Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Lighthouse (2019) Directed by Robert Eggers


Robert Eggers' debut feature film, "The Witch", was an astonishing piece of work. Written in old time English and brought a slow burning story to a disturbing end with beautiful cinematography and great performances. "The Lighthouse" is a very different film but still brings us a version of English we might not be so familiar with, a different pace and even more great performances. 

Set on a lighthouse in the middle of nowhere, the new assistant and the old lighthouse keeper find themselves trapped as they fall deeper and deeper into madness because of isolation, booze and more than a small amount of supernatural insinuation as storms keep them from getting new supplies.  DeFoe and Pattinson give top drawer performances that may be beyond many other actors. They both seemed prepared to do anything in their roles and it shows. 

The editing and the cinematography is truly beyond almost any modern film I've ever seen. Shot on an almost square format in black and white by Jarin Blaschke who also worked on "The Witch", the film transports the viewer to a surreal, yet very believable world filled with dread and hidden horrors. It is notable to say that the lighthouse itself is a set in NovaScotia and while it reads as a real place, the surrounding terrain has a 1940s gothic horror quality about it that brings you even more into the film than if it was shot on location somewhere, I think. In the hands of a lesser crew, the transitions from shot to shot might seem pretentious and draw attention to themselves but as amazing as they are they only serve to draw you in

Not a traditional horror, but more of psychological thriller, this movie has elements taken from Lovecraft, Poe and while it often goes into violence it never seems exploitative or falls into standard tropes. The sound design is amazing and (especially very near the end) goes right into David Lynch territory. 

With a budget of only 4 million, the box office was over 18 million - a good haul - and I wish there were more projects like this that challenge the filmgoer and don't require a 300 million Industrial Light and Magic budget to pull it off. 

I look forward to anything Eggers does next as its obvious he is s serious force with a very strong personal vision in his film work that will likely build over time and leave us with a series of films that, while not to everyone's tastes (nothing is), will outlive any of the blockbusters that have come out in the same period. Pretty much every frame is a visual masterpiece.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Raven (2012) Directed by James McTeigue


I have to admit I was dreading watching this film as I am huge Poe fan (I have made several animations based on his works) and I heard it was terrible. Maybe my low expectations elevated this to be better than I imagined as I found myself liking more than anticipated. 

The Raven is one of those speculative history ideas, the kind that take a well known historical figure or event and then put that into a new story, usually modernized to a certain extent but try to keep it in line with the real event or the real details of that person's life. This is pretty much what we get, Poe's stories are being used against him as a mysterious person using them to commit horrible murders. The details of one Poe murder lead to the next and it is revealed that the killer is trying to get to Poe for unknown reasons. 

The film starts and ends on overly pretentious filmmaking tropes. A little over the top and on the nose for my tastes, but as the movie goes on, I did get drawn in and it didn't bore me. I know too much about the main character to believe any of it could be real and John Cusack in the role didn't sell it enough for me to see "Poe" but rather someone with his name. The problem mostly is the dialog is not very period at times and while Cusuack is OK and some of the other performers are pretty good, you just don't buy it as a period piece but more as an alternative reality piece.I rather liked Luke Evans as the detective. He was the best and to me the actual main character. He could easily go on to make more movies in this role and they almost set the end of this up for that - but next time it would be Jules Verne in place of Edgar Allen Poe. 

Costumes and sets are great, the filmmaking is a little artsy at the start and finish but very well thought out in the middle and calls less attention to itself and more to the story. The story kept my interest but it really doesn't hold up to scrutiny and just too preposterous to quote another critique to make you really feel anything for what is going or keep any real suspense. The resolution, if you can call it that , is  ahead scratcher in the worst sense... it just doesn't make any. 

Overall, I can't say it's as bad a movie as I was led to believe but that doesn't make it a good one. just Mildly entertaining and distracting with some potential that never gets realized. I guess turning Edgar Allen Poe into an action hero of sorts isn't such a great idea in the end. 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Dracula - Sovereign of the Damned (1980) animated Marvel Comics adaption


It is no secret I am a fan of the 1970s comic book "Tomb of Dracula" and particularly the artwork of Gene Colan. It was a great comic that ran 7 years and had a fairly steady storyline form start to finish. 

This is an animated TV show version taken directly from the comic. I had heard it existed and finally saw it online, as you can now too!  I wasn't expecting artwork anywhere close to the books and I didn't get it but they did make an effort to keep the characters similar to their original look. The backdrops have much to be desired and the animation itself is very low end. The dubbing in English is pretty awful.

They do keep to the storyline, the one where Dracula is worshipped by a Satanist cult and they did not shy away from the more shocking elements including a little nudity. What really did shake me was they included Dracula's newborn baby son getting shot in the face! I have NO idea who this project was aimed at. Certainly not Saturday morning kid show audiences and it's a little too kiddy looking for teenagers. 

All in all I would say if you are a "Tomb of Dracula" fan it is worth a look, otherwise it might confuse the hell out of you. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

Vampira and Me (2012) directed by Ray Greene

The character created by Miala Nurmi in the 1950s did not bring her riches in the end but it did give the world an iconic creature that was often copied or referenced by many others right up until present day. Though she borrowed her look from the comic version of Mortician Addams, she took that look and gave it a voice, including a blood curdling scream.

The documentary does a great job taking the character away and replacing it with the real person behind it. The fact that Greene was personal friends with her for years gave him the chance to get deeper than anyone else could have ever been and his interview with her is amazing and we get a rare look into the real life of what we have only known as a camp icon. She was an amazing woman and actress that should have had a long, varied career but ended in abject poverty instead. We learn of her friendship with James Dean and how she ended up in Ed Wood’s trash classics Plan 9 From Outer Space. If you never heard of her before, this film will still hold your interest and leave you with nothing but respect for her. 

There are a few quibbles that I have with the doc, but they are really minor. It starts or with some lower end graphics that I think take away from the rest but they are dipped quickly and Greene does am admirable job making the most of a subject with only minutes of damaged footage and some publicity shots surviving. 

While her life ended on a mostly happy note, the movies touched briefly on her attempt to sue the people behind the “Elvira mistress of the dark” character which she had some influence in creating but ultimately lost, even though, much as I love Cassandra Peterson, Nurmi had every right to profit from what was truly an updating of her ground break work in the 50s.