Sunday, March 15, 2015

Movies of 2014, Horror pt2

            Hey I managed to catch up on some horror movies I missed when doing my initial rundown of the horror movies of 2014.  So I decided to just do these here and continue my track record of reviewing movies that nobody really cares about.

Overall: 3/10
            What a turkey.  And what a Turkey.
            A strange complaint that will be limited to me and a very small class of history enthusiasts: this movie is kind of racist, and very historically incorrect… And not within the bandwidth of, “it is just fiction you can fudge the numbers a bit”.  It is actually more off base than “300” with its bull shit.
            The start of this movie portrays Vlad Tempest as having been raised in the Janissary tradition of the Ottoman Turks and having been a participant in their military campaigns.  That is mostly true… But they leave out a lot, like his brother staying in Turkey as a friend of the future Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror.  In the movie there is no brother and instead Vlad sees Mehmed as his brother.
In the movie they talk about how, "There are no pictures or statues of the man."  Trying to pull the, "He isn't the hero we need, but he is the hero we deserve" Dracula should be more like Batman bullshit.  And considering that is a picture of Vlad from Wikipedia, I find this movie again... Really stupid.
            To compare with “300” again.  In real life Vlad, as a way of turning away peace with the Turks… Had the envoys murdered by nailing their turbans to their heads.  And he did this to lay the groundwork for a crusade he anticipated happening in a few years which would have drawn the bulk of the Ottoman forces away from his lands.
            The issues in here deepen as in 3 days the Turks bash into the country, and if it were not for Vlad gaining demonic super powers they would have won handily, even though the war lasted for 3 years in real life and was brought to a close by treason against Vlad which resulted in his beheading… INSTEAD THEY HAVE HIM KILL MEHMED THE CONQUEROR.  I know that most people have no idea who Mehmed is from a historical standpoint, because Middle East history is not looked upon with all that interest by US classes, but having Mehmed die in this way would be the equivalent of having Mao die fighting the Japanese during World War II and never take power in China.  (By the way, the final confrontation is just crap, Vlad has annihilated the entire army even if Mehmed had killed Vlad he would have been totally fucked so the whole final fight comes off as meaningless).  This is such a divergence from history that it breaks the movie for me.  And there are obvious ways around it.  I am leaving out huge problems with everything from the lack of characterization of the bad guys, the stupid battle tactics, how swarms of bats are used to create massive crashes that kill dozens of Turks at a time… The freaking bats in this movie are just ridiculous.
            There are good things in the movie.  Most of the acting works, Charles Dance is a great master vampire, but overall the movie is just really weak with its plot.  You have Vlad gain the power to kill a thousand men single handedly… and nobody bats an eye, but 24 hours later they are trying to burn him alive because he is a vampire… What?  They already know of him as a mass murderer of innocents, they already know he has started a war with the local expansionist super power, he has forced them to abandon their homes… and they decide to turn on him because he has temporarily gained superpowers?  And has yet to use them to harm any of his own people. 
So he is also the Hulk.  He is Batman mixed with the Hulk.
           How would I fix this movie?  How about instead of it happening over the course of a few days it instead happens over a few months, Vlad drinking little sips of vampire blood to gain temporary power, but also demonic cunning, using his small forces and limited vampire powers to stage daring raids and traps for the Ottomans (like what happened in real life) and eventually drives them off but in having done so has been permanently transformed into a monster, his allies turn on him for fear of his now uncontrolled power, he is forced to fake his death and escape disappearing into legend as a local myth, hunting those who betrayed him.  That way there is no obvious breaks from the reality of real world history, you have a character that is established as not only strong but smart and capable of leadership.
            I could easily see this and “I, Frankenstein” existing in the same universe.  A crappy universe of bland, “I am so emo” monster movies.
And the final battle with Mehmed is backwards.  Mehmed being a mortal fighting a super strong, super fast, shapeshifter has to use cunning and a careful allocation of limited resources to pose a threat... Something the hero of the story is usually expected to do.  God, this movie is so stupid.  It comes off like the boss battle of a video game.  (Poster)
Overall: 5/10
       I initially had no enthusiasm to see this.  The premise seemed like “The Crow”, a movie I have never really liked.  Daniel Radcliffe was still (in my mind) the guy who had stared in “The Woman in Black” which was an uneven letdown of a film.  And the advertising of this movie either emphasized the darker stuff or the sillier parts, and so I did not understand what to expect.
       In general what I got was an uneven and messy film, but it wasn't a disappointment.  The funny parts were funny, the idea of the horns is pretty cool, and they do a lot to develop everyone in the movie as characters.  The problem comes with tone, in which it swings back and forth between comedy, tragedy, and horror so fast that there is some mood whiplash.  Do they want the movie to be a dark tale of revenge that shows a character embrace darker impulses to punish the sinners who have ruined his life?  Or does it want to be a farce, the main character stirring up a series of sight gags as he takes a tour of a small town filled with assholes as he figures out a mystery?  The serious sentimental ending suggests the former, but much of the movie’s scenes of irreverent violence suggests the later.
       I really like the idea of the horns, that they compel people to confess their deepest sins, act out their vile impulses, can make them psychically experience suffering, and nobody remembers it.  That is pretty cool, and leads to a lot of scenes of people screaming at each other, fighting, or being gluttons for drugs or food.  As far as low-key-magical-realism super powers go this is a good one.
I was afraid the movie would pull punches, but it didn't.  It has boobs and blood and cursing.  Since it didn't shirk from those things I might be giving it a bit more credit than it deserves.  Really the premise works on paper, and with a more focused script, either serious or farcical this thing could have been pretty good. 
Also, it is good to see that all of Danny's practice working with CGI stuff in his movie career helps him here.  (Poster)
Overall: 7/10
            A movie I had not heard of and I am surprised has not received more attention.  “Housebound” is a horror comedy with roughly the premise of “Disturbia” or “Rear Window” in that a young woman cannot leave her house (she is a criminal) and discovers strange happenings in her home, ultimately discovering it was the scene of a murder and it is now haunted.  She unravels the mystery with the help of the security official who makes sure she stays under house arrest, and putting up with her Mom and Step Dad.
            It has a lot of good foreshadowing and wraps up rather tightly by the end.  The action is fast, it makes a lot of quick little jokes that show the characters are human, and the mystery resolves in a satisfying fashion.  It isn't going to touch you on a deep and personal emotional level, but it is a good bit of fun.
Another movie in which characters with motivations react and act in accordance with the plot.  Why does that seem like such a hard thing to find in movies?

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