Archive for the Vampire Hunters Category

Friday Night Knife Fights: NEAR DARK vs. LOST BOYS – PART 2

Posted in 1980s Horror, 2012, Friday Night Knife Fights, Vampire Hunters, Vampire Movies, Vampires with tags , , , , , on July 19, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS
NEAR DARK vs. THE LOST BOYS (Both from 1987)
PART 2  (OF 3)
With Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Welcome back everybody!

Tonight, it’s Part 2 of FRIDAY NIGHT KNIFE FIGHTS, NEAR DARK vs. THE LOST BOYS.  Once again, L.L. Soares, Paul McMahon, and Mark Onspaugh, and myself, Michael Arruda, are all here on this panel as we try to determine which of these 1987 vampire movies is the better of the two.

Last time, NEAR DARK took Round 1, and so the score after one round, is:

NEAR DARK 1, THE LOST BOYS 0.

On to Round 2.  You guys ready?

LS:  No, we like just sitting here.  Of course we’re ready.  Let’s go!

MA:  Question 2: Which film has the stronger cast?

L.L., why don’t you start us off?

LS:  A lot of the cast of THE LOST BOYS is actually quite good. I’m a big fan of Jason Patric, who plays Michael. He went on to some very good roles after this movie, and he’s a sympathetic hero (although why he still lives with him mom and goes to high school when he looks to be about 25 continues to baffle me). I also like Dianne Wiest as Lucy, the mom. She went on to be in a lot of high-brow flicks.

MA:  I’m with you with Wiest, but Jason Patric in this movie is a bore.

LS:  As for the vampires. Hey, I have to admit that I dig Keifer. The guy has presence. You believe he leads a gang of vampires. There was a time when I didn’t like him as an actor, but I’ve definitely changed my tune on that.

MA:  I definitely agree.  Keifer Sutherland makes the most of his scenes here, and I liked him a lot.

LS:  And Jamie Gertz is pretty hot. Edward Hermann is kind of goofy as Max. He’s not great, but he’s memorable. And I like Barnard Hughes as Grandpa. I guess he’s supposed to be a comic relief character, although he’s not the only one.

MA:  You liked Max and Grandpa?  Come on!  As much as I like Edward Hermann, Max is an awfully weak character for someone who is supposed to be a vampire leader and a love interest for Weist’s character.  I didn’t buy him in either one of these roles.  I think Hermann’s miscast.

LS:  Max is a dumb character. How can he be miscast? Who would you have chosen, Sir John Gielgud?

MA:  Let’s see.  It’s 1987.  How about Kurt Russell?  I would have believed him as a leader of the lost boys!

LS (shaking his head):  But he’s not supposed to seem like a leader of the lost boys. He’s supposed to trick you. Wally Cox would have been better than Kurt Russell, but I think he was dead already by then. It’s not really an important role anyway, and Hermann is just fine in it. His overly mannered presence made me laugh, unlike Corey Feldman’s jokes.

And who doesn’t like Grandpa?!!

….but everyone else in the movie?

The other vampires are pretty bland when it comes to personalities, so they didn’t impress me much at all.

And then we get to the true reason why THE LOST BOYS is fatally flawed. The “other” storyline that’s going on here. The one starring the “Two Coreys.”

MA (rolls eyes): Ugh!

LS: It’s like there are two movies going on simultaneously. The real one, where Jason Patric struggles not to become a vampire. And then there’s a second one, starring Corey Haim and Corey Feldman.

The horror that is COREY FELDMAN!

Corey Haim plays Sam, Michael’s younger brother, and he’s just another annoying brat. I hated all his scenes. But he’s Laurence Olivier next to Corey Feldman, possibly the worst actor in the history of movies.

MA:  I actually liked Haim when I re-watched THE LOST BOYS for this column.  Feldman, not so much, but I wouldn’t call him the worst actor ever.  Some folks in the TWILIGHT movies have dibs on that distinction.

LS: You liked Corey Haim? Well, there goes your credibility out the window. His performance is just made up of stupid jokes that aren’t funny, him whining all the time, and telling people he has nightmares because of comic books. He’s just a little jerk. As for Feldman. He’s not the worst actor ever? What planet are you from? I don’t like the TWILIGHT movies but even a shirtless (and brainless) Taylor Lautner could act Feldman under the table! Come on!

MA:  We’ll see how you feel this November when we review the final TWILIGHT movie.

LS:  In THE LOST BOYS, Feldman plays Edgar Frog, who, with his blander and less annoying brother Alan (Jamison Newlander), runs a comic book store and also keeps track of the vampire residents of the seaside town they live in, Santa Clara.  They’re supposed to be funny (one is named Edgar and one is Alan, get it?), but they’re just complete assholes. Feldman especially acts if he is in a completely other movie—some lame-ass teen comedy—because he certainly doesn’t take any of this stuff seriously, and personally I think that’s because he can’t. He doesn’t have the acting ability to portray a serious character. He’s a clown.

I can tell these characters are complete idiots the first time Sam goes into the Frog brothers’ comic book store. They have a conversation about Superman comics that is just friggin’ lame and shows that they probably know nothing about real comics books. And then Sam says “I’m looking for a copy of number 14 of Superman, which, if they had one, would be worth thousands of dollars. It’s just asinine.

But I’ll go so far as to say every single time this movie focuses on the two Coreys and their shenanigans, the entire movie comes to screeching halt. You lose any momentum that has been building, any attempts at the movie being scary, and you lose any belief or concern about the other, real, storyline. They just completely ruin the movie for you. And that goes double for Feldman, who is like cinematic poison here.

I don’t know if he’s this bad in every movie he’s in—because I kind of avoid Corey Feldman movies—but I don’t remember him being half as annoying in STAND BY ME (1986).

Director Joel Schumacher (more on him later) should have made up his mind. Did he want to make a good horror movie about a guy struggling to remain human, or did he want to make a crappy teen comedy where Corey Haim and Corey Feldman constantly do things to get middle-school kids to laugh? Because he can’t have both.

MA:  Well, he could have had both if he took both storylines seriously.  The  “Coreys” story is simply too goofy, but if those teens were portrayed as real people rather than as cartoonish vampire hunters, then their scenes would have been better.  In FRIGHT NIGHT, for example, the humor in the Roddy McDowall storyline works because McDowall took the role seriously.

LS:  Don’t mention Roddy McDowall in the same breath with those two teen twerps!  They ruined THE LOST BOYS!

Which brings us to NEAR DARK. I dug every single cast member, except maybe Homer, who got on my nerves most of the time, but nowhere near as much as the Coreys. And Jenette Goldstein as Diamonback either isn’t fleshed out enough or isn’t memorable enough to stand out for me. But everyone else—I don’t’ need to list them all, do I?: —is just really good here. I even like Tim Thomerson (a B-movie veteran) as Caleb’s dad, even though he doesn’t have a lot to do here, and I like Marcie Leeds, who plays his little sister Sarah, a lot. (Marcie is a way better child actor than Joshua John Miller as Homer, by the way).

Hands down, NEAR DARK has the better cast.  Even if THE LOST BOYS had even more good actors, it would lose. Because Corey Feldman’s performance is made of anti-matter and negates everything it touches.

MA: I wish you’d tell us what you really think about him.

LS: Sorry, I know I held back a little.

MA: Paul, what about you?

PM:  This is a tough call.

THE LOST BOYS had more name recognition with lots of popular Teen Beat pinup stars, multiple Emmy nominee Edward Herrmann and Diane Wiest, coming off her first Oscar win for HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986). Even so, not a whole lot of acting showed up onscreen. Herrmann and Wiest had very little to do, and in the end Corey Haim did the most of the actual acting in the film.

LS: You call that acting?

PM:  Yeah.  He’s pretty good in his scenes.

MA:  I agree with Paul.  I liked Haim in this movie.

LS (shakes his head): You guys have gone crackers.

PM: In NEAR DARK,  the actors were less well known, with Lance, Bill and Jenette Goldstein (who played Jesse Hooker’s girl Diamondback) all coming off ALIENS the year before.

The relationship between Caleb and Mae (Adrian Pasdar and Jenny Wright) in NEAR DARK was based on exactly the same set up as the relationship between Michael and Star (Jason Patric and Jami Gertz) in THE LOST BOYS, namely, a horny man thinking: “What a babe! I’m’a get me somma dat!” In NEAR DARK, though, the relationship is far more involved because after Mae bites Caleb, beginning his turn into a vampire, she’s put in charge of getting Caleb to make his first kill and turning him completely, something he is resisting.

Caleb and Mae have a sad love affair (with blood) in NEAR DARK.

LS: I really liked that aspect of the story.

PM: And as for child vampires, Homer would have Laddie for breakfast. The NEAR DARK cast evokes a lot more emotion than the cast of THE LOST BOYS, and is more believable to boot.

My vote for the best cast goes to NEAR DARK.

MA:  I agree with Paul that Dianne Wiest and Edward Hermann are fine actors, but neither of them had much to do in THE LOST BOYS.  I actually thought Corey Haim did an excellent job as Sam, but I didn’t like the plot he was stuck in at all, involved with those silly juvenile vampire hunters.

But I was most impressed with Kiefer Sutherland as the vampire David.  To me, he’s the best part of THE LOST BOYS.  I wish he had been the main vampire in the movie, and the story had been built around him.  Oh well.

LS: Sutherland is pretty much the main vampire in this movie, and it kinda was built around him, so I don’t know what you’re whining about. Their “big boss” is a secret until the end and certainly the movie isn’t built around him.

MA: If Sutherland were truly the main vampire he’d still be around at the film’s conclusion!

LS: That’s such a minor point. I’m judging the whole movie, not the last two minutes. Why are you so hung up on who ultimately is the “main vampire.” As far as screen time, and the impression he makes on you, Sutherland is the main vampire.

MA: I’m just saying he’s my favorite character in the movie, and for my tastes, he’s not in it enough, nor is the story built around him as much as I wish it were.  You obviously disagree.

In NEAR DARK, Adrian Pasdar is okay as Caleb Colton, but he certainly didn’t wow me.  But Jenny Wright as the vampire Mae, now she’s a different story!  Her quirky beauty in NEAR DARK makes her one hot vampire.  Sizzle!

I also really enjoyed Lance Henriksen as lead vampire Jesse Hooker.  To me, he’s the presence that is so sorely lacking in THE LOST BOYS.  Had Sutherland been in LOST BOYS more, then I think he would have given the movie that presence, but as it stands, he’s not as powerful a character as Henriken’s Jesse.  For me, Henriksen is the most memorable part of NEAR DARK.

LS: I can’t praise Henriksen enough. He is terrific in NEAR DARK. One of his best roles.

MA: Surprisingly, I didn’t like Bill Paxton all that much in this one, and this surprises me because usually I enjoy him a lot.  I think it’s because it’s the same “Bill Paxton” shtick we’ve seen before in other movies, and I don’t think it works as well when he’s a vampire. I didn’t find him as funny as a vampire, but I also had a hard time taking him seriously as a psycho vampire.

LS: I thought Paxton was annoying at times, but I think that was on purpose. Overall, I loved his performance in NEAR DARK. The guy is a force of nature, and he deserves more roles like this.

MA: Well, I found his portrayal of a vampire too annoying!

But I did enjoy veteran actor Tim Thomerson as Caleb’s devoted dad, Loy, who spends the bulk of the movie trying to save his son from the vampires.

LS: Thomerson is great.

MA: I like Sutherland and Haim in THE LOST BOYS, and I like Henriksen, Wright, and Thomerson in NEAR DARK.  Advantage:  NEAR DARK.

What did you think, Mark?

MO:  I love Dianne Wiest in THE LOST BOYS, and Edward Hermann is good as the bumbling, good-natured head vampire.

(MA& LS groan).

MO: But come on – NEAR DARK has Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton and Jenette Goldstein, all from ALIENS (1986), and Jack Deth himself, Tim Thomerson!

Gotta go with NEAR DARK on cast.

MA:  Round 2 goes to NEAR DARK as well.  After two rounds, it’s:

NEAR DARK – 2, THE LOST BOYS – 0.

Edward Hermann has a spooky secret in THE LOST BOYS.

On to Round 3.

Question 3: Which film has the more effective screenplay? 

Paul, let’s start with you.

PM:  I’m not a fan of horror movies that pretend to be comedies. What little threat there is in THE LOST BOYS comes from Michael allowing himself to get pulled steadily into David’s group so that he can be with Star. This tension is offset by Michael’s brother Sam getting pulled into the comic zaniness of the vampire hunting Frog Brothers. The first time I watched them enter the sunken hotel, I expected them to chicken out and run away screaming. That said, the screenplay balances those elements at least as well as a good YA novel would. It keeps the suspense all the way through to the end of the film, with the only real let down being that it ended on a punch line. A punch line, for chrissakes!

MA:  You found suspense in THE LOST BOYS?  Seriously?  I thought THE LOST BOYS completely dropped the ball on anything remotely related to horror.

LS: If it focused on Patric and Sutherland and Gertz as a love triangle, it would have worked.

PM:   NEAR DARK is solid, brooding and downright scary in parts, not to mention a whole lot bloodier than THE LOST BOYS. While Michael brazenly ignores that Star is hanging out with some very shady characters, NEAR DARK’S Caleb has been bitten and is forced to remain among her band of rowdies to stay alive. The stakes for him are higher (take the pun as you will).

However, the ending of NEAR DARK didn’t pop like it should’ve, it just kind of fizzed out. The vampires just seem to give up, a huge disappointment which seemed out of character. While that might have been done to keep the running time down, it looked like Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red just plain ran out of ideas.

I give a slight edge to THE LOST BOYS in terms of screenplay.

MA:  I completely disagree.

I give the screenplay edge to NEAR DARK, hands down.

The screenplay to NEAR DARK by Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red is a gritty realistic tale that remembers something important, something that THE LOST BOYS forgot:  it’s a horror movie, stupid!  It also remembers to be scary!

THE LOST BOYS screenplay by Janice Fisher, James Jeremias, and Jeffrey Boam ruins any chance of it being taken seriously by throwing in a silly vampire hunter plot that belongs in a kids’ movie, or at least a PG movie.  What’s it doing in an R rated movie? It just doesn’t fit in at all!

And the attempts at humor in THE LOST BOYS all misfire.  The humor is nowhere near as sharp or as biting—heh heh—as the humor in its 1980s contemporary, FRIGHT NIGHT (1985).

LS: Hell, FRIGHT NIGHT is a better vampire movie than THE LOST BOYS.

MA: But the worst part of THE LOST BOYS story is that the vampires are not treated seriously.  It’s a very superficial screenplay.  It comes off as “let’s write a story about vampires without really caring if anyone believes it or not.  After all, who believes in vampires?”  Sorry, but this is the wrong approach.

This surprised me, because screenwriter Jeffrey Boam, who passed away in 2000, has a lot of screenplay credits, and I like a bunch of movies he wrote:  THE DEAD ZONE (1983), INNERSPACE (1987), FUNNY FARM (1988) and INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989).  Oh well.  You can’t strike gold all the time.

LS:  Well, I agree about THE DEAD ZONE, but none of those other credits wow me.

Look, I’ve said it before. THE LOST BOYS had potential. If it stuck to the serious aspects of the story, it could have been a classic of its time. But the silly antics of the kids just overshadows everything and ruins the tone, and anything good about the script, and worst of all, those scenes aren’t even funny, so they sacrificed the good stuff for nothing! Watching it again this week, I noticed how good it could have been, and it kind of saddened me. . It was a lost opportunity. With a better script, a different director, and some changes in the cast, it could have been terrific. But as it is, it’s a bad movie.

Sam and the Frog Brothers. Three stooges who should have been left on the cutting room floor in THE LOST BOYS.

The screenplay for NEAR DARK is far superior. Sure, it’s dated now in some ways, and it certainly has flaws in logic, but overall, its’ a solid story that holds up very well over 20 years later. Kathryn Bigelow proved this was no fluke. She went on to make more great movies like STRANGE DAYS (1995) and she won the Oscar for THE HURT LOCKER (2008). And Eric Red is another talented writer. He also gave us THE HITCHER (1986, and 2007) and BODY PARTS (1991).

You can’t compare the quality of the scripts. NEAR DARK wins hands down.

MO:  I think the bleak, desolate vision of Kathryn Bigelow and Eric Red’s NEAR DARK holds up better than the jokey, bright and candy-colored screenplay of THE LOST BOYS, even though I liked some of the latter’s riffs on Peter Pan, including a pirate’s cave and seeking “mother” for those lost boys…

LS: Yeah, and the title of course. The Peter Pan riffs were one of the best things about THE LOST BOYS. And yet another aspect squandered by an otherwise putrid script.

MO: But I found NEAR DARK more intense and less hopeful, because of the lack of one-liners and kooky characters, and that made the triumph of our protagonists all the sweeter, because the film could have gone either way, as opposed to THE LOST BOYS where you just know they’re not going to kill off the two Coreys.

LS: Oh, I wish they had.

MO: So, I’m going with NEAR DARK, too.

LS; The only logical choice, I’d say.

MA: Okay, then.  Round 3 goes to NEAR DARK, despite Paul’s misguided vote for THE LOST BOYS.

Which brings the tally up to NEAR DARK – 3, THE LOST BOYS – 0.

And that’s all the time we have for tonight.  Join us next Friday for the third and final segment of this debate to see if THE LOST BOYS will ever score a point, or if NEAR DARK will march on towards a decisive win.

Thanks for joining us, everybody.  See you next Friday!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda, L.L. Soares, Mark Onspaugh and Paul McMahon

One more part to go. Don’t go too far. Squeak, squeak.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012)

Posted in 2012, 3-D, Action Movies, Cinema Knife Fights, Historical Horror, Martial Arts, Period Pieces, Revenge!, Vampire Hunters, Vampires with tags , , , , , , , on June 25, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: The battlefield at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Present Day. MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES walk through the area.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA: This has got to be one of the most somber places I’ve ever visited. You can almost feel death all around you. (turns to LS) Or maybe that’s just you.

L.L. SOARES: No, I know what you mean. I was surprised you chose this place to do our review. Not the usual locale for Cinema Knife Fight shenanigans.

MA: I just thought this location would be the perfect setting to make my point, that today’s movie, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012), in spite of its ridiculous title, is not a comedy. It plays it straight throughout.

LS: It may not be an intentional comedy, but it’s not a reverential piece of historical filmmaking, either. It’s a silly vampire movie! Hardly worth this location!

MA: Perhaps, but it just felt right. The hero of this movie is, after all….Abraham Lincoln!

(Orchestral music plays in the background)

LS (grimaces): What’s with all the seriousness? Man, are you a buzzkill!

MA: Anyway, I hadn’t planned to stay here. Let’s take advantage of the magic of Cinema Knife Fight Land and go to a more appropriate place. (Snaps his fingers, and suddenly they’re in a crowded pub surrounded by folks in 19th century garb.)

LS: Now that’s more like it! But why is everybody dressed so funny?

MA: I dunno. Maybe this is the cast party for the movie. Or maybe we went backwards in time. You can never tell around here.

LS: So why don’t you start the review? I’m going to grab a couple of cold ones from the bar.

MA: Thanks!

LS: Why are you thanking me? Get your own!

MA: Sometimes you make the Grinch seem generous.

LS: The Grinch is a wuss!

MA: Anyway, in today’s movie, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, based on the novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, who also penned the screenplay, young Abe Lincoln witnesses his mother attacked by a vampire. Years later, as an adult, Abe Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) seeks revenge against the vampire who killed his mother, but not knowing anything about vampires, his attempt at retribution is a complete fail. He is nearly killed, but a stranger (Dominic Cooper) comes to his aid and saves him from the vampire.

The stranger’s name is Henry Sturgess, and he actually had met Lincoln earlier in a bar, a lot like this one, and it turns out Sturgess knows a lot about vampires. He’s a vampire hunter, and Abe Lincoln agrees to be his protégé and learn all there is to know about hunting vampires, with his eventual goal being to avenge his mother’s death.

LS: Excuse me, was I snoring? Must have dozed off for a second.

MA: Aren’t you supposed to be getting yourself those cold ones?

LS: Oh yeah.

MA: Lincoln moves to Springfield, Illinois, where he finds a job working in a general store for an amiable young man named Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson), who quickly becomes one of Lincoln’s best friends. It is also here where Lincoln meets Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), the woman he eventually falls in love with and marries.

When he’s not working or studying to be a lawyer, Lincoln’s busy as a vampire hunter, using his weapon of choice, an axe, to destroy the multitude of vampires living in Springfield. Lincoln learns about these vampires through letters sent to him by Henry Sturgess, who sort of acts as Lincoln’s “mission impossible” contact. You almost expect the letters to self-destruct into puffs of smoke after Lincoln has read them.

LS: Don’t forget, it’s not just a normal axe. It’s blade is coated in silver! The dreaded enemy of vampires. Or was silver the one that werewolves don’t like? I’m not sure. It gets so confusing sometimes. Everyone has their own rules. But in this movie, vampires can go out in sunlight and can do all kinds of cool things you wouldn’t think they could do. But they hate silver. Oh, and they can turn invisible! How convenient!

MA: Yeah, the invisible part was silly, but the hating of silver can be traced back to several of the Hammer Films. Van Helsing (Peter Cushing) stabs Dracula (Christopher Lee) with a silver knife in DRACULA A.D. 1972 (1972), and in THE SATANIC RITES OF DRACULA (1973) Van Helsing attempts to shoot Dracula with a silver bullet. In both those movies, silver was fatal to a vampire.

LS: In the trailer, when they poured liquid over Abe’s blade, I thought it was holy water, not melted silver. But it’s been a long time since anything religious hurt a vampire in the movies, so I should have known better.

MA: Lincoln and Sturgess eventually cross paths with the vampire leader, Adam (Rufus Sewell, in a deliciously evil performance) who’s been in existence for 5,000 years! He makes Dracula seem like a baby! Lincoln also learns that Adam is using the black slave trade to his advantage, using the slaves as food for his vampires. So, Adam is definitely a proponent of the slave trade and aligns himself politically with the folks in the south.

LS: Rufus Sewell is “deliciously evil” here? Man, you have no clue what evil is all about, do you? He’s a cartoon. And he’s not scary for one instant. I thought Sewell was completely miscast as the king vampire here. But more on that later.

MA: No idea was evil is all about? Pardon me, Mr. Evil Know-it-all!

Lincoln has a personal investment in the welfare of the slaves, because one of his best friends is a free black man, Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie), who becomes one of Lincoln’s closest advisors.

LS: Just to play Devil’s Advocate here—a role I enjoy, by the way—I wasn’t sure whether having slavery and the Civil War tie into the vampire agenda was clever or kind of offensive. It kind of trivializes the real horrors of slavery, doesn’t it?

MA: Not really. Slavery is still horrible. The vampires were simply using it to satisfy their own needs.

Realizing that the problems in the world are too big for just one man, Lincoln throws his hat into politics, hoping to become part of a system that can make a difference in the world. He marries Mary Todd, wins the presidential election, and eventually finds himself fighting vampires on the battlefield, as Adam and his vampires have aligned themselves with the Confederate army.

(LS returns with two beautiful women, one on each arm.)

MA: Aren’t you married?

LS: Not in Cinema Knife Fight Land!

MA: I thought you were getting some cold ones?

LS: I changed my mind and went for hot ones.

(Women bare their fangs to reveal they are vampires)

LS: Oh well, I guess they are cold ones, after all. Care to take a nibble, ladies? I’m sure I’m quite delicious.

(Vampire women each sink their teeth in a side of LS’s neck)

MA: Aren’t you worried they’ll suck you dry?

LS: Not really. This is Cinema Knife Fight Land, and here I’ve got unlimited blood.

(LS smiles and raises a mug of ale and drinks along with the vampires)

MA (shaking his head): The things we do for this column. Anyway, back to our movie.

I fully expected this movie to be a complete turkey, but I have to admit, I liked it.

(LS makes turkey noises in the background)

MA: That said, I still don’t get the concept. Why choose Abraham Lincoln to be a vampire hunter? It still seems almost like a random thing to do. Hmm, who should I choose to be my hero in this alternate history tale about vampires? Stick my hand into a hat and pull out Abe Lincoln!

LS: Makes as much sense as using any other historical figure, I guess.

MA: Of course, Abe Lincoln is one of our most beloved U.S. presidents of all time, and so it’s certainly not a random act, and this affection for Lincoln is one of the things that works to the film’s advantage, but even so, I’m still not ready to concede and call this combination of history and horror a stroke of genius. But I do have to admit, in a strange way, it works!

LS: I dunno, it didn’t really work for me. I thought the title was clever for about two seconds. The concept is mediocre at best. “Let’s take a famous historical figure and turn him into another BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER.” Whatever…. (Yawns)

MA: First and foremost, ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER looks terrific. I saw it in 3D, and it pains me to admit it—again because I expected this one to be awful— it’s one of the better 3D movies I’ve seen. The visuals were almost as good as what we saw in HUGO last year.

LS: I saw it in 3D, too. Not intentionally – it was just the best show time for my schedule. But you’re right, the 3D effects were better than we normally see in these kinds of movies. But I wouldn’t go so far as to compare them with HUGO. The 3D here isn’t that good.

MA: I don’t know if it’s because Civil War America is more picturesque than alien worlds or haunted forests, but I enjoyed the look of ABRAHAM LINCOLN better than the look of other movies we’ve seen recently, like PROMETHEUS and SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN. I think director Timur Bekmambetov did a great job at the helm.

LS: The setting was okay, I guess. I could take it or leave it. No way is it as visually rich as PROMETHEUS or SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN. It’s all rather drab—which is fine in a vampire movie—but nothing I’d single out as a plus. As for the direction, that’s another kettle of fish entirely.

MA: ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER is also helped by its R rating. While the film isn’t scary, there are lots of bloody killings. There’s even some nudity and language. I was surprised, but ABE LINCOLN kinda earns its R rating.

LS: Barely. I actually went into it thinking it was PG-13, and it was a little while before I realized it wasn’t. The nudity happens in brief snippets for the most part. Some of the killings (of vampires) are graphic enough to make me realize it was an R movie. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say it earns its rating.

MA: The look and feel of this movie reminded me of a Disney film for adults. It had that look, that attention to detail, that made it look almost like a richly animated movie. The movie looks like what would happen if you put both Disney and Hammer Films inside one of THE FLY’s machines and had their respective filmmaking genes spliced together.

LS: Yeah, it actually reminded me of a Tim Burton movie, like SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999) maybe. Except SLEEPY HOLLOW is a much better movie. This is no coincidence, though, because Burton produced ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. Hell, it might have been a better movie if he actually directed it, since he’s comfortable with this kind of stuff.

MA: Another reason I liked the action sequences in this movie—and again I’ll give credit to director Bekmambetov—is that they were quick. So often in today’s movies, because directors have the technology to do so, the action scenes go on forever, and this becomes boring as the movies play out like extended video games. Not so here in ABE LINCOLN. The action scenes are quick and bloody, and they’re supported by lots of scenes where we get to know the characters.

LS: Quick? Ninety percent of the time they played out in slow motion! It got incredibly tedious after a while. All of the action sequences have the same “by-the-numbers” feel to them. Once you see one, you know what to expect. And the alternating between fast movements and irritating slo-mo ones just bored the hell out of me. And you know what, the action scenes did have a kind of video game look to them! They were so stylized, they certainly didn’t look realistic.

MA: But they didn’t go on and on and on. That’s what I meant by quick.

LS: Not quick enough for me.

MA: There’s also a strong sense of story, and you can tell this movie was based on a novel. Screenwriter Seth Grahame-Smith does a nice job here adapting his own novel, and he achieves better results than his last screenplay, for the muddled DARK SHADOWS.

LS: Really? You thought this was a big improvement over DARK SHADOWS? Well, I’ll agree that at least it doesn’t constantly go for cheap laughs. I really think Grahame-Smith’s screenplay for DARK SHADOWS was the main reason that movie was so disappointing. Here, his script does come off a little better, but I wasn’t all that amazed by it. I’m glad everyone plays things straight, at least. But I didn’t find this movie very exciting.

MA: DARK SHADOWS was horrible compared to this movie.

LS: Let’s face it. DARK SHADOWS was horrible. Period.

MA: I liked that this was a serious vampire story. It wasn’t tongue-in-cheek. We didn’t have to suffer through Abe Lincoln delivering one-liners after every vampire kill. ABE LINCOLN is not VAN HELSING (2004), thankfully. This could have been a very silly movie, but it isn’t. Then again, maybe I just have a soft spot for vampires.

LS: If this movie has anything going for it, it’s that it plays things straight. Unfortunately, that’s not enough to make for a great flick – vampire movie or otherwise.

MA: Speaking of which, I wasn’t too crazy about the look of the vampires in this movie, and their movements were way too fast and very fake-looking. They weren’t bad, but they were just a little too exaggerated for my liking. And like the rest of the movie, they weren’t scary.

LS: No, the vampires didn’t look very good at all, and they weren’t scary. In fact, to go back to a previous point, I found Rufus Sewell as Adam (he’s called that because he’s the vampire all the others come from – oooh! how frightening!) to be a major flaw in the tension. I like Sewell enough as an actor—he was great as the lead in 1998’s DARK CITY, for example—but he’s completely miscast here. He is not intimidating, he doesn’t seem dangerous at all, and he is NOT scary in the slightest. There are so many better actors they could have chosen to play this role. This is the big bad villain, and the character should have real presence. Sewell just doesn’t cut it.

MA: Really? I thought Sewell oozed evil.

LS: Well, he might have oozed something, but it wasn’t evil.

The funny thing is, I found Marton Csokas as Jack Barts— a flunky of Sewell’s Adam—to be much more convincing as a dangerous vampire, and there were times where he even seemed a tad scary. He should have been the lead vampire! I also liked Erin Wasson as Vadoma, Adam’s right-hand woman vampire, who was also more formidable than her “master.” I really hated Sewell in this role, because he was such a damned weak bad guy!

MA: I liked the characters and the performances throughout.

Abraham Lincoln as your main character—how can you not like him? Well, if the lead actor stunk, that’s one way, but Benjamin Walker doesn’t stink at all. He brings Lincoln to life and makes him a very likeable person.

LS: I thought Walker was okay in the lead role. He actually reminded me of a young Liam Neesom at times. He has a similar face. But overall, I wasn’t all that impressed by him. He was okay in the role, but nothing special. Kinda bland, actually.

And as for that fateful trip to the theater at the end—hell, any kid who has read a history book knows what happens then, so it’s not a spoiler—does that mean that John Wilkes Booth was part of the vampire conspiracy? Was he a VAMPIRE HUNTER HUNTER? Something to ponder, perhaps.

MA: Henry Sturgess is an interesting character. As the vampire hunter who trains Lincoln, he’s a multi-dimensional character with a curious back story, which hearkens back to this being based on a novel. Dominic Cooper, who played Howard Stark in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011) does a nice job here as Sturgess.

LS: Dominic Cooper is one of the best things about this movie. I liked his performance here very much, even more than Walker’s Lincoln. But this brings up a big complaint of mine. In the movie, we find out how Henry Sturgess was able to acquire his skills and amazing strength—there’s a legitimate reason why he’s so affective as a vampire hunter—but we never once get an explanation as to how Abe Lincoln is so good at it. He does these amazing martial arts moves; he’s able to cut down trees with one mighty swing of his axe (once he gets the hang of it); and he can take on several vampires at once. How? Is he a superhero? Is he from another planet? Not once does the movie explain his “powers,” and for that reason I didn’t buy them for a second. There is no way a normal man can do this stuff. And if vampires are supposed to be much stronger than humans, then Lincoln’s entire story here is actually kind of stupid.

MA: You know, I can’t argue with you on that point, and I’d go so far as to agree with you that Lincoln possessing these powers is stupid, but again, for me, in spite of this, somehow it worked.

LS: For you, maybe. Not for me.

And hell, even if he is superhuman (and he clearly is), his fighting style is impossible for the time period. Asian martial arts just were not taught to Westerners in those days. It was forbidden. But ever since BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1992), ever single vampire fighter is an expert in martial arts. It’s kind of embarrassing. And isn’t there any other way to fight except showing off with all kinds of karate/kung-fu moves and fancy kicks? This has become a very annoying cliché at this point. How about making Abe a super-powerful boxer, instead? It would make more sense for his time.

(LS and MA are now sitting at a table, drinking ale, when a shirtless BRUCE LEE suddenly approaches them)

BRUCE LEE: I find this movie offensive. Here I go and revolutionize martial arts in American movies during my lifetime, and now, ANYONE can do what I did. All they have to do is call themselves a VAMPIRE HUNTER.

LS: I can’t disagree with you there.

MA: Come on, it’s only a movie. It’s silly entertainment.

BRUCE LEE: It completely trivializes the years of work and skill that goes into being a true martial artist.

LS: (nods) I dunno, Michael, he has a point. Plus, give me something like ENTER THE DRAGON (1973) over ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER any day of the week. It’s a helluva lot more entertaining.

(BRUCE LEE goes to start a brawl at the back of the room)

MA: I don’t know why he was so upset. It’s just a movie.

Ever since I saw Mary Elizabeth Winstead in SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010) I’ve been a big fan. She does an excellent job here as Mary Todd Lincoln, a female character who gets to do more than just be rescued by a male lead. She grows with the story and becomes integral to the plot as the movie goes on.

LS: I like her as well. I don’t think she’s amazing as Mary Todd, and I certainly don’t find her convincing as the former first lady—this is clearly a completely different person than the real Mary Todd—but she’s enjoyable enough when she’s onscreen. She certainly doesn’t contribute to the more annoying aspects of the movie.

MA: Jimmi Simpson as Joshua Speed, and Anthony Mackie as Will Johnson, do nice jobs in their respective roles as friends of Lincoln. These characters are multi-dimensional as well, and they are much more than just your average token buddies.

LS: I liked Joshua Speed. He was okay. It’s funny that Jimmi Simpson’s career is actually rooted firmly in comedy, with a recurring role as “Lyle the Intern” on the LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN (from 2008 -2009) and as a semi-regular on the hilarious show IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA, as the weirdo Liam McPoyle. It’s good to see him playing a serious role here, and his character was likable enough. As for Anthony Mackie as Will Johnson, I found him rather bland. They don’t really give him an awful lot to do, except hang around with Abe and seem earnest.

MA: I also really liked Rufus Sewell as the main baddie in this movie. His vampire Adam is an imposing adversary for Abe Lincoln and company. Sometimes a movie is only as good as its villain. In this case, Adam is a powerful foe, and Sewell delivers a commanding performance as the deadly vampire who’s been alive since the days of ancient Egypt. He’s one of the movie’s strengths.

LS: If a movie is only as good as its villain, then ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER isn’t good at all. As I’ve already said, Sewell is a very lame villain.

MA: I also loved the climactic battle aboard the train between Lincoln and friends and Adam and his vampires, as this sequence on a burning trestle was very cinematic. Again, a nice job by director Bekmambetov.

LS: I found the climactic battle aboard the train really boring in parts. It went on way too long, and I just didn’t care about any of the characters enough to be emotionally invested in it.

MA: Had this movie been scary, it would have been great.

LS: Well, it would have been an improvement. We’re in agreement that this movie is not scary.

MA: I expected it to be horrible, and so I’m shocked to say that while ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER is not a great movie, it is a very good movie.

It’s better than both the TWILIGHT series and the UNDERWORLD movies because it has something that both those series lack: an imagination. And some good old-fashioned bloody oomph!

(EDWARD CULLEN, the vampire from the TWILIGHT series, approaches their table)

EDWARD: Vampires that don’t sparkle? You’ve got to be kidding me. Who would believe that?

MA: There were tons of vampires before you that didn’t sparkle!

EDWARD: That’s ancient history, old man. I am what today’s generation wants in a vampire. If you want to be cool, then you gotta sparkle. Abraham Lincoln would never be able to stop me.

LS: He may have a point. The sparkly vampires are kind of strong…even if they look like they were caught in an explosion in a glitter factory.

EDWARD: And vampires are more civilized today. I would invite Mr. Lincoln to sit down for a cup of tea. We wouldn’t have to fight at all. Instead, I could spend the time bemoaning how sad I am.

MA: And where is the excitement in that?

(LS snores loudly)

EDWARD: Oh, you’ll never understand me! You don’t even try to!

(EDWARD leaves in a huff)

MA: Wake up! (nudges LS). Where was I? Oh yeah, I was going to give this movie my rating. I give ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER, three knives.

LS: I think this movie thinks it is a lot cleverer than it really is. But writer Seth Grahame-Smith is clearly the “flavor of the month” with his DARK SHADOWS script and now this. I can only hope he disappears as quickly as he showed up in Hollywood. This is the same guy who gave us the novel PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES, which started the whole horror/history mash-up genre, and it’s gotten incredibly tired in a very short amount of time. It’s like a flimsy joke – it may work once, but it won’t have any staying power. Neither does this one-joke genre.

And I think writing should be as limitless as one’s imagination, so it’s not like I don’t think anyone should be allowed to play around with actual history. I think a really talented writer could take this concept and do something interesting with it. But that writer was nowhere to be found when they were making ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER.

And I wasn’t all that impressed with the direction by Timur Bekmambetov here. This is the talented Russian director who gave us the really enjoyable movies NIGHT WATCH (2004) and DAY WATCH (2006). I suggest people check out those movies on video instead, because they are works of art compared to ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. I give it one and a half knives.

MA: Well, we disagree on this one. I thought it was a handsome production, and I for one got caught up in the look and feel of this movie, and so I happily went along for the ride.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get a couple of cold ones of my own.

LS: Be careful. They bite.

MA: Not those kinds of cold ones. I’m talking the kind that comes in a mug with a frothy head.

LS: Like that one? (points)

(MA looks over his shoulder to see a severed head floating on top of a huge mug of beer on the bar.)

MA: (throws up his arms) I give up! (Exits)

(LS goes over and lifts the big mug and brings it to his lips)

LS: Head for the mountains!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER ~ three knives!

LL Soares gives ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER ~one and a half knives.

The Geisha of Gore Takes On: TRINITY BLOOD

Posted in 2011, Animated Films, Anime, Apocalyptic Films, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Geisha of Gore Reviews, Gore!, Japanese Cinema, Vampire Hunters, Vampires with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2011 by knifefighter

THE GEISHA OF GORE PRESENTS:
TRINITY BLOOD: THE ANIME SERIES
By Colleen Wanglund

While I have always written about Asian horror movies—because I really think you should be watching them!—this month I wanted to start introducing our readers to anime. Most of you, I’m sure, have seen anime but maybe you didn’t realize it at the time. Ever see G-FORCE, SPEED RACER, LUPIN III, or POKEMON? Then you’ve seen Japanese anime. Anime (at least in the West) is just Japanese cartoons….nothing spectacular, just that they are drawn and written in Japan. There are certain aspects of anime art that do separate it stylistically from other cartoons. Anime gained its distinctive style in the 1960s and one of the most well-known animators—and a pioneer in the industry—was Osamu Tezuka.

One of my favorites is the horror/sci-fi anime series, TRINITY BLOOD. It started as a series of “light novels” (books for young adults) written by Sunao Yoshida and illustrated by Thores Shibamoto. The novels ran from 2001 to 2005. Yoshida then introduced the manga version in March of 2004 and it continues to be published to this day. The artist on the manga is Kiyo Kujo, who based his work on Shibamoto’s original designs. The anime version of the story appeared in 2005, but only ran for 24 episodes and stuck to a specific storyline. There are some continuity issues between the novels, manga and anime, mostly dealing with characters and order of story arcs, but the core story and major characters are the same.

TRINITY BLOOD takes place 900 years after Armageddon, which the Earth’s population basically brought on itself. The population of Earth became far too large for the planet to sustain, so humans set out to colonize Mars. While there, they discovered the Bacillus virus and the Crusnik nanomachines, both alien technologies. The colonists injected themselves with the virus and it changed them into beings called Methuselahs….or vampires. The Crusnik nanotechnology was implanted into test-tube babies, of which only four survived—named Cain, Abel, Seth and Lilith.

Over the centuries, war had continued on Earth, eventually leading to Armageddon. The colonists returned from Mars to help rebuild civilization, as they still considered themselves human. However, a war broke out between the human survivors of Earth and the returning Methuselahs. Now 900 years later, humans and Methuselahs live on the planet amid an uneasy truce through peace treaties. The humans are led by the Vatican, with the Roman Catholic Church being a major world power. The Methuselahs’ New Human Empire is based in Byzantium. For those who may not know Church history, Byzantium was originally Constantinople, site of the Catholic Church’s Eastern center established by the Roman Empire.

The Methuselahs do not need to feed on humans, but many people from both races fear and hate each other. Politics and mistrust reign. The Vatican is headed by Pope Alessandro XVIII, who is actually just a teenage boy who is uncertain of himself, to say the least. He relies on his main advisors Cardinal Caterina (his sister) and Cardinal Francesco (his illegitimate brother). The problem here is that Caterina is an advocate for diplomacy and Francesco advocates the use of military force. Cardinal Francesco heads the Department of Inquisition and Cardinal Caterina heads the Ministry of Holy Affairs, which oversees the AX, which is a special operations unit of priests and nuns trained to fight vampires.

One of the main characters of TRINITY BLOOD is Father Abel Nightroad and he is, in fact, one of the four Crusniks. During the wars with the humans, Abel took the side of the Methuselahs until his sister Lilith (who sided with the humans) was killed. Lilith’s body was interred in a chamber under the Vatican where Abel stayed by her side, in mourning, for almost 900 years. When Cardinal Caterina was a young girl, she wandered into the chamber running from Methuselah assassins. Abel saved Caterina and devoted himself to Lilith’s cause, the protection of the humans. Abel became a priest and is one of the founding members of the AX. Caterina and Abel are still very close. In his human form Father Abel appears very quiet and shy, and at times even bumbling; when he changes into his Crusnik form, his appearance changes considerably. His eyes turn red, his skin changes color and he has claws and fangs. At times he also has huge black wings and can emit pulses of energy. He doesn’t even need to suck the blood from a vampire to feed…it just moves to his body and he absorbs it. Even in his human form, though, Father Abel’s strength and speed is far superior to a human’s.

Another major character is Sister Esther Blanchett. Esther is heir to the throne of Albion, a small human country but probably the most powerful after the Vatican. Shortly after Esther’s birth, she was brought to a church in Istvan to protect her from the assassins who murdered her father. Istvan sits at the crossroads of the human nations and the Methuselah’s empire and is overseen by the Methuselah. Esther was raised by Bishop Laura Velez and when the Bishop was murdered by vampires, Esther became involved in the human rebellion, killing the city’s chief of security forces. When we are introduced to Esther, she has been fooled by Dietrich, a human, who is in fact part of the Rosenkreuz Order.

In the very first episode of TRINITY BLOOD, titled “Flight Night,” we are given a brief origin as to the time the story takes place and the state of global affairs. Father Abel Nightroad is flying back to Rome on an airship that is taken over by a Methuselah working for the Rosenkreuz Orden. For now, the order remains a mystery but it is clearly a terrorist attack—the hijacker intends to fly the airship into the Vatican. This is where we see Father Abel change into a Crusnik for the first time. We also meet Father Tres, another member of AX with the codename Gunslinger. Tres is also the only remaining cyborg of ten originally created to fight the Vatican, but now fights for them. And being a cyborg makes Tres one hell of a shot.

In the third and fourth episodes, “The Star of Sorrow Parts 1 and 2,” Abel and Esther meet for the first time. This is when we learn that the Rosenkreuz want to bring about another major war between the humans and vampires. Dietrich intended to destroy the city with a powerful weapon, dragging the factions into military conflict. Abel and Esther are able to stop the weapon, and Esther goes to the Vatican to join the AX.

Since the anime was only 24 episodes long, the story moves pretty quickly. We learn that the Rosenkreuz Orden is actually led by Cain, Abel’s Crusnik brother. Cain hates humans and Methuselah’s alike and, unbeknownst to most of the order’s members, Cain wants to see everyone exterminated. Throughout the series, Abel, Esther and other members of the AX stop potential terrorist attacks and discover more about the Rosenkreuz’s motives. We also discover that Abel’s sister Seth is the leader of the Methuselahs and she wishes the two races to live in peace. At times the AX goes up against Brother Petro and Sister Paula of the Vatican’s Department of Inquisition. They are formidable fighters who shoot first and ask questions later.

Okay, so 24 episodes and a quick moving story….sounds great. Some of the anime I’ve seen goes on far too long and strays from the core story. I suppose it’s like any television series that “ jumps the shark” at some point. The various arcs in TRINITY BLOOD all come back to the core story—two races of people trying to exist in the same space. It’s a very good story that flows well from episode to episode. However, there are many characters with their own agendas, so you have to pay attention. Don’t let that scare you off, though; the series’ continuity keeps it from getting confusing. While character development in the anime isn’t as in-depth as in the novels or manga, the main characters are suitably fleshed-out, keeping things focused and to the point. The original novels were targeted for young adults, but the political intrigue and the gore keep it just as entertaining for adults. The artwork is fantastic and very detailed from the characters to the scenery. TRINITY BLOOD is easily among the better examples of anime art. Abel in his full Crusnik form looks perfectly ferocious and the action sequences and visuals of blood and gore are beautifully done.

Another aspect of the story is the technology used by these civilizations. It’s referred to as the “Lost Technologies,” because it all seems to date back to pre-apocalyptic society, and not everyone knows how to use it. A lot of these technologies, particularly the airships—both civilian and military—have a very steampunk feel. Even the design of buildings in some of the cities, and the dress of most of the people, are steampunk.

I personally love TRINITY BLOOD, as well as the character of Abel. I know there are better series out there, like TRIGUN and HELSING, but TRINITY BLOOD fits into its own little bloody niche. It’s an entertaining series about two world powers in the midst of a Cold War, so it’s also a familiar story. Of course you throw in religion and it ups the ante. I like the fact that the vampires aren’t what you typically expect. They still consider themselves human and in fact eat and drink, just like humans do. Their appearance is the same as the humans, except for the Crusniks. The vampires are sensitive to sunlight, though, and the New Human Empire is protected by a barrier that makes daylight seem like twilight. I watched it for the first time as part of The Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim” programming on weekends, but I have watched it over and over again online. If I can find the time, I’d really like to check out the manga. Episodes can be found for free on various anime sites on the web….just Google it.

Abel Nightroad is one of the main characters of the anime series, TRINITY BLOOD

© Copyright 2011 by Colleen Wanglund

PRIEST

Posted in 2011, 3-D, Cinema Knife Fights, Comic Book Movies, Monsters, Post-Apocalypse Movies, Vampire Hunters, Vampires with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 16, 2011 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: PRIEST (2011)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

 

(The Scene: The interior of a giant, dark cave, full of labyrinth-like tunnels and eerie-looking passageways. MICHAEL ARRUDA and L.L. SOARES make their way through the cave. MA is holding a flashlight to illuminate the way.)

MA: Welcome, everybody! We’re here in this vampire hive to witness yet another big battle between vampires and their adversaries—humanity’s heroes—the priest warriors!

(Unseen audience cheers)

LS: Really? Since when do vampires have hives? Are they vampire bees? I thought we were in a beaver tunnel looking for Mel Gibson.

MA: Wrong movie. It’s vampires vs. humans today, because that’s the type of battle you’ll see in the new 3D vampire vs. human movie PRIEST (2011). Wait a minute. I hear something.

LS: That’s my stomach. I wonder if this place has a snack bar.

MA: No. I hear footsteps.

(A horde of batty-looking vampires emerge from the darkness)

LS: Any of you fellas know where I can find a snack bar?

(Vampires hiss and close in on MA & LS)

MA: I think we’re the snack bar.

LS: That’s not going to help me any.

MA: You think?

(A PRIEST suddenly enters the scene, and with a few nifty slow motion moves, quickly and neatly disposes of all the vampires.)

MA: That’s it? That’s the battle?

LS: And that’s pretty much the movie. Can we go home now?

PRIEST: You two men—are movie reviewers.

MA (rolls eyes): Yep, that’s the kind of obvious thought-provoking dialogue you’ll hear in the new movie PRIEST. (To Priest) I hear there’s some more vampires down that passageway building a snack bar. You should investigate.

PRIEST: Yes, I should investigate. (Exits)

LS: And we should do this review. I’m hungry, and those vampire body parts strewn all over the place are starting to look mighty appetizing.

MA: Okay. I’ll start this one.

PRIEST takes place in an alternate world where vampires and humans have battled for centuries, but the humans have finally won the battle because of their secret weapon: warrior priests. The few vampires left have been banished to live on reservations, and the humans now live in futuristic cities that reminded me a lot of the cities Harrison Ford traipsed through in BLADE RUNNER (1982).

LS: How dare you mention a great film like BLADE RUNNER in comparison to this dreck!

MA:  That’s what happens when you’re in a theater watching a lousy movie—you daydream about better movies.

LS:  Oh, you forgot to mention that the Vatican controls all the cities with an iron fist. Wow, who knew the Catholic Church would eventually take over? And everyone is so docile and compliant.

MA: Outside these cities, the world looks like the old west, as the towns and the people look like they just left the set of TRUE GRIT. A strange combination.

LS: A lame combination, you mean.

MA:  Sure, and why stop there?  Let’s call it what it really was:  a stupid combination.  I mean, what’s up with mixing futuristic cities with the old west?  It makes no sense.

LS: Which I guess means you should love the upcoming COWBOYS VS. ALIENS.

MA: In this movie, priests are vampire hunters. They even have crosses tattooed on their faces so you know who they are. One of them (Paul Bettany)—the most famous of the priest-vampire hunters, of course—is drawn back into the conflict when his brother’s family is attacked at an outpost in the wasteland, and his niece is kidnapped by vampires. In order to search for his niece, The Priest has to go against the church’s wishes, because the Monsignor (Christopher Plummer) tells him that there’s no more vampire problem, and if he goes against his church’s wishes, he’ll be excommunicated. The Priest thinks about this long and hard for about two seconds, and decides he’s going after his niece.

LS: This entire set-up is moronic. The church ignores any signs that the vampires are making a comeback, and claims it’s just a superstition. Why? Because they want to maintain their iron grip on the populace and make the people think they are safe. But even among each other they perpetuate the lies? You would think they would rise up against any possible threat to their power. If vampires are back, you’d think they would want to stamp them out–not deny their existence. I mean – there was a war with them in the past, there are even some left on the reservations as a reminder – it’s not like there’s no proof of their existence! This isn’t the Boogie Man here; it’s a proven danger. This plot point just seemed incredibly stupid to me.

MA:  I agree.  You’d think they’d want to find out if the vampires were on the prowl again. It’s never clearly explained why the church is so against admitting that vampires are back.  It just gives Christopher Plummer a chance to be a grumpy old man and spout out authoritative hogwash about disobeying the church’s wishes.

There’s also this recurring line “If you go against the church, you go against God,” which I guess is supposed to be this deep Orwellian warning, but really, if you think about it, if you belong to a church, and you believe in that church’s teachings, isn’t that just an obvious statement? It’s like saying if you disobey the 10 Commandments, you disobey God. Well, yeah!

(LS yawns)

MA: Anyway, back to the plot. The priest is joined by a young sheriff, Hicks (Cam Gigandet), who happens to be in love with the priest’s niece. Small world. They go off in search of the vampires in order to rescue the niece.  It’s a plot that made me wish I was watching the classic John Wayne western, THE SEARCHERS (1956) instead.

They’re also joined by a female vampire priest, and their search eventually leads them to the main vampire baddie in this one, a slick dude in a black cowboy hat aptly named Black Hat (Karl Urban).

LS: The priestess is played by Maggie Q. She’s one of a group of fellow priests that the Vatican sends to kill Paul Bettany’s character for heresy, but she decides to join forces with him instead. Man, is this storyline stupid. Instead of sending more priests out to kill Bettany, wouldn’t it make more sense to have them investigate whether the vampire threat is real or not?

MA:  That would make too much sense.

And that’s the plot. In a movie like this, the ending is never in doubt. This movie is called PRIEST. Do you really think the priest from the main title is going to fail?

LS (with mouth full): Are you asking me?

MA: No, I’m asking our audience—what are you eating? (Sees that LS is chomping on a severed vampire arm) Put that down! You don’t know where that hand’s been!

LS (pulls out a bottle of Stubbs BBQ sauce): Awww, you’re no fun. I had to eat something. And you’re using your arm. Go on with the review.

MA: PRIEST could have been a good “bad” movie. When it started, I had an open mind, and tried as best as I could to be into it, and the filmmakers tried as best as they could to see that that didn’t happen. The plot is downright silly, but I would have looked past this had the film been made better.

The worst part is there is absolutely no character development. We don’t get to know these folks at all, and as a result we don’t care for them. Cory Goodman wrote the screenplay based on the graphic novel series by Min-Woo Hyung, and it’s about as deep as a paper cut.

LS: You’re giving the film too much credit. I’ve had some pretty deep paper cuts.

MA: Paul Bettany as the Priest is about as exciting as a piece of wood. He’s boring. We saw Bettany as the angel Michael in LEGION (2009) and he was slightly better in that, but not much.

LS: Didn’t he play the same exact role as an enforcer for the church in THE DA VINCI CODE (2006)? He sure has a thing for playing avenging clergymen. I actually think Bettany can be good when given a decent role. He was good in the British gangster film GANGSTER NO. 1 (2000) and the Lars Von Trier movie DOGVILLE (2003), and I also liked him in the nautical epic MASTER AND COMMANDER (2003), but he hasn’t impressed me at all in action films like this. He needs to go back to serious acting.

MA: Karl Urban looks cool as the villainous Black Hat, but he’s way underdeveloped. He has a personal history with the Priest, and so his motives for kidnapping the niece are personal, but we know so little about this history. Black Hat used to be a priest, I think. Were they friends? Brothers? Rivals? Your guess is as good as mine since the writer of this piece didn’t bother to show us.

LS: I thought Urban was the best thing in the movie, but you’re right, he has very little to do. His Black Hat character was kinda cool, but had no substance. He’s been in a lot of movies we’ve seen recently, and I almost always enjoy his performances. He’s even slated to play JUDGE DREDD in the upcoming reboot of that franchise. I sure hope it’s better than this movie.

MA: Cam Gigandet as Sheriff Hicks is about as fleshed out as a toothpick. Gigandet looked familiar, and it’s no surprise, since he’s shown up in a number of movies we’ve reviewed the past few years. He was in PANDORUM (2009), THE UNBORN (2009), and, most recently, THE ROOMATE (2011).

Brad Dourif, an actor I enjoy watching, is wasted in an all too brief stint as an exceedingly cliché Salesman. You know the character, that guy who’s trying to bamboozle the local townspeople by selling them phony remedies? How many times has this scene been replayed in the movies?

LS: Brad Dourif is way too good for crap like this.

MA: And Christopher Plummer is relegated to looking constipated and stating authoritative lines that a grumpy old monsignor would say.

And the look of PRIEST isn’t anything to brag about either. I enjoyed the post-apocalyptic visuals in SUCKER PUNCH (2011) much better than anything I saw here in PRIEST. I did like the futuristic city, but the western scenes were unimaginative, and the scenes in the vampire hive were dark and looked like a million other dark cave scenes I’ve seen before.

PRIEST also didn’t have any memorable action scenes. Did you like any of the battles? (nudges LS) This time I am talking to you.

LS: Battles? Oh yeah, there were some of those in here, huh? I wasn’t much impressed by them either. There’s one where Black Hat and the Priest fight on a train that’s almost good. But not quite. Yeah, the battles kind of suck.

MA: I wasn’t impressed, either. And I wasn’t impressed by Scott Charles Stewart’s direction at all. Stewart also directed LEGION (2009), a film I enjoyed more than PRIEST.

LS: I’m starting to see a pattern here. Stewart directed both LEGION and PRIEST. Paul Bettany starred in both of them. And both were over-sold at the movie theaters. By the time the actual movies came out, I was already sick of them because of the trailers—I think I saw the PRIEST trailer like 25 times before the movie was released! Neither one redeemed itself in the actual viewing—both were kind of lame—and you’ve already seen some of the best scenes in the trailers beforehand several times. So why bother?

MA: The vampires were also a disappointment. They looked like rejects from PAN’S LABRYNTH (2006). They weren’t scary looking at all. I liked the little we saw of Black Hat. He was cool-looking, and I thought Karl Urban— who we saw as Dr. McCoy in STAR TREK (2009) — did a good job making him something of a sly menace, but we know so little about him, and he actually does so little in this movie, that he’s far from a decent villain. He certainly could have been one.

LS: The vampires are my number one problem with this movie. They’re lame, CGI creatures who can move very fast, but they don’t look realistic at all. They’re these giant eyeless things with lots of teeth. Nothing like vampires we’re used to. I guess this is supposed to be something new and original – but it’s not. It’s just kind of dumb.

So the vampires these people have been fighting for ages are definitely non-human monsters. And then, it’s revealed that Black Hat is their big secret weapon against mankind. And what makes him special? He’s the first human vampire! I’m not sure if this is a spoiler, but if it is, it sure is a friggin stupid one. God, is this world slow on the uptake. We’ve had human vampires in movies for over a century and it took them this long to come up with them? What a sorry-ass alternate world. I hate CGI monsters and I hate dumb alternate worlds.

MA: Then there’s the whole 3D fiasco. Yep, PRIEST was in 3D, yet another movie where the 3D failed to make a difference. Now, I can understand why you’d want to make this one in 3D, since it takes place in an alternate word, and so there’s a lot of room for creative landscapes and cool 3D imagery, but guess what? The filmmakers didn’t exploit this at all! There is hardly anything impressive visually about this movie, and the 3D effects flat-out fail to impress. It actually kind of amazed me how lackluster the 3D effects were in PRIEST, and compared to the 3D effects we just saw last week in THOR, THOR was much better, but even those I wasn’t crazy about.

LS: I wasn’t that impressed with the use of 3D in THOR, either, but that movie was a masterpiece compared to PRIEST. Man, did I hate this movie! I actually almost nodded off a few times, it was so predictable and dumb. But I made sure to stay awake for the sake of our readers. And the 3D was just adding insult to injury. I had to pay an extra five bucks for pathetic 3D effects that didn’t improve this movie one iota.

MA: Too much 3D! Knock it off already! Or make it better. The theaters are certainly charging enough for these movies, so there’s no excuse for these films not looking better.

And lastly, PRIEST is not scary, which is a disappointment, since this is a movie about vampires. The scariest part about PRIEST is one of the final lines of the movie, where Christopher Plummer’s Monsignor yells at the Priest, saying the vampire war is over, and the Priest replies, “It’s not over. It’s just beginning.” And you know what that means: PRIEST 2. Now that’s scary.

LS: I can only hope this one does horribly at the box office. That’s the only thing that can protect us from the horror that is PRIEST 2.

MA: I give PRIEST one and a half knives.

LS: As usual, you’re more generous than the movie deserves. I give it half a knife. This thing is a dog.

MA:  Yeah, I almost gave it a lower rating, but I did like Karl Urban as Black Hat, and unlike you, I didn’t hate the movie.  I just thought it was lame.

(PRIEST returns from the catacombs)

MA: Did you find any more vampires?

PRIEST: No. Did you like the movie?

LS: No, we hated it. Now show us how to get out of here. We’re done talking about PRIEST.

PRIEST: You can stay here. And rot.

MA:  You know, if you had talked this tough in the movie, we might have liked it better.

PRIEST:  Bite me.

(PRIEST flips them off and then disappears into the darkness)

MA:  Now, what?  How are we going to get out of here?

(Suddenly a giant neon sign flickers and comes to life. It’s a gigantic hand pointing with the words “WAY OUT” above it).

MA: There’s something to be said for movies that constantly state the obvious.

LS: We are obviously outta here.

-END-

© Copyright 2011 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives PRIEST 1 and a half knives

LL Soares gives PRIESThalf a knife