Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween: Film Round-Up 5

Underworld: Evolution (2006)
While I liked the original Underworld, it had too much of a "vampires and werewolves meet The Matrix" vibe about it. The sequel is less bullet time-y, thankfully, though I've now watched the movie two full times and recall very little of substance to talk about. There is a needless sex scene, which so many horror movies seem to find necessary, as well as a rote "main character turns out to be really important after having a mysterious past" plot. Anyway, the ending of this movie effectively kills off all vampires and werewolves, which is ludicrous to the core even though the only difference it makes is that all future entries in the franchise will be prequels.
Species (1995)
Underused H.R. Giger creature designs and nightmare sequences! Natasha Henstridge's tits! Forest Whitaker's creepy droopy eye and pseudo-psychic abilities! Michael Madsen as a jerk! Poor pacing and a lame ending that leaves open a sequel, though the actual sequel totally ignores this set-up! Truly, Species has it all.
Salem's Lot (1979)
Unbeknownst to me, this is a TV mini-series and not a movie. Oh well. I've finally got around to reading some Stephen King, and this series does an admirable job of adapting his style to film. I'm probably alone in this, but I found the main vampire dude to be scary. Something about how fake he looks effectively made him creepier. A paradox, I suppose. Anyway, Salem's Lot is a great vampire story that takes its time and has sub-plots that don't really go anywhere, along with an 'open' ending that doesn't quite resolve the action. But these are hallmarks of the King style, so, bravo!!
Predator 2 (1990)
Call me crazy, but I've always liked Predator 2 more than the first movie. Something about the tone it strikes has always felt 'right' to me, the way it combines extreme violence and profanity with characters who have character and an over-the-top climax chase sequence with a smattering of cartoony comedy. I dunno, it just works for me. The always fabulous and crazy Gary Busey plays a suitably over the top government agent, and something about the way he and his team die in a slaughterhouse has stuck with me as an iconic idea for awhile. For what it's worth, I think it's hilarious that the film's idea of what L.A. would be like in 1997 is closer to what L.A. was like in '91-'94, insofar as gang violence goes.
The Exorcist (1973)
Though still a bit unnerving, I don't think this movie is all that scary. The random flashes of Captain Howdy's ugly mug are more terrifying to me than a little girl writhing in a bed, saying horrible things to priests or talking in backwards Latin. Whatever. I really think this one's a matter of perspective, though, because it's 35 years old and so many other horror films have happened since--not to mention, so many parodies--that its impact has been dulled. I also suspect that the entire film is an excuse to scare people into converting to Catholicism, but I know it wasn't the filmmaker's intention so...
Dawn of the Dead (2004)
A lot of people seemed to hate this remake, but I've seen both films and think this one's appropriate for its time period. I will say that the original does a much better job with actual satire and social commentary, but George Romero is the only one who seems to be able to pull it off with zombies. Dawn of the Dead, the 2004 version, is a competent zombie flick and has some great action set pieces. I recommend checking out the DVD extra which has the video diary of the gun store owner who lives across from the mall. I wish more films did this kind of thing. If I think the movie could have lost anything, it was the zombie baby subplot. I'd like to think that we live in a world where people realize what zombies are and act like, and that you can't do anything for your friends, family, and neighbors except put them out of their misery.
Constantine (2005)
This movie came out on my 21st birthday in 2005, so I take it as a personal affront that it's not very good. It certainly starts out OK, but by the end of the film it's a ridiculous mess that, from what I've read, has almost nothing to do with the graphic novel(s) it's based on. That, combined with the fact that Keanu Reeves is a terrible actor and basically plays Neo from The Matrix in every film, made me hate this movie by its end. Constantine effectively says that the evil side is incredibly powerful and can get away with all kind of stuff while the good side does nothing, especially since it isn't God who saves the day but Satan. If we're supposed to believe God is all powerful and can destroy all of reality with no effort at all, why does it seem like the 'good guys' in this film are powerless, aloof, and dogmatic idiots?? Also, like The Exorcist, it's got an undercurrent of Catholic-recruitment (not to mention, anti-smoking),

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