Posts Tagged ‘Vampires’

Chastity Bites (2013)

October 29, 2021

Elizabeth Bathory has long been associated with vampires. She was a Hungarian noblewoman alive in the fifteen hundreds. We already know how eastern Europe is already heavily associated with vampire legends. She grew up in a castle and lived in comparative luxury as she was the niece of the King of Poland (who was also a prince of Transylvania of all places). One of the first tales that seems to connect her with vampirism came when she was a child. Apparently, she suffered from seizures as a child which was known as “falling sickness” and the folk remedy was to smear blood of the unaflicted on the victim’s mouth. Therefore, she actually did taste human blood if that story is to be believed. Perhaps tales like these are what expanded into vampires who need human blood to survive.

There are a lot of legends that surround Bathory when she got older. She was apparently particularly brutal, torturing and killing many of her fellow Hungarians. It is hard to differentiate from rumor and actual history as history is written with a particular slant. What is known is that a Lutheran minister complained to the crown and the King was eventually forced to investigate one of the nobles of his land. Investigators took testimony from over 300 sources. Testimony stated that Elizabeth Bathory had started her reign of terror by torturing young preteen girls who had been sent to her to learn courtly etiquette. Needles, hot tongs, ice water, honey and ants, and other methods. People said she bathed in the blood of virgin girls. Investigation later revealed that the testimonies may have been false and obtained through coercion and/or torture. It may have been a plan to divest her of her Estate and divide it up.

The first thing I noticed was the fun and campy acting. The movie immediately strikes a particular tone somewhere between DEBS and Heathers. The protagonist of the movie is played by the brilliant Allison Scagliotti. She plays a spunky young feminist high schooler with aspirations of being a reporter. Louise Griffiths is wicked as the abstinence counselor “Liz Batho”. She is so delightful, akin to Chris Sarandon in Fright Night. Amy Okuda, Sarah Stouffer, Lindsey Morgan, and Chloe Crampton are so good as the popular girls. Francia Racia is fun as the best friend who gets in way over her head. The rest of the cast does a great job of being so sunny and perky that it is creepy.

I really like the cinematography. Most of it reads as a good television show, everything is shot tight and clear but with just a hint of shadow in a lot of scenes. The kill sequences are done largely through POV or are shot in a manic fashion that made me a bit anxious as I watched but they kept it light as a horror comedy. The gore is actually fairly light but it is a vampire movie so of course there is dark crimson, beautiful blood. There are some really interesting special effects at points in the story that definitely caught me off guard. There are some interesting camera tricks to ratchet up the weird vibe of the movie. I really liked the settings. Many did not seem like traditional horror like sterile high school hallways and normal suburban homes. Some of them are way more traditional like a spooky manor.

Overall, I really liked this movie. It was a clever modern adaptation of the Bathory legends with a really fun cast. Scagliotti and Griffiths are particularly electric on screen and have a really good dynamic. I was not sold on the sex comedy part of it but it did not go too far and was played completely for laughs. It was a pretty tight little horror comedy movie. I recommend this movie.

Cronos (1993)/Ganja & Hess (1973)/The Lost Boys (1987)

October 31, 2020

Ganja and Hess (1973)

The first thing I noticed was how different a tone this movie has. This is one of the first black horror movies and it shows right away. It is not just a reskinned white horror movie but instead reflects the real culture. The music really works for the movie as well. They use a lot of Christian spiritual songs but the recording sounds like it was made in an empty church. . That means you get all of the cool echoes and imperfections and it sounds so lonely. This is mixed in with what is presented as African music with really surreal reverb added. This reverb is used throughout and it gives a lot of moments a very eerie and otherworldly feeling. The blood is very vivid and almost artistic. They definitely go all in on showing a feeding.

The movie stars Duane Jones (who also starred in Night of the Living Dead) as Hess and he really should have been something bigger. He is such a commanding character here and a calming presence at times. His performance is so real and raw that he instantly commands any scene he is in. Marlene Clark plays Ganja and she is brassy and instantly likable. She is a force of nature from word one. Writer/Director Bill Gunn plays an absolute nutcase who is disturbing in a very subdued and unnerving way. There is also a preacher played by Sam Waymon, not your usual pastor in a horror movie. He is reasonable and empathetic and so charismatic.

Overall, I really liked the movie. It certainly has some production flaws but it leans into those flaws and makes them into strengths. The story feels different from other vampire stories that I have seen though some familiar elements are there.

The Lost Boys (1987)

The first thing I noticed was the interesting setting and character design of the movie. I guess it is supposed to be a tourist town in the mid-Eighties with a mashup of Goth, Punk, and New Wave styles with a little seaside mixed in. It makes it feel like the movie is taking place in a post-apocalyptic future. I really liked the special effects of the movie. The practical special effects are really fun and often really destructive. Of course, it is the Eighties so there is a metric ton of dry ice. The blood effects are really well done (apparently they put glitter in the blood). I always love seeing different takes on vampiric powers. This movie had some interesting takes on what a vampire is and I loved it. It is somewhat similar to Fright Night but also had some curveballs in there. The soundtrack is strong in this movie with a lot of great rock songs.

The cast is huge for the Eighties, some who went on to big careers and some who seemed to disappear with the turning of the decade. The movie stars Corey Haim and Jason Patric as two kids whose family just moved into town. They run afoul of a strange vampire biker gang headed up by Keifer Sutherland and including Alex Winter, Brooke McCarter and Billy Wirth. Jami Gertz plays the loan major female character, caught up with the gang. Haim is aided by two strange brothers played by Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander. Sutherland is definitely a stand out as he plays a mix of a smirking hooligan and a cult leader. Haim is a plucky hero who is kind of funny and definitely likable. Feldman is totally weird and I immediately loved his character. Patric plays his character as too cool but I loved his vulnerability.

Overall, I really liked this movie for being a goofball horror movie. The cast is fantastic for what this movie needed to be. It was not very scary at all but it had a lot of great horror elements and a killer aesthetic. I recommend it.

Cronos (1993)

The first thing I noticed was the great visuals of Guillermo del Toro. He is a master at creating spooky and otherworldly imagery, sometimes when something is supposed to be mundane. The movie has a lot to do with clockwork. Clockwork and machinery combined with biology can be very creepy. Here it is very creepy and involves a lot of medical-related horror and bloodshed. The gore is very believable and particularly nasty-looking although it is not plentiful. There are also insects, a trademark of Del Toro’s work. The clockwork and the insects are definitely displayed similarly creating a very creepy bit of imagery. It is hard to explain and you just have to see it for yourself. Every shot is framed so well and paints an absolute picture. It creates its own mythology and style and is nothing like most vampire movies.

The movie stars Federico Luppi, an old kindly man who stumbles onto something crazy and frightening and does not know how to handle it. He is so good at playing a deeply disturbed human being, a man suffering a breakdown. There is also the awesome and charismatic Ron Perlman in this who would go on to partner with Del Toro many times. He has such a brash arrogance to him but he is impossible not to like somehow. The villain is played by Claudio Brook and he is great at being a wealthy, unfeeling man. Tamara Shanath plays the granddaughter of Luppi who is precocious and says so much without words.

Overall, I really loved this film. It felt less like a horror movie than a dark fantasy movie. It definitely had its scary and creepy moments, though. You can see Del Toro’s fingerprints all over this movie with motifs and imagery he would go on to use in other movies. This was the first full film that Del Toro made and is part of a loose trilogy of Spanish language movies he made. I definitely recommend this movie.

Night Watch (2004)

October 31, 2016

The Other can be a frightening concept. As I have discussed before, The Other is anything that is not us. In this movie, “The Other” is anything beyond our normal natural world. This is even more frightening because it comes from a world of secrets and the unknown. Generally, ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds violence and hate. Not knowing what was out in the darkness and why bad things happened gave birth to folktales and religion. Both have their bogeymen who we are told we should fear and perform rituals to protect ourselves from what goes bump in the night. We also are told often to embrace a duality and are told that picking a side will protect us and empower us. However, in the old tales often neither side was really the good guys. If you look at most material covering faeries, both courts are to be marveled at but also feared. Looking at things as Light and Dark without seeing the Gray is dangerous. However, the great thing about fiction is that they can often simplify things so that evil is evil and good is good.

I have been thinking about what makes a monster in these tales of supernatural horror. Do we do bad things because we are a monster or are we a monster because we do bad things? Freddy Krueger was a horrible human being even before he became a dream demon. However, in the Buffyverse, the very act of becoming a vampire removes the soul and usually turns a person evil. Our justice system says that we are innocent until proven guilty. Religion says that it is our actions that define us and not our thoughts. So if you are a vampire who refuses to feed on humans, are you a monster? I think not. However, just watching and experiencing the misdeeds of others can be enough to darken the soul. Police officers and military are often as irreparably changed as gang members and other violent criminals. Hunting vampires can be almost as troubling as being one.

We have yet another foreign horror movie which makes it the sixth of sixteen reviews this year. This one is Russian and might just be the first pure Russian movie I have watched outside of a certain Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. Yet again, this means that I have no preconceived notions about any of the actors in this movie. The movie stars Konstantin Khabensky as Anton, a man who basically tracks monster criminals on behalf of the Light side. I like how Anton is not perfect and his journey on behalf of the Light is plagued by the temptation of evil. He is a great example of the reluctant hero. I like to think that even when pressed, we are all the reluctant hero. Nobody gets supernatural abilities and suddenly leaps up excited to risk their life. Anton and everybody he meets is  hardened by life outside the norm where things are more dangerous.

I really liked the visuals in this movie. Everything is bleak from the very beginning of the movie. The world is full of shadows and muted colors and light is almost a godsend. Even in sunlight, everything is just dark and dangerous looking. It makes light and splashes of color a very welcome contrast. I really love the digital effects of the supernatural world. I especially loved how various vampiric powers and abilities are depicted. For example, vampiric vision makes everything but the veins of a human body invisible, making it easier to feed. There is also some great drawn animation which makes some of the exposition easier to get through. The editing is smooth and keeps the movie clipping along at a pretty good pace. The action is easy to understand and the subtitles made the Russian language clear.

Overall this is a pretty good horror adventure movie. The depiction of the supernatural world just beyond our natural one is one of the most interesting examples I have seen in pop culture. The movie was the top grossing film in Russian history when it was released but the record has since been topped. It is also one of the first Russian blockbusters after the fall of Soviet cinema and is therefore automatically a success. The movie has some great ideas but I would say its only sin is that it is too long. It incorporates two plots that do not ever fully connect. However, I feel like the world building and character work mostly make up for this. I would recommend watching this movie because it is so different in how it depicts the creepier side of things.

Sunlight Fugitives

October 17, 2015

US Marshal Mike Okubo walked slowly and a few feet behind ordinary citizen Tracy
Peterson. Mike was wearing a bulletproof vest and light tactical armor and he had his pistol drawn with the attached flashlight lit. He aimed down the hallway of the abandoned St. Jude clinic. He was ready to shoot anything and he also lighting their way. In contrast, Tracy was dressed in jeans and a tank top and had a fire axe hanging from a homemade sling on her back. The only sign in her clothing that she was here for battle were the combat boots she had borrowed from the Marshals office. Her jeans actually twinkled from the sequins sewn into them for the love of mercy.

“Do we have to creep around in the dark? Sunlight kills these things, right? Let’s get a bulldozer and punch holes in the place.” Mike asked. He knew it might just be his anxiety talking but it was a thought he kept coming back to.

“Vampires can be tricky. They could escape through the sewers before the bulldozer even hit a wall. At least, that’s what the handbook says.” Tracy said with a shrug.

It had only been a few weeks of hunting vampires and other creepy crawlies. The world of magic was now out in the open, so to speak. Mike had been a by the book sort of guy but not a handbook on hunting vampires. It was strange and way outside of his comfort zone but it was the job.

“Respectfully, this is bullshit, Miss Peterson. We’re both too new at this and we’re hunting vampirs and monsters.”

“Yeah, but the original girl started out that way and she was alone. At least, she was alone at first. I saw her at a seminar once.”

“Yeah and their group kept all of this a secret and eventually a whole town ended up getting destroyed. I’m lucky my mother decided to evacuate beforehand.” Mike said with no small amount of bitterness.

“Well, there was no way to keep it a secret after the Empowerment and we’re cooperating, aren’t we? That’s why Director Mars deputized us girls, right?” Tracy was excited to be working with the government like this. It was so exciting most of the time.

Mike sighed and nodded. “Yeah. The office really did me a great favor assigning me to the project.”

Tracy smirked. “What? Partnered with a superhero? Yeah, I envy you.” She said as she flexed a bicep that looked toned but not up to the incredible feats of strength Tracy had proved she could perform.

“Shut it, your little group is practically named after a Heavy Metal band. Wait, did you hear that?” Mike said, the last was almost a whisper.

They both stood absolutely still and silent. After a few moments they both definitely heard something moving off to the left. Before Mike could issue any orders, Tracy had kicked the door to the left off its hinges and well into the room beyond. She ran fast down a corridor before Mike could even get his own feet moving. He grumbled as he picked up the pace but he could already hear a commotion coming from two rooms away. By the time he got there, he saw Tracy standing in the middle of four men. There was a huge claw mark on her right shoulder but she had pulled her axe free.

Mike aimed and fired at the vampires farthest from Tracy and Tracy started to swing her axe at the agile creatures. Blood sprayed on the wall from bullets and axe and the vampires broke formation and desperately tried to kill Tracy. She whirled and chopped two of their heads off. She reversed and pulled a wooden stake and stabbed the third which then turned to dust as it collapsed on the floor.

That left the last one which took off in a panicked run toward the door. Of course, that put Mike directly in its path and the bullets Mike was putting in it hardly had an effect. Suddenly, the vampire stiffened and fell face first onto the ground. The axe was sticking out of its back. It wiggled but didn’t seem to be able to get back to its feet. Tracy breathed deep as Mike approached her and started to bandage her shoulder.

“How was that?” She said with a smile.

“It’s a good start.” Mike said and he couldn’t help but smile too. “We’ll call in a bus to take this one back for interrogation.”

“Good, I could definitely use a shower.” She said as she hoisted the vampire over her shoulder and started to walk out.


March 7, 2013

By Walter Russo

BALTIMORE CITY, Md. – As the seasons change, many citizens of Baltimore find themselves weak for a few days and sometimes they even have to take a day off from work. Many attribute this to influenza but the truth is just as simple if a little less obvious to the uninformed.

The change in seasons means the days get shorter but also the nights get longer.  This makes autumn and winter perfect times for vampires to prey on humans.  Vampires fear the sun but can leave the shadows even before full darkness which is a time when many people are commuting.  Those suffering from a full workday are often tired and more vulnerable to a possible vampire attack.

There was no comment from the office of Mayor Rawlings-Blake at the time this story went to print.  There was also no comment from the office of Police Commissioner Batts.  In fact, there was no comment from any official when questioned about this rash of supernatural threats.

This is just another cover-up that this reporter will do everything to uncover.  More news as this story develops.

(This post is, of course, fictional. As far as I know, there is no such thing as weretigers and this is just a fun writing experiment. Look for the further adventures of Walter Russo in later blog posts.)

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