Watched a few movies over the weekend. I don’t really feel like doing individual reviews of any of them, so here are my thoughts based on a five-star rating system:
Director Stuart Gordon is the only commercial filmmaker to have made a concerted effort to bring H.P. Lovecraft’s eccentric style of horror to the big screen. His greatest success was and remains Re-Animator, which ironically was based on Lovecraft’s novella “Herbert West–Reanimator,” a work that’s one of Lovecraft’s least-regarded (by himself as well as his fans). By making it into a true dark comedy, Gordon actually improved upon the original tale, though I don’t think there’s anything particularly “Lovecraftian” about the end result.
Gordon’s next effort was From Beyond, based on Lovecraft’s story of the same name, which I haven’t seen and therefore won’t comment on. But I have seen Dagon, Gordon’s attempt at adapting one of Lovecraft’s most famous stories, The Shadow Over Innsmouth. To my mind, Gordon makes a painfully crucial error in the film by setting it in a tiny West European fishing village rather than the haunted New England Lovecraft so adored. That said, there’s enough weirdness to make Dagon one of Gordon’s better efforts, but it’s still doesn’t quite capture that true Lovecraftian feel.
Dreams in the Witch House, Gordon’s first contribution to Showtime’s acclaimed Masters of Horror series, is probably the most faithful Lovecraft adaptation I’ve seen to date. It’s based on one of my favorite Lovecraft tales (though it’s not too highly regarded in critical circles), and it features one of his most successful efforts at blending science fiction with supernatural horror.
Miskatonic University grad student Walter Gilman (Ezra Godden) somewhat reluctantly takes a room in an ancient, crumbling boarding house. Aside from the stereotypically fat and unpleasant landlord, Walter’s housemates include creepy old man Masurewicz (Campbell Lane) and single mother Frances Elwood (Chelah Horsdal). The lonely Walter and Frances are soon engaging in some awkward flirting, while Walter begins having some very odd nightmares involving a witch and a rat with a human face.
I was impressed by the acting of Godden and Horsdal. While the other characters are a bit two-dimensional, Walter and Frances are fully realized and behave as believably as one could, given the circumstances. While Frances was “Frank” in the original story (and obviously not a love interest), many of the major plot points are present. The changes made to the story (and I’m not entirely sure what they are, since I haven’t read it in a year or two) are mostly for the better, I think, adding an emotional involvement with the characters that Lovecraft was incapable of doing.
My only disappointment was the conclusion, which gets bogged down in unnecessary exposition and delays the inevitable a bit too long. The film could easily have used the original ending to the story and gotten away with it.
Overall, though, this is probably my favorite film translation of a Lovecraft story so far. Fingers crossed for that Guillermo Del Toro adaptation of At the Mountains of Madness, though.
With surprising frequency, I discover the existence of cult movies I wasn’t even aware of. Evil Dead II was one of those, as was Legend and, most recently, Time After Time. While the quality of these discoveries varies, it’s always interesting to run across these nuggets of genre film.
After the punishing disappointment of Time After Time, I didn’t expect much from Near Dark (1987), which seemed very similar The Lost Boys (which had come out a few months earlier). The films have an almost identical plot: a young man gets turned into a vampire against his will and is then shanghaied by the vampire gang into becoming one of them–or else. But where The Lost Boys was played mostly for thrills and laughs, Near Dark adds a certain pathos about the vampire condition that makes it work surprisingly well.
Billed as a “vampire Western,” Near Dark features Heroes’ Adrian Pasdar as Caleb, the aforementioned dupe; Jenny Wright as the sexy vamp fatale who dupes him; Lance Henriksen as the nihilistic leader of the gang; and Bill Paxton as the resident psychotic. (Jennette Goldstein also plays a vampire, which means Near Dark features three Aliens actors just a year after that movie came out.)
The film’s most famous scene is a bloody massacre in a bar, and what makes it effective is the vampires’ truly cold-blooded attitude toward their victims. Unlike many movie vampires of late, these aren’t the flying monsters of Lost Boys or even the feral, animalistic hedonists of the Blade flicks; these are serial killers whose bloodthirst happens to be literal.
Of course, one does have to get past the psychedelic Tangerine Dream soundtrack–is it me, or is that band singularly responsible for making a third of all ’80s films instantly dated?
The last third of Near Dark is the weakest, with a terrible deus ex machina and some unrealistic behavior on the part of the normies, but overall I was surprised by how much I liked this one.
(Oh, and don’t look now, but there’s a remake on the way.)
DG wanted to watch something dumb, so we got it via On Demand. In the past, I’ve been willing to defend director Kurt Wimmer’s previous film, Equilibrium, which gets a bad rap as a Matrix rip-off even though it was filmed at about the same time and stars a better actor.
But I’m not going to defend Ultraviolet. Holy crap, what the heck was that? I mean…I guess I don’t really have anything to say. Just…wow. What a mess.