch novel called Bonded In Blood.

Fresh Blood

Fresh Blood

In the finale, you heard Dan Shaurette interview Lucy Blue and talk about a new anthology of vampire tales called FRESH BLOOD. That book is now available in print, Kindle, and other eBook formats.

The Vampire Writers Support Group proudly presents FRESH BLOOD, an eclectic collection of short stories set in a dark, bloodsoaked world full of vampires.

The authors gracing our pages are Daven Anderson, Matthew E. Banks, Lucy Blue, Jessica Cage, Danielle DeVor, Drusiana, Donna Fernstrom, Donald L. Pitsiladis, Karen Plaisance, Selene MacLeod, Brian Patrick McKinley, Dan Shaurette, Tabitha Grace Smith, Emma Rawlin, and Jay Wilburn.

The net proceeds from all sales will be donated to the National Hemophilia Foundation.

The book is on sale now at Amazon.com (as paperback and for Kindle) as well as from Smashwords.com as an eBook in many formats. The paperback currently sells for $9.99 USD and all eBook versions sell for $3.99 USD.

However, Dan has provided the coupon code “NG33B” for his fellow Horror Addicts to use at Smashwords to download the eBook for only 99 cents before November 1st!

HorrorAddicts.net 092, Denise Verrico

Horror Addicts Episode# 092

Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich

Intro Music by: Cancer Killing Gemini

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denise verrico | alkemic generator | hotel transylvania

Find all articles and interviews at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

81 days till Halloween!

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| books midnight echo | after the fire d.alexander ward |

| alkemic generator | black magic | the bride | creepiest job |

| events | dead mail | emz slayer garlic pizza | writing advice |

| denise verrico |

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Write in re: ideas, questions, opinions, horror cartoons, favorite movies, etc…

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Movie Quiz & Prize Contest : The Lost Boys

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Answer ONE of these questions (that has not already been answered)
in the comments and be entered to win two Free Fiction Friday books:

Vampire Stories Edited by Richard Dalby and
The Time Of The Vampires Edited by PN Elrod and Martin H. Greenberg

  1. Kiefer Sutherland’s relative Angus Sutherland stars in the sequel, Lost Boys: The Tribe. How are the two related?
  2. Before starring in The Lost Boys, Corey Feldman appeared in which two horror movies of the same franchise?
  3. A poster for what other 1980’s vampire movie can be seen in the video store?
  4. In 1987, another cult classic vampire film, Near Dark, was released. Which actors from Near Dark and The Lost Boys are related?
  5. What is Kiefer Sutherland’s full name?
  6. The Lost Boys was the first time the Two Coreys worked together. In total, how many films did the duo appear together?

Comment below to be entered into the drawing for 2 books,
Vampire Stories Edited by Richard Dalby and
The Time Of The Vampires Edited by PN Elrod and Martin H. Greenberg

KBatz: Nosferatu (1922)

Nosferatu Still A Classic

By Kristin Battestella

Yes, I am going to review, recommend, and praise a silent film.  Not just any silent film, perhaps one of the best known pre talkie films.  Film historians who treasure The Great Train Robbery and Lon Cheney’s Phantom of the Opera or London After Midnight know where I’m coming from.  I’m probably unusual in my generation for liking silent films, and I doubt any teeny bopper today could stand visuals without effects or booming sounds and all that hype.  Nosferatu, however, transcends time and technology with its haunting images, eerie score, and spooky story.

For the uninitiated youth, I should explain that silent movies aren’t really without sound.  A musical score accompanies the onscreen action, and dialogue is show onscreen via place cards in between cuts.  Some of it is silly, with too many exclamation points and women swooning, but this was the style of the time.  I find something special in bob haircuts, engraved tin plates, and nitrate film.  Film restoration and preservation of classics such as Nosferatu is a necessary cause when remembering each stop on the twentieth century’s technological timeline.

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Lawyer Reinfeld sends the newly betrothed Harker to Transylvania to secure real estate for Count Orlock (Max Schrek).  The Count, however, gives credence to local legends of vampires.  He sleeps during the day, and Harker discovers his coffins filled with earth.  While Harker is trapped in Transylvania, Orlock sails to Bremen and prays upon the plague fearing city.

The story sounds familiar, naturally, so familiar, in fact, that Bram Stoker’s widow-yes she was still alive in 1922-sued the producers of Nosferatu for its similarities to Dracula.  The German movie makers agreed to make several changes-including the characters names.  Today’s English versions have again replaced the German names, but Orlock and Nosferatu have become almost as iconic as Bela Lugosi’s widowed peaked Dracula.

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Nosferatu’s director F. W. Murnau makes the most of what was technologically available at the dawn of the motion picture. Lighting, shadows, and of course smoke and mirrors add depth to the two dimension silver screen.  It’s not that scary now- today’s audience is too aware to be creeped out when Nosferatu appears and disappears, but the old fashioned over the top acting gets the spooks across. Greta Schroder’s wide eyes and biting knuckles look a bit silly, sure, but they also look like some genuine fright.  Likewise, Max Schreck is still as oft parodied and played as Dracula.  When we see a teen horror comedy with the dork in pointed ears and rat teeth, we always recall the classic clips from Noseferatu- certain scenes always appear in spoofs or vampire documentaries.  Schreck’s stilted walk and claw like hands give the underside of those pretty, sexy vampires.  We love vampire hotties like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise, but people in early twentieth Europe feared unnatural and decrepit creatures like what Nosferatu  brings onscreen.

Hyper audiences today won’t sit through the relatively short at 94 minutes Nosferatu, but classical music lovers ought to adore this and other silent films.  Nosferatu’s score gives all the beauty and fear it needs to and then some.  Music takes on the emotional workload for the lack of words, although public domain has given Nosferatu different scores, times, and dvd editions. Collectors have their pick of spooky versions to praise and powerful scores that tug at one’s heart strings.  Rare editions of Nosferatu have become quite pricey, so why do films with only music to carry the visual lose the love?  (Ahem, Dad!)

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Once thought lost and destroyed, Nosferatu has also found its way to low budget videos and DVDs.  Look for it on television late one October night or pick up the dvd in your store’s bargain bin.  Many cheap collection sets exist with a dozen or more b horror flicks together.  Check online for what’s available where. If you must give the tweens something worthy, try similar modern films like the 1979 Nosferatu remake and John Malkovich’s Oscar nominated turn in Shadow of the Vampire.

Just because something has shoddy effects, over the top acting, and no sound, doesn’t make it a bad film.  Appreciate Nosferatu with a spot in your Halloween movie marathon.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) Movie

In 2010 a book by Seth Grahame-Smith took center stage in the horror genre and branched out to impact people that are fans of history as well. The item that got most people interested was the lead character of the book, and that was Abraham Lincoln. The title of this book would later make it to the big screen, and that title, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Grahame-Smith was involved in turning his book into a movie by writing the adapted screen play and the movie was directed by Timor Bekmambetov. The film was additionally produced by Bekmambetov, but the big name that drew attention to the film was Tim Burton.

The movie does follow many of the main plot points fans of the book loved. The thing to remember in any book to movie adaptation is the movie will differ, even if the author writes the screen play.

This is much the case with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter as the movie does change some scenes from those of the book. The way the film is presented is beautiful and the settings are the type of things that will catch your eye and wishing you were part of that world.

The dangers of the vampires in the era are well shown and the vampires themselves are cruel and deceitful. These are creatures that wish to feed and control society. They want to be, no pun intended, at the top of the food chain in more ways than one. However, as soon as a young Abraham finds out what they are capable off he makes a point of stopping them and eventually runs for office.

The history of Abraham Lincoln is well known to many in America and his iconic look is captured very well by actor Benjamin Walker. Along the way Abraham is assisted by the mysterious Henry Sturgis, who is played by Dominic Cooper.

The film does a great job of showing Abraham’s struggles as a young man as he grows and learns how to hunt vampires. Abraham takes lessons on how to kill them from Sturgis and later directions on who to kill as well. These lessons are shown in a great way and give motion and images to the things read in the book. Along with this piece the true story of Abraham runs in the back ground and we watch as he becomes President.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a film that vampire fans will truly enjoy. The intrigue, mystery and vampires themselves are things that will make this a film that can be enjoyed. Those who are more interested in the history side must keep in mind that it maybe there but it may not be completely accurate. The one thing I want to make sure all fans of the books understand that this is NOT the book. So go in with an open mind when viewing the film and enjoy it for what it is. A vampire slaying film, set with a main character named Abraham Lincoln with a backdrop of a young America.

Werewolves and Vampires

For this review we have to get in the time machine and go back to 1980 and take a look at  Moondeath by Rick Hatula. Moondeath was Rick Hatula’s first novel and was originally released by Zebra books. From 1977 to 1994 Zebra books was a major publisher of horror novels, but as the horror boom of the 80’s died down, Zebra books died with it. So for several years you probably couldn’t find a copy of Moondeath until late 2011 when Evil Jester Press re-released Rick Hatula’s Moondeath.

Moondeath takes place in the picturesque little tourist town of Coon Falls New Hampshire and follows the story of divorced teacher Bob Wentworth. Bob is looking to make a fresh start and has just moved to town to take a job as a teacher. Bob meets an unhappily married woman named Lisa and starts a relationship and things look good for Bob.

Things change though when a car with a young man and a woman he was having an affair with,  goes off of a bridge and into the river. To the people in town it looks like an accident but the young man was married to a woman named Julie and Julie has some dark secrets. After the accident people start dying on nights when the moon is full. The local sheriff and townspeople think there is a large dog or a wolf doing the killing, but Bob believes the deaths are the work of a werewolf.

Like Julie, Bob also has a dark secret and the townspeople are not willing to believe his story. The townspeople try to hide the fact that they have a werewolf problem but the bodies keep stacking up and secrets don’t stay buried forever. There is something evil in Coon Falls and there may not be a way to stop it.

If you read Moondeath remember that it is a product of the early 80’s because the story seems a  little dated. For one thing there is a scene where a werewolf is terrorizing a man in a phone booth. Also the story reminded me a lot of the slasher movies that were so popular in the early 80’s. You have people dying off in a beautiful small town one by one and no one in town seems to worry about it, until the bodies really start to pile up.

Another thing that makes Moondeath a little dated is the lack of strong women characters. One of the villains in the story is a woman named Julie. She comes across  as slutty and very one dimensional, I think if the story focused on her more and how she feels,  it would have made the story better. The other main female character, Lisa comes across as hateable because she is married to an abusive alcoholic and does nothing about it even though she knows who her husband is cheating with.  I also didn’t like how she wouldn’t  believe what is going on in Coon Falls despite the evidence that is in front of her.

I can forgive Moondeath for having weak characters because in a lot of books and movies in the early 80’s, women were not presented as strong unlike today.  My other complaints was that the book was a little slow moving and there was a couple  unanswered questions that annoyed me.

That being said there was a quite a few things that I did like about Moondeath. Rick Hatula does a great job of using forshadowing. For instance when Bob and Lisa meet for the first time, you see Lisa playing with her wedding ring which tells you right away that this couple is going to be more then friends. Also there is a point after a fight between two boys in a high school takes place and after being beaten up, one of the boys stomps down the hallway, you know we haven’t seen the last of him. Another scene that I liked was one day when Bob is showing up at the high school he sees an ominous looking cloud passing over the school and he thinks that something evil is coming.

I  loved how Rick Hatula describes the death scenes in the book and the parts where black magic is being performed. I also thought it was a nice touch how there we’re scenes in the church where what the preacher was saying was a metaphor for what was going on in the book. Lastly, I did like all of the  male characters in the book but would have liked to have seen more from the villains point of view. All in all I did enjoy Moondeath and would recommend it to anyone who liked horror in the early 80’s.

Also recently I read a short story from Biting Dog Press called Search and Destroy by Nancy Collins. Search and Destroy follows vampire hunter Sonja Blue as she goes to investigate why homeless people are dying at an alarming rate outside a small town in Washington.

If your not familiar with Sonja Blue, she was created by Nancy Collins in 1989. Sonja has had 5 novels written about her and several short stories. Search and Destroy is the first new Sonja Blue adventure in 10 years.

Sonja was only 18 years old when she was raped and fed on by a vampire. She was left on the street to die but miraculously survived and became a living vampire.  She now spends time hunting vampires, ogres and demons. Think Buffy but more powerful, funnier and a lot scarier.

My only problem with Search and Destroy is that I wish it was longer. Despite how short the story is, Nancy Collins does a great job of creating some characters that you quickly grow to like and she gives a good commentary on what its like to be an outcast from society. This is a fast paced story with a lot of action and is very well written, but I wanted more.  Hopefully we will see more of Sonja Blue in the future.

Free Fiction Friday: A Dream Of Dracula

For this week’s Free Fiction Friday selection we have to take a trip in our time machine back to the year 1972 for A Dream Of Dracula by Leonard Wolf. This is a non-fiction book that tells the history of the character Dracula. The book starts off by talking about the historic figures that inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula, such as Romanian ruler Vlad the Impaler and Baron Gilles de Rais who was a French serial killer with a taste for blood.

From there the book talks about the books that inspired Dracula including Mathew G. Lewis’s The Monk and John Polidori’s The Vampyre: A Tale. It also gives a detailed biography on Bram Stoker and talks about his writing process for Dracula. There are even chapters in this book that cover all the plays and movies that were based on Dracula.

When Leonard Wolf wrote A Dream of Dracula, he was working as a creative writing professor at San Francisco State University. He was born in Romania (home of Dracula) and always had an interest in classic horror literature. He went on to write non-fiction books on Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Phantom of the Opera. He has also written several books researching mythological beasts.

A Dream of Dracula was a labor of love and gives a very detailed description of a cultural phenomenon. If you would like your own copy of this book and you live in the United States, just leave a comment on this blog post and let us know why you want to adopt this book. The best comment gets a copy of A Dream of Dracula. Good Luck!

Horror Addicts #064, 1950’s

Horror Addicts Episode# 063
Horror Hostess: Emerian Rich
Intro Music by: Saints Of Ruin
————————
1950’s | 1950’s TV | House of Wax | Horrorfall
Find full show notes at: http://www.horroraddicts.net

Listen below by clicking the play button.

| 1950’s music | house of wax | closet treats | 1st horror film |
| books | blood of the broken | mach fox | rise of nightmares |
| glimpses | frozen sky | pendragon variety | killing my boss |
| haute tension | horroraddicts con | gothhaus | weston oches |
| albion castle | best horror party | events | www challenge |
| horrorfall | leave it to meatcleaver |

Quills – fans name the address poll! Vote!
https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/vote-for-quills-new-address-on-second-life/

Closet Treats
http://www.podiobooks.com/title/closet-treats

HA Facebook page:
http://www.facebook.com/groups/208379245861499

blood of the broken

glimpses
http://www.podiobooks.com/title/podioracket-presents-glimpses

Frozen Sky
http://www.amazon.com/The-Frozen-Sky-ebook/dp/B0047DX0UI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1311309521&sr=8-1

Pendragon Variety

weston oches

Click to access dani_kollin_group_sampler.pdf

albion castle
http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/san-francisco/hunter-point-albion-castle-keeps-coming-back-dead-145216860.html

www challenge – vote!
http://wickedwomenwriters.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/wicked-women-writers-challenge-is-on/

Killing My Boss

Mach Fox Zwaremachine
http://www.zwaremachine.com

Having trouble with the audio button above? Try this direct link:
http://m.podshow.com/media/18914/episodes/289283/horroraddicts-289283-07-21-2011.mp3

h o s t e s s: Emerian Rich

s t a f f
Knightmist, Sapphire Neal, David Watson, Ed Pope, Dan Shaurette
Want to be a part of the HA staff? Email emzbox@sbcglobal.net
c o n t a c t / s h o w . n o t e s
http://www.horroraddicts.net
t a p i n g . s t u d i o
Quills, A Place For Writers on Second Life
http://slurl.com/secondlife/Awen/168/179/23

Horror Addicts Nominated for The Polidori Awards

Horror Addicts has been nominated for the Out of the Coffin Dr. John William Polidori Awards for Excellence in Vampire Entertainment!

  • Best Vampire Podcast of 2010
  • Best Author Interview (Emerian Rich) on the Out of the Coffin podcast in 2010

Go there now to vote for us and your favorite vampire media of 2010, including the movie SUCK and TV shows such as The Gates, The Vampire Diaries, and True Blood.

http://www.outofthecoffin.com/polidori-awards/

Guest Blog: The “Eeeee” Factor In Horror Movies – E A Draper

You know, I used to be more of a horror movie fan but with the release of movies such as “Saw”, “The Hostel”, and the re-release of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” I find myself yearning for the early days of my horror addiction, yearning for the days of “Frankenstein”, and “Dracula”, and “Friday the 13th”. I want to go back to the days when you would be scared out of your pants and jump at every noise when you went to bed that night and God help you if you forgot to close your closet door ‘cause there was no way you could sleep with it open and once that light was out you were pretty much stuck hiding under your covers all night.
Ahhh…those were the days.

When I was growing up some of the movies that scared me the most were the Freddie Kruger movies (up to number three because to be honest once you get past the third in any series it just gets silly) and movies like “It’s Alive”, and the first few Pinhead movies (that would be the “Hell Raiser” movies for all of you non-pinhead fans). Now, thinking over why I like these older horror movies with their “lame” (as some of my younger friends would call it) special effects, and why the more modern and more realistic films don’t appeal to me, was kind of a hard at first. So, to figure it all out I went back and viewed bits and pieces of these oldies but goodies. I even looked up snippets of Edgar Allen Poe’s classic “The Pit and the Pendulum” staring Vincent Price. Then I went and watched parts of “The Hostel”, “The Hills Have Eyes”, and “Saw I”. After watching nearly three hours of varying degrees of scariness I finally put my finger on what is was that made me yearn for the days of Jason and his scary white mask. Guess what it was? Well, since none of you are mind readers (or at least I don’t think you are…can’t read your minds) I will tell you.

It is the “eeeee” factor. What is this mysterious “eeeee” factor that I am basing my like or dislike of a movie on? Well, let me share with you this magic little noise that defines how good I think a movie is.

When I watch a horror movie I make varying sounds of shock and disbelief such as ahhh…ohhh…eeeee….ewww, and generally cower behind my hands (“Jeepers Creepers” was watched almost entirely behind my hands and consisted of me doing nothing but “eeeee”). The sound that I made the most, if it was a really scary movie, was “eeeee” so that is what I decided to call my rating system for horror movies. It’s simple, easy to use, and easily understood by all because, in my opinion, only a really scary, spooky, on the edge of your seat movie draws this noise from a person involuntarily. I mean, come on, it’s a horror movie and it’s supposed to make you want to nail all your windows and doors shut when it’s over. To me, it’s not a good horror movie if I am not “eeeeeing” a lot and watching it through my parted fingers. And that, my friends, is why I did not enjoy “Hostel” and the others. I simple found no “eeeee” factor to them (mostly I just went ewww). All I wanted to do was cover my mouth and close my eyes. There was no “ahhh…ohhh…eeeee…ewww” there was only “when is this movie going to end so my stomach will stop trying to exit my body.” Basically, I wasn’t really scared. Grossed out, yes, but not “looking under my bed” scared and “searching behind all my doors” scared.

Sigh. I feel so…old fashioned. What is a horror fan to do when so many horror movies are now produced along the lines of “Saw?” All I can say is “thank god for DVD’s.” At least I can watch my favorites on the player. Now, I don’t “poo poo” all modern horror movies. I actually like quite a few and will list some of them in with my favorites.

So, anyone else out there wishing for a little more “eeeee” and a little less “ewww”?

A few of my favorites

  • White Noise
  • Silent Hill
  • Christine
  • Any Edgar Allen Poe movies
  • The Evil Dead
  • Sean of the Dead
  • Resident Evil (all of them and yes…I know…very gory but uber cool moves by Alice)
  • Frankenstein
  • Almost any vampire movie (I’m a junkie what can I say)
  • Nightmare on Elm Street
  • Friday the 13th
  • Alien (shivers just typing it)
  • Hell Raiser
  • The House on Haunted Hill (1959 & 1999 versions)
  • Hot Fuzz
  • Van Helsing

———————————————————————–

E.A. Draper is the co-author of “God Wars” with her partner Mark Eller.
Visit her on the web at: www.eadraper.wordpress.com or download the
podcast The Hell Hole Tavern which features all three books in the “God
Wars” series as well as additional side stories at:
www.hellholetavern.com

13 Questions with Laurel Anne Hill

For my first article and to kick off the New Year, I interviewed award winning author Laurel Anne Hill.

Laurel is most noted for her debut parable, Heroes Arise. Hill is the featured author of Horror Addicts episode 33. She was asked by our very own Horror Addicts Hostess, Emerian Rich, to submit a story for the Vampire themed episode.

When asked about the request, Hill stated, “I’m delighted that Emerian invited me to submit a story and elated that she liked the one I created for the occasion.”

The story she wrote for all the Horror Addicts out there is titled, Wings of Revenge. Here’s a sneak-peek into Hill’s thoughts and inspiration for Wings of Revenge. “…I strove to create a scary vampire tale minus most of the traditional clichés. In other words, no garlic or crucifixes. No handsome dead guys with pale skin. No fainting ladies. In fact, Carlotta, my human main character, is self-confident and used to taking risks. Additionally, I selected the “our vampires are different” trope to flavor Wings of Revenge with a measure of unpredictability.”

Hill has already written two short vampire themed stories, Eternal Poetry and Real Vampires Don’t Snore. “However, [the] vampires in Wings of Revenge aren’t sympathetic. They’re evil. [Hill] wrote Wings of Revenge to confirm that [she] could write a scary vampire tale.”

She was asked her opinion on how the “classic” Bram Stoker vampire compares to “modern day” vampires created by authors such as Anne Rice and Stephenie Meyer. Hill replied, “As I read novels by Anne Rice, I felt her vampires’ humanity and separation from humanity. Above all, I felt their sensuality and sexuality. To a far lesser degree, these types of feelings arose when I read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. Bram Stoker never brought me that close to Count Dracula. Stoker even distanced me from his mortal, first-person point-of-view characters. Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published in 1897, and Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, over 75 years afterward. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight was published in 2005. Writing and life styles changed during that span of time. Vampires in modern literature reflect such changes.”

Laurel Anne Hill has been on Horror Addicts before as a judge for the Wicked Women Writer’s Challenge. Mrs. Hill stated, “I loved serving as a judge for the [WWWC]. What an honor! The quality of the podcasts impressed and inspired me.”

She believes that “many factors contribute to making a good writer. Some of the most important include passion, determination, and attention to craft–breathing life into stories instead of sucking all the life out of them.”

Mrs. Hill, herself, worked in the pharmaceuticals/health care industry for 40 years. But, she has been writing stories pretty much all her life. “Actually, I first wrote stories before I learned how to read. I told my stories to my older sister and she wrote down the words. I continued to write until graduation from college, when marriage and a demanding career led me down a different path. Then, in 1991, a mysterious illness hit me. My back muscles went into near-continuous spasms for six weeks. Prescription drugs helped make the agony bearable but generated hallucinations. When the Grim Reaper appeared and taunted me for not writing, I reorganized my priorities.”

Heroes Arise, Mrs. Hill’s most notable work, was published in 2007. When asked how it felt to have her parable traditionally published, Hill replied, “Having a book published by a traditional publishing house felt different than having short pieces appear in newspapers or zines. The first time I held the hard-cover edition of Heroes Arise in my hands, all I could do was say, “Ohhhh.” The reality of being an author hit me at that point.”

Hill enjoys writing, her favorite genre happens to be fantasy. “I love world building, especially when the world I’m creating has room for magic.” Her husband, David, is usually the person to do the first read of her completed work. But “occasionally, [her] writing group does the first read.”

Mentioned on her website as her current project is Plague of Flies, a historical novel set in California 1846. When asked about it Hill replied, “[Plague of Flies], was my current project until earlier [2009].  The story wasn’t coming to life on the page. I switched to doing a rewrite of my earlier novel manuscript, A Light from the Mountain….In the meanwhile, I attended various science fiction/fantasy presentations given by publishers at conventions. I learned that a futuristic science fiction/fantasy work from a non-bestselling author probably wouldn’t be publishable in the current market. My agent (who loved A Light from the Mountain) had passed away a couple of years ago….As a result, I’ve rethought both A Light from the Mountain and Plague of Flies. I’m reworking A Light from the Mountain as steampunk/fantasy set in the late 1800s. Plague of Flies will remain set in 1846 but I’ll develop the novel as alternate history/magical realism.”

Look for Hill’s Thar be Magic; a “pirates and magic short story, [which] is scheduled to appear in the Rum and Runestones anthology (Dragon Moon Press) in 2010.”

You can learn more about Mrs. Hill at her Red Room and Vox blogs. Where you can find “announcements regarding events, podcasts, and slide shows.” Hill also started a podcast in August of 2009 titled Welcome to my Bedroom Closet. Her podcasts usually contain “readings of her work” or “advice about writing”. Look forward to many podcasts from her as she mentioned she “prepare[s] flyers about Welcome to my Bedroom Closet and distribute[s] them at conferences and other events. My podcast is a long term project to increase my platform as an author.”

You can find Laurel Anne Hill’s blogs at these links: http://www.redroom.com/author/laurel-anne-hill and http://laurelannehill.vox.com.
You can also find her postcasts and listen to Eternal Poetry and Real Vampires Don’t Snore at http://laurelannehill.libsyn.com.
Heroes Arise is available on Amazon.com in both print and Kindle format.

Episode #33 of Horror Addicts will go live January 14th, 2010 at http://www.horroraddicts.net