Posts Tagged ‘Daniel Radcliffe’

Victor Frankenstein (2015)

April 26, 2016

I went to Friends School of Baltimore from first grade until the end of high school. Every summer up until high school, we were assigned summer reading. This was never a problem because I love stories and I always loved to read. Early on it was easy reading like Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and so many young adult books. Unfortunately, the young adult horror series like Fear Street were not on the approved lists so I read those after finishing the approved books. I was a quiet, nerdy kid who did not really go on normal kid adventures so I was happy to have a stack of books. One summer, I decided that it was high time that I delve into classic horror. I gobbled up The Invisible Man, Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, Dracula and a ton of Edgar Allen Poe. I enjoyed it all but the final book in that vein that I read resonated with me most of all.

Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus (which is its full title) was a really interesting book to finally read. I felt I needed to read it after seeing all of the Frankenstein images and watching all of the Frankenstein movies (including Young Frankenstein). It was the same experience I had with Dracula. I had to go back and see the source for myself. I wanted to read the original story and see how it held up after more than 175 years. I read it quickly because I found that I could not put the book down once I picked it up. The original story is the tale of a man’s hubris in trying to create a man. The biggest shock was how philosophical the book is. There is a lot of thought and fearful reflection from one of the main characters (Dr. Frankenstein). Also, the other main character (Frankenstein) is extremely intelligent and very tragic. It was a great book for a pre-teen to read.

The movie introduces Daniel Radcliffe as Igor which is a character purely invented for the movies in the 1930’s. This is not automatically a problem for me as I have stated before that I do not mind adaptations making changes as long as those changes are to serve the story. Otherwise, we could never take the racist elements out of Lovecraft or have a rapping Puerto Rican Alexander Hamilton. Besides, Igor has become a beloved stock character over the years. The way Igor is used here is pleasantly how Watson is used in the Guy Ritchie Sherlock Holmes movies. He is not just an interesting looking prop to do the doctor’s bidding. He is intelligent in his own right and is actually a somewhat nuanced character with a backstory and emotions. This was a good sign early on in the movie as it was an indicator that they were going for something a little different.

I want to take a break and warn you right now that there are a lot of scenes that are not for the faint of heart. A lot of these scenes are either very graphic or highly suggestive of pretty horrific things. Mary Shelley’s original book went into a lot of gory detail about building the titular monster and this movie does not pull any punches there. Kudos to the props department for creating a lot of spectacular visuals. The CGI work is equally great as I found it really hard to figure out where certain things stopped being practical and started being computer generated. The direction is also very good. Paul McGuigan directed this one and there were some reasons to be wary as he directed the truly awful Wicker Park but later redeemed himself by directing half of the present BBC Sherlock series. Like that show, he is working with two main characters who have a close but extremely complicated personal and professional relationship. He pulls this project off almost as well as Sherlock.

The script was written by Max Landis who seems to be quickly becoming known as a mad genius in Hollywood. I think that one day he will be a really brilliant screenwriter. He is good right now, but like American Ultra, this movie felt like it rambled a little and could have used a little tightening up. He is definitely doing a lot of innovative work as he was able to really bring the characters to life in a new way. Of course, some of that credit goes to Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy who are pretty great together. MacAvoy is great as a mad genius, a sort of sociopath with great vision. Andrew Scott is arguably the villain of the movie although, like the book, the movie is a sea of gray areas. The shining star, at least for me, was still Radcliffe who is the emotional center of the movie. He has come a long way since Harry Potter (which I liked) and if this and Horns are any indication, he is going to be remembered well at the end.

Overall, I thought it was a good movie. It could have been a great movie but its pacing felt a little off and some of the characterization was just a little bit muddled. There is also a secondary villain and an anti-hero which starts to mess with the morality messages. It stayed true to the heart of the original story as a tale of Man vs. Nature and the ethical problems that surround the creation of life. There is also a great message about the measure of a man and what exactly makes something or someone a monster. The movie is pretty clever and ambitious and worth a look if only to encourage this kind of film from being made in the future.

The Woman in Black (2012)

October 21, 2014


I recently watched The Woman in Black.  I actually started my usual method of riffing comments as they pop into my head but that plan died about three minutes in.  I’m not saying that this movie is unriffable but it just seemed wrong after a while.  This movie was too well done to really make fun of.  I was actually really looking forward to seeing this movie because way back in the day I actually designed lights, sound and helped build the set for a stage production of The Woman in Black.  (Most long time readers won’t remember this)

I realized that I never really talked about the rest of that experience.  Like any writer/artist I shudder when I look back at my old stuff and that was a full six years ago.  I was having a lot of fun playing with a new digital camera and I was genuinely impressed with what we were doing.  I continued to work on the show and it was an amazing production even if I was usually pretty frazzled back when I worked at Tri-State Actors Theater.

The show was very intense work and I fell into my usual ten to thirteen hour work days followed by sleeping late.   I built sets and hung and pointed lights in the late morning until the evenings.  The set was pretty much just a giant false proscenium with a black scrim stretched across it.  The structure was mammoth and it took three people to rig it to the ceiling with the cable and fittings we had picked.   The lighting was dark and subtle and a great fit for a dark, gloomy horror story.  I was really proud of all of that work because I had never done any work in horror before.

These long days originally left me doing all of the sound work in the middle of the night in my tiny, cold room that I rented in the back of a framing shop.  In retrospect, I probably should have seen a lot of parallels between my late night, solitary work and the work Arthur Kipps was doing.  Eventually, doing this work at night started to take its toll.  Finding horrible recordings and building sound cues like “Horse and Child Drowning in Swamp” in the middle of the night started to make me a little crazy.  I had to switch to doing the sound work in the morning and do the lighting work late at night instead.  My psyche thanked me for it.  Eventually we built a rich soundscape and true horror includes plenty of sound cues.

So after all of that, how did the movie stack up?  I really liked it.  Daniel Radcliffe plays a complex version of Arthur Kipps and gets a lot of mileage with very little dialogue.  He has come leaps and bounds from his time in Dumbledore’s Army and has really grown up.   The rest of the cast is spot on with a special nod to Ciaran Hinds who gives an especially moving performance.  The voice overs for the title character were well done and held the right amount of grief to the point of insanity.

The story is a rough one to get through and I forgot how much it terrified me.  I would warn those who are parents that any version of this story is going to be especially rough on you.  The terror is mixed so much with tragedy, sympathy and deep, dark emotions related to being a parent.  Themes include untimely death, revenge, grief, guilt, isolation and depression which are all incredibly heavy.  The story is told in a straight forward manner in the movie with very little actual dialogue.  The stage version has a framing device which actually adds a terrifying little twist but the story can do without it.

A little ways into the film I thought there was going to be too many jump scares and not enough real horror.  Jump scares are nice for startling the audience and jangling their nerves but it is startling, not terrifying.  The jump scares in this film are far more psychological and logical and pretty much none of them are the standard “Cat Scare” which have become so overdone in horror.  The movie can actually be really relentless and my heart was pounding pretty hard in parts.  The filmmakers obviously took a lot of care to go for a more literary horror than we’ve seen in bad horror movies in the past.  Hooking us like fish, ratcheting up the tension and letting us go and then reeling us back into terror until finally we realize there’s no escape.

One of the things that I liked so much about the movie was the attention to detail.  The production design was very intricate and most of the effects seemed to be practical instead of digital.  I am not putting down CGI effects because a bad practical special effect can look just as hokey as a bad CGI one.  This movie blended everything together pretty seamlessly but, as I well know, it can be easier to cover up flaws in the dark.

I would freely recommend this movie to anyone and everyone who enjoys horror movies and does not have a heart condition.   I don’t know what I want to review next but it probably won’t be Victorian Horror.  Probably.


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