Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Dracula: I, who served the Cross. I, who commanded nations, hundreds of years before you were born.
Professor Abraham Van Helsing: Your armies were defeated. You tortured and impaled thousands of people.
Dracula: I was betrayed. Look at what your God has done to me!

Oh, what a beautiful mess this movie is!

Prior to the release of this film, Francis Ford Coppola promised that this would be the most faithful adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel ever brought to screen, and while there are some glaring deviations in the story, he was right. But that doesn't change the fact that after the 2 hours and 8 minute runtime is up, you'll be stunned by what you saw, and that's not entirely a good thing. Frankly, this movie is all over the map in terms of quality and content, so much so that I am of two minds when I watch it: The Film Geek and the B-Movie Freak. As such, I will give each their time in the following review:

TFG: Beautifully shot with set pieces designed specifically to be evocative of both stage and early theatrical productions, Coppola's film has a real old-world style feel to it that perfectly sets its operatic tone early on. With the energetic opening that ties Bram Stoker's tale to the historical Vlad Tepes, even minutes into the film, you know you are not going to be seeing your average Dracula movie.

BMF: Impalements! Blood-fountain Crucifixes! Bad-ass anger management issues! ROCK! Winona's kinda hot too.

TFG: Shifting now into the familiar territory of the book, it is here that the film shines... and starts to show its many flaws. Gary Oldman's campy turn as a deranged Dracula, tormented by memories of his past, yet still all-together evil deservedly launched his career into the forefront of Hollywood. On the flip-side, Keanu Reeves casting as Jonathan Harker solidified opinions of just about everyone to his limitations as an actor.

However, the true stars of the overall show, the production design and cinematography, keep you rolling along, even as the movie is about to drastically change its tone yet again.

BMF: Oldman rocks, Keanu's hilariously bad, and there are BOOBS. Add to that some nifty shadow effects and cool spider-man action. This movie is just plain awesome.

TFG: It's here that the movie begins to crumble under the weight of its own pretentiousness. With a shoe-horned romance that only just barely manages to be better than the one shoved into Star Wars: Attack of the Clones (the new standard low from here to eternity), intermixed with a surreal whirlwind of images pulling together the disparate threads of Stoker's dense novel, it's hard to make sense of what exactly is going on if you haven't already read the book. But it's beautiful to look at, so we'll give it a pass, but it's still hard to deal with the sudden shifts from supernatural romance to violence for little-to-no reason.

BMF: Hey look, he's all young and pretty again...err...why, exactly? Yawn, can we get past these courtship scenes with Wino-oh SHIT! What the fuck is that cool freakin' Wolfman-thing doing with that lady on the-oh-oooo-ok, that can't be legal! oh, and BOOBS!

TFG: As the film progresses, the bits of story are becoming more and more disjointed. Anthony Hopkins appears as Van Helsing, but his portrayal won't win him any awards. Tom Waits has an impressive turn as Renfield, and we are treated to some truly impressive effects, but the script is unraveling. The score by Wojciech Kilar however, is impressive enough to become a staple in theatrical trailers for the next 15 years.

BMF: BOOBS! BlOOD! Batman? This film is awesome! It's got comedy, gore, and sex! Lots of sex. I mean, wow. By this time we're all cackling along at some very weird happenings on the screen. Oh, and could somebody explain to the rest of us why Van Helsing is teleporting around like Nightcrawler from X-Men 2 and...oh, who cares. This. is. AWESOME.

As you can see, this movie gets bogged down by it's own pretension and some laughably bad performances by most its leads (Oldman and Waits being the distinct exceptions). But the sumptuous visuals, music, and that same B-movie acting manage to make this a worthy addition to any Cavalcade event.


Once the intrepid astronauts fly into the tail of Haily's Comet to find a gigantic ship shaped not-unlike a penis, disembark their shuttle to enter and fly down a long organic corridor that is not-unlike a urethra (more of a fallopian tube, but we're sticking with the previous organ), and enter a room that was not-unlike a womb filled with batlike fossils, and with a large doorway that is not-unlike a sphincter that later has a shaft of light shoot out of it, we knew we were in for a cinematic achievement heretofore unimagined by man. Once the self-same astronauts deploy a "specimen bag" on one of the fossils (read: A Net) and fly into the sphincter light only to find some nubile alien hotness in a crystal cage on the other side, we realize that Freud is deeply at work in this picture. But we also realize that this is going to be one hell of a movie!

It's kind of hard to figure out exactly where this film went so gloriously astray. Written by Alien-scribe (and director of Return of the Living Dead) Dan O'Bannon, who certainly is capable of writing a creepy film with Xenomorphs, and directed by Tobe Hooper (Texas Chainsaw Massacre), who has scared the living crap out of an audience more than once, and yet this is one of the silliest "serious" Sci-Fi/Horror movies to ever come out of the 80's. Maybe it's the subject matter? When you adapt a little-known book published in the 70's with the auspiciously descriptive title of Space Vampires, you set yourself up for a certain level of camp. Strangely enough, the book is supposedly better than the movie, but I can't see how. It doesn't have Mathilda May.

Ah yes, Mathilda May, the lead vampire. One must  wonder what she thought when she read the script and saw that the only costume she would be wearing the entire production would be a see-through scarf, and that for only one scene. The rest of the movie she walks around the very cold sets very naked, something that the producers certainly decided to showcase in all of the trailers and a healthy dose of the promotional materials. To be fair (and a bit of a lech), it's totally the right call on both the producer's and the vampires' part.  To quote one of the astronauts: "I'd say she's perfect. I've been in space for six months and she looks perfect to me."

Don't worry ladies, there are two male vampires who also suffer from the same continuous wardrobe malfunction for a large portion of the picture, but for some reason they don't get equal screentime. Go figure.

As it turns out, bringing naked space aliens, who just happen to resemble hot-bodied models housed in crystals to your ship can lead to electrical fires (something that Smokey certainly never thought of). Also, when a derelict burned-out space shuttle is found to have only one survivor and a cargo of naked space aliens, who just happen to resemble hot-bodied models housed in crystals, it might not be a good idea to bring them back to Earth. It might just lead to an alien invasion, a whole host of horny zombies, and some man-on-man action with Patrick Stewart. Who knew?

What totally makes this movie is that every one in it is dead serious. British actors Peter Firth, Frank Finlay, and the aforementioned former Starfleet Captain all deliver their lines with the gravitas of Lincoln's Gettysburg address. The same goes for the heavy-handed direction and script. At no point, it seems, did anybody realize exactly how ridiculous this all was, which makes it all the more amusing to watch.

Colonel Tom Carlsen: She's resisting. I'm going to have to force her to tell me. Despite appearances, this women is a masochist. An extreme masochist. She wants me to force the name out of her. She wants me to hurt her. I can see the images in her mind. You want to stay? Otherwise wait outside!
Colonel Colin Caine: Not at all. I'm a natural voyeur.

When exchanges like that are handled like they're reciting Shakespere, well...It just becomes that much more enjoyable with a group of friends, a host of drinks, and a large helping of food. Throw in some truly impressive special effects for the time, and this film is highly recommended for the Cavalcade.

30 Days of Night

This review has been sitting on my desk unfinished for more than a week. I kept wracking my brain to try and figure out what exactly I should say about the movie, but I couldn't really work up the desire to do so. Tonight I realized that my apathy about the review, and by extension the movie, was an excellent place to start. It's just not good enough to really care about, and it's not bad enough to really enjoy. It just

Some of the problems I have with the movie stem from the source material, as I wasn't the biggest fan of co-screenwriter Steve Nile's original comic. The idea is certainly ripe for some creepiness: Vampires decend on the town of Barrow, Alaska for a month-long safari/feeding frenzy during the winter nightfall that lasts, unsurprisingly, for 30-days.  The problem in the comic is that it just dives into it with little setup, and never generates any real atmosphere. In the movie they spend more time establishing the world, but it still never gets pervasive enough to generate any real sense of DOOM.

The Vamps are of the "Boo!" variety, popping up out of nowhere in quick flashes, tackling their prey like Terry Tate, office linebacker. It's definitely less about suspense, and more about sudden bursts of action. Again, undercutting any real sense of atmosphere.

Speaking of the Vamps, they're very much of the "leech" school, straight down to their circular mouths full of sharp teeth. I can't really call them "bloodsuckers" though, as they get most of the red stuff on their chins, clothes, the floor, ceiling, the street,  hell... they do everything except drink. I had this problem with the comic too, and there it was mostly an artistic decision, here it's just kinda silly.

Director David Slade's direction is solid, even stylishly effective at times. Sadly, the editing of the attacks fails to generate any of the  "Gaaah! Whatthecrapwasthat!" moments they're going for. This strikes me as a huge letdown because his earlier Hard Candy (2005) had you rocking the edge of your seat. However, having said that, I will mention that I have the movie re-running in the background while I write this, and there was one genuinely creeptastic scene involving a lone woman used as bait to draw out the heroes... and the ramifications of her failure.

I'm looking through the last few paragraphs, and I feel I've been more harsh than the movie deserves.  It has some genuinely cool moments in between the bland bits, and I have to admit, if I was stuck in the situation presented, I'd be crapping my pants. These are not fluffy snuggle-bunny Vampires. So to give a better idea of the movie, I'll rip a quote from Roger Ebert's review of the Shaft remake: "The movie is what it is, but more than it needs to be." It's fairly well-crafted, but unfortunately never seems to quite come together, and is completely torpedoed by some major logic/continuity issues in the third act, which, ironically enough, is when the Cavalcaders started to really enjoy the movie because they finally had something they could, if you'll forgive me, sink their teeth into.

As far as recommendations for screening this for an event, you could certainly do far worse, but you can also do better. Both in terms of schlock, or in terms of actual horror. Lastly, a note: The Blu-Ray for this movie is really quite the spectacular, especially in terms of picture quality.

Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust

In 1995 I sat down in the cruddy studio apartment I shared with my girlfriend with a shiny new videotape I picked up from the video store in the mall across the street. The Anime phenom was still a couple of years out,  and we were still only getting tidbits here and there from the one or two studios that would import the biggest titles over to our shores... Well, that and the Hentai which, for those of you who might not know, is animated porn. Horaay freaky tentacles! But that's getting off the subject, where was I?

Oh. Yes. The cyber-steampunk-western-horror story  that was the first Vampire Hunter D. It a mash-up story that was unlike anything I'd ever seen outside of the best comics of the 80's, which, as it turned out, was the time period the movie was originally released (1985, to be exact). The tale of the half-human/half-vampire (Damphir), hunter-for-hire, constantly battling his nature in a spaghetti-western themed post apocalyptic wasteland filled with vampires, demons, mutants, and other monsters, relying heavily on his trusty sword to mete out swift and bloody retribution. resonated even more loudly when large portions of it appeared a few years later in the Wesley Snipes vehicle, Blade, which was the story of a half-human/half-vampire hunter, constantly battling his own nature in a ultra-modern urban cityscape filled with vampires, demons, and mutants, relying heavily on his trusty sword to mete out swift and bloody retribution.

Oh sure, there were some huge differences. For instance: Blade didn't have a smartmouth symbiote living in his left hand or a bitchin' cybernetic horse, but the parallels are there to be drawn. However, this review isn't about Blade, this review is about my boy, D. As the years passed and anime grew in popularity, so too did the popularity of Vampire Hunter D. Eventually a sequel would be green-lighted, and that sequel would be one of the biggest little releases in Anime fandom.

The story of Charlotte, a young human girl, who is abducted by Count Meier Link, a vampire. Charlotte’s father hires D to find her and kill her humanely if she turns into a vampire. At the same time, her older brother also hires the notorious Marcus brothers for backup. The movie follows D's hunt of Meier, his run-ins with the Marcus brothers, and a confrontation with an ancient enemy.

Let's get the basics out of the way. This is a great movie. As it was a co-production with an American studio, the voice acting is far better than average and the dubbing quality is phenominal. A lot of American dubs sound like a person in a studio reading lines. No matter how well acted, the acoustics say "I'm in a room!" However, the mix here is amazingly well done. I know, not the first thing you notice, but this detail speaks well to the rest of the production. Great art, quality animation in key sequences, and amazing production. The story is convoluted and surreal, but that's the source material, and in all fairness, secondary. This is a worthwhile movie... But that's not why we're here.  We want to determine wether or not it's a worthy addition to the Cavalcade. Unfortunately... I have to say no.

While it's a great film, with some truly impressive set pieces, the pacing is too deliberate to satisfy a hungry audience. As a matter of fact, the quality of the acting makes the melodrama work. It's really not all that mockable. While the world of Anime is filled with opportunity for great party entertainment for the Cavalcade. As much as I love it, and highly recommend you watch it, I can't say it's a good pick for the Cavalcade.


It probably will come as no surprise to any of you reading this when I say that I'm a geek. After all, I write for a website dedicated to B movies, I read about B movies, and in my spare time I even watch B movies. Furthermore, and I know this must come as a shock, but I even read comic books and play video games. I am hereby sacrificing my potential future sex life so that you know that when I say that when this film was released in 2003, I was the full embodiment of its target demographic.

So when I say that this is one of the dumber movies I've ever had to sit through, then you know it's not because of some high-handed thought process. I mean, when I hear there's a movie that's all about Werewolves (or "Lycans", rather) and Vampires (err-"Death Dealers") kicking each others asses, I get all kinds of excited. And to be fair, the movie does deliver on the monster mash, at least in terms of the Werewolves. Very cool transformation sequences, coupled with the fuzzy whirling dervishes of death walking on walls and ceilings makes for one cool dog.

The vampires don't come off nearly as well, however. As near as I could make out, being a vampire in this universe means that you have sharp pointy teeth, pale skin, and have to wear freaky fetish gear. They are only as strong as a human, and be killed as easily as any human. The only time they demonstrate any kind of abilities is when they jump really high and occasionally stick to ceilings. Oh, and while they do drink blood, it seems to be more for plot related reasons than for sustenance. I spent most of the movie trying to figure out why the werewolves, who are stronger, faster, and a hell of a lot more durable, didn't wipe out the vampires years before the movie takes place.

I had the time to think about this because while the action set pieces are reasonably impressive, and the movie is certainly pretty, there is absolutely nothing going on in the plot that is interesting, or even makes much sense for that matter. Kate Bekinsale plays Selene, who is the big bad-ass Death Dealer in the movie, though that seems to be more for her ability to look hot in a leather catsuit and the fact that she doesn't just stand there and scream when the werewolves come a-knocking than anything else. She ends up in a Romeo-Juliet situation with Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman). When I wasn't wondering why the vampires weren't already extinct, I was trying to figure out why Selene felt the need to sacrifice everything for Michael, as it went from one scene of "I don't care about you" to the next, where she suddenly loves him and is therefore gonna kill every motherf#$ker that gets in her way. It doesn't help that they have about the same chemistry as Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman did in the Star Wars prequels.

Scratch that. Mother Theresa and Ghandi have more chemistry than those two. This movie's central romantic story is pure Remains of the Day in comparison.

Director Len Wiseman (who also co-wrote the script) managed to put together a stylish looking movie, of that there is no doubt. But it's stretched so thinly over a plot that has a more interesting backstory than actual story, so that by the end, you don't really care what happens to anybody in the movie.

You know, I was getting worried there. After quality screenings of 28 Days Later, and An American Werewolf in London, I was worried that an "A-List blockbuster" like Underworld might be yet another good film sneaking it's way into the Cavalcade. It turns out there was nothing to worry about. It's perfect for talking over, since nobody says anything of interest, and as already stated, it can't really make much less sense, so nobody will feel especially lost watching it. Be sure to include this one!