Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Bram Stoker's Dracula (5 Stars)

This film is often referred to as "Dracula", but its full name gives a more accurate impression of what the film is about. When Francis Ford Coppola decide to make the film in the 1990's there were already two iconic figures of Dracula known to moviegoers worldwide. Bela Lugosi and Chistopher Lee are very different, in appearance and character, but both symbolise Dracula. Bela Lugosi is charming and evil, Chistopher Lee is just evil. Coppola justified making a new Dracula film by saying "Everyone knows the films, but nobody has read the book. I want to bring the book to the big screen". When the actors met to make the film he made them spend the first two days reading the book. They sat round a table taking turns reading the book aloud. This gave them a feel for the original work, which he wanted to reproduce on screen as accurately as possible.

What strikes me most, as someone who has seen many adaptations of the Dracula story, is the romantic poignancy. From the very beginning scenes we develop sympathy, even affection for Dracula. We can feel for Mina, played to perfection by Winona Ryder, as the young girl torn between two men. In other adaptations she is hypnotised by Dracula; in this film she feels a genuine romantic attachment to him. The casting throughout is perfect. I wouldn't have picked Gary Oldman, but after watching the film he's obviously the best possible choice. Even Keanu Reeves slots perfectly into the role of the dull legal assistant Jonathan Harker.

Though based on the book, Coppola borrows imagery from Friedrich Murnau's "Nosferatu". Some of the dialog spoken in the castle is borrowed from Bela Lugosi's 1931 film. This imitation is always done respectfully, without a hint of parody. "Steal from the best" is a good motto. The film has a gothic feel to it, though less overbearing than Hammer's Dracula films. In my opinion this is the best adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel so far, and it's the film that's set the bar for future films.

P.S. This is my horror film #14 for November. I need to pick something extra special for tomorrow, since it's Halloween. This film would have been a good climax. It's difficult to follow.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

We are the night (5 Stars)

If you can never die, what is there to live for?

This is my horror film #13 for October. I've disqualified "The Ninth Gate" from the list. My mistake. I wanted to watch 20 films, but I probably won't get there now. Maybe I should just try for 15?

I already reviewed the film when I watched it in March. I don't want to repeat myself, so check out the link. If anything I enjoyed the film even more the second time. This time I paid more attention to the love triangle and the romantic nuances. Luise and Tom both love Lena, and she has to choose between them.

The film has only recently been released on DVD in England. It's in the stores now. On the cover it says "Lost Boys meets Twilight". I chuckled at that rather trite description, but it's not so inaccurate. The Berlin vampire coven is very much like a high society version of "Lost Boys". The girls live in a luxury hotel, not a cave, but they live for thrills in the same way. And it's a human-vampire romance, like "Twilight", but with the genders reversed.

This is the best vampire film that's been made for years. I've seen mixed reviews on other web sites. If I understand the reviewers correctly, they were disappointed because the film wasn't what they expected. It doesn't glamorize vampires. Their skin doesn't shine like diamonds. They're not all bad either. They're not heartless monsters like Dracula in the Hammer films. They're very practical. They don't kill people because they're evil, they just do it because they need the blood.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The Ninth Gate (5 Stars)

This should have been my horror film #13 for October, but it looks like I got my genres mixed up. On watching again I realised that it's not a horror, it's a supernatural thriller. Nevertheless, it's one of my favorite ever films, so it was worth watching again. And writing about.

I was fortunate enough to see this film in the cinema when it was first released in 2000. It was the film that first made me appreciate Johnny Depp as an actor. Depp plays Dean Corso, a shady book dealer in New York. Within the first five minutes we see examples of his devious business tricks and we hate him already. Corso is hired by millionaire book collector Boris Balkan (Frank Langella) to track down copies of a rare book called "The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows". Only three copies are known still to exist. Balkan has one copy, but he suspects the other two are fakes, so he lends Corso his copy to compare with the other two which are currently in Portugal and France.

So far it sounds dull, doesn't it? Corso himself thinks of this as a routine job, until people around him are killed and his own life is threatened in an attempt to steal the book. A mystery woman follows him from America to Europe, protecting him from harm. At first he thinks she has been hired by Balkan, but he soon discovers that she has her own agenda.

Other reviewers compare this film with "Rosemary's Baby". I don't really see why. Both films were directed by Roman Polanski, and both films deal with the supernatural, but that's where the similarity ends. Whereas the supernatural element is blatant in "Rosemary's Baby", in "The Ninth Gate" it isn't until close to the end of the film that we find out that supernatural powers really are at work, they're not just the imagination of Balkan and the other book collectors.

It was a brave move by Polanski to make the film's main character someone unpleasant. Johnny Depp plays the role of the anti-hero to perfection. Early on he's jokingly referred to as a "book detective", but this is what he is in the film. He's like the detective in film noir movies, but he's not investigating a murder, he's investigating books.

Click here to view the trailer.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Music Video: Santa Hates You, Nothing's gonna be alright

This is something I haven't done in this blog before. Posting a music video. Maybe I'll do it more often, maybe not. I'll leave it for you, my loyal readers, to decide. My favorite group, Santa Hates You, released their fourth album last month. It's very exciting, so I hope you will all check it out. This video is definitely on topic for my Halloween horror month.

P.S. Play it loud, preferably over headphones.

Horsemen of the Apocalypse (4 Stars)

This is my horror film #12 for October. In America the title of the film is simply "Horsemen". While "Glass House" is a cross between a horror and a thriller, this film is a cross between a detective story and a horror. Its strength lies in the mixture of the two genres. The film is directed Jonas Akerlund who is better known as a director of controversial music videos, in particular for Rammstein, Madonna and Lady Gaga.

Dennis Quaid plays Aidan Breslin, a police detective struggling to be a single father since losing his wife to cancer. His children, Alex (16) and Shaun (7) feel neglected, because he is always being called away on an urgent case when he's promised to spend time with them. I think the city where the action takes place is Chicago. Maybe one of my readers who recognises the skyline can verify this.

A farmer outside of the city finds a bowl full of teeth on a frozen lake. On surrounding trees the words "Come and see" are written in blood. Aidan is called to the scene since he is an expert in dental forensics. No body is found, but the teeth are identified as belonging to a man already reported missing. In quick succesion two murders take place in which the victim is found suspended from hooks surrounded by the words "Come and see". Aidan realises that the killings have a connection to the four horsemen of the apocalypse in the prophecies of Revelation 6 and expects a fourth killing. Kristin Spitz, the daughter of one of the victims, produces the unborn baby that she has removed from her mother's womb and confesses to the killing. For her being arrested is a game, because it gives her an opportunity to play with the men interrogating her. She announces proudly that the killings will continue without her until Hell on Earth ensues.

This is a powerful drama with many chilling moments making it worthy of being classified as a horror. The final explanation of the mystery is weaker than the story leading up to it. For me the most impressive person in the film is Ziyi Zhang who plays Kristin. She's pure evil while remaining stunningly beautiful.

Click here to view the trailer. After watching it you'll be determined to see the film.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Shiver of the Vampires (4½ Stars)

This is my horror film #11 for October. It's a film made in 1971 by the undisputed king of vampire films, Jean Rollin. This was his third vampire film after "The Rape of the Vampire" and "The Nude Vampire". The imagery is stunning from beginning to end. In this film he also experiments with psychedelic music that sounds very mid-60's-ish. As far as I remember this is the only film in which he used this type of music for the soundtrack.

Antoine and Isle have just got married. Isle is still in her wedding dress. They're driving to Italy on her honeymoon, but Isle wants to make a detour to the castle where her cousins live, who she hasn't seen since she was a young girl. She has vague memories of them being strange but interesting. Later in the film we find out the reason for their strangeness: they are vampire hunters. Or at least they used to be. Since Isle last saw them they failed to kill a vampiress and have become vampires themselves. They now share their castle with three vampiresses.

Isle is obviously an old-fashioned girl who has remained a virgin until marriage. The marriage is never consummated. On the wedding night she leaves her husband to follow one of the vampiresses, who then becomes her lover. Antoine then has to fight to win his wife back.

This is a film that you will either love or hate, like all films made by Jean Rollin. The plot is complex and not easy to follow. With the exception of the two cousins, the vampires hardly speak. The strength of the film is in the visual beauty and the moods created. It takes place in a beautiful castle outside a beautiful village and surrounded by beautiful scenery. And the beautiful vampiresses frequently lose their clothes. I consider Jean Rollin to have been a genius. His films can't be easily categorised because nobody else has ever made films like him.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Off-Topic: What must be said about Günter Grass

I wonder how many of my readers have heard of Günter Grass. Though widely unknown in the English speaking world, he's regarded as Germany's greatest author alive today. He has written many novels, poems and plays. In 1999 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. "The Tin Drum", a film based on his first novel, won an Oscar as the Best Foreign Language Film in 1979. He is known as a left wing thinker who criticises Germany's Nazi past, but in the last few years his reputation has been tarnished. In 2006 he confessed that he had been a member of the SS from 1944 to 1945. Then in 2012 he wrote a poem, "What must be said" ("Was gesagt werden muss"), that was first published in a major German newspaper on April 4th. In this poem he openly attacks the state of Israel.

This poem stirred up controversy in Germany. Grass became the hero of Germany's far right overnight. He was declared a persona non grata by Israel and forbidden entry to their country, despite having been a frequent visitor in the past. He held press conferences to defend himself against charges of anti-semitism, but nobody took his excuses seriously.

I planned to write a blog post about the poem in April when the topic was still hot, but decided against it. Most of my readers are from America, and the scandal poem had barely been mentioned in the press. Besides, I thought Grass would come to his senses and retract the poem. But no. In a live radio interview this week for his 85th birthday he once more attacked Israel, calling it an "unchecked nuclear power" and an "occupying force". This is why I can't remain silent any more. I have to take a stand and give my opinion.

Here is the English translation as printed in The Guardian on April 5th. The original German text follows at the end of this post.

What must be said

Why have I kept silent, held back so long,
on something openly practised in
war games, at the end of which those of us
who survive will at best be footnotes?

It's the alleged right to a first strike
that could destroy an Iranian people
subjugated by a loudmouth
and gathered in organized rallies,
because an atom bomb may be being
developed within his arc of power.

Yet why do I hesitate to name
that other land in which
for years – although kept secret –
a growing nuclear power has existed
beyond supervision or verification,
subject to no inspection of any kind?

This general silence on the facts,
before which my own silence has bowed,
seems to me a troubling, enforced lie,
leading to a likely punishment
the moment it's broken:
the verdict "Anti-semitism" falls easily.

But now that my own country,
brought in time after time
for questioning about its own crimes,
profound and beyond compare,
has delivered yet another submarine to Israel,
(in what is purely a business transaction,
though glibly declared an act of reparation),
whose speciality consists in its ability
to direct nuclear warheads toward
an area in which not a single atom bomb
has yet been proved to exist, its feared
existence proof enough, I'll say what must be said.

But why have I kept silent till now?
Because I thought my own origins,
tarnished by a stain that can never be removed,
meant I could not expect Israel, a land
to which I am, and always will be, attached,
to accept this open declaration of the truth.

Why only now, grown old,
and with what ink remains, do I say:
Israel's atomic power endangers
an already fragile world peace?
Because what must be said
may be too late tomorrow;
and because – burdened enough as Germans –
we may be providing material for a crime
that is foreseeable, so that our complicity
will not be expunged by any
of the usual excuses.

And granted: I've broken my silence
because I'm sick of the West's hypocrisy;
and I hope too that many may be freed
from their silence, may demand
that those responsible for the open danger
we face renounce the use of force,
may insist that the governments of
both Iran and Israel allow an international authority
free and open inspection of
the nuclear potential and capability of both.

No other course offers help
to Israelis and Palestinians alike,
to all those living side by side in enmity
in this region occupied by illusions,
and ultimately, to all of us.

My English readers might find this text flat and unpoetic and assume that the poetic style has been lost in the translation. I assure you that this is not the case. My German readers can verify that the text has none of the characteristics that would define it as a poem. The lines don't rhyme. There is no sentence rhythm. There is no alliteration. The only thing that makes it look like a poem is the irregular line breaks. If this text had been presented in class by a German schoolboy it would be rated a Fail. It has no artistic quality whatsoever. It is merely a political rant by a confused old man.

Now please don't get me wrong. I am a strong believer in free speech. Everyone should have the right to voice his opinion. I too don't hesitate to criticise certain people, organisations or countries. But this is a special case. Due to their history, Germans should be very careful before criticising Israel. Günter Grass especially should have the common sense to realise that as an ex-Nazi he is disqualified from uttering statements against Israel. The only reason he left the Nazi Party is because Germany lost the war. If Germany had won he would still be a Nazi today, and he would be writing anti-semitic poems for the government. He asks at the beginning of the poem why he kept silent so long. I can answer that for him. When he was younger he had enough understanding to know he should keep his thoughts to himself. Now that he's older his mental faculties are failing and he doesn't even realise how bad his statements are. He thinks that hiding his opinions behind flowery language makes them somehow good.

To talk about the subject matter of the poem itself, does Israel have the right to defend itself against Iran? Yes it does. But self-defence doesn't mean sitting back and waiting to be attacked. The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has repeatedly stated that Israel should be wiped off the face of the map. Israel has the right to make a pre-emptive strike against Iran if this is the best way to save lives.

Modern rhetoric by Moslems and other anti-semitic groups claims that the Jews occupy land that has been stolen from the Palestinians. But the opposite is the case. Israel is a country that has belonged to the Jews for over 3000 years. It was stolen by the Arabs, and now the Jews are reclaiming it. But that doesn't mean that I support Israel unconditionally. The successive governments since 1948 have made many mistakes, mostly caused by striving to be a secular state. When Israel was founded as a unified state in 1006 BC it was a country based around the religion of its people. The leniency towards the Palestinians is the main reason for their problems. To quote from Numbers 33:51-55

"When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places. Take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given you the land to possess. But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land, those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides. They will give you trouble in the land where you will live."

I'm not a Jew, but it's obvious to me that this prophecy has been fulfilled. The Palestinians have not been expelled from Israel, and the high places have not been demolished. Israel should have torn down the Al-Aqsa Mosque years ago. Until this is done Israel will never have peace.
Günter Grass says in his poem that he is writing this poem "mit letzter Tinte", with his last ink. I sincerely hope that it was his last poem. We certainly don't want to hear any more from him. It's time for him to retire, before he ruins his reputation as a writer altogether.

Was gesagt werden muss

Warum schweige ich, verschweige zu lange,
was offensichtlich ist und in Planspielen
geübt wurde, an deren Ende als Überlebende
wir allenfalls Fußnoten sind?

Es ist das behauptete Recht auf den Erstschlag,
der das von einem Maulhelden unterjochte
und zum organisierten Jubel gelenkte
iranische Volk auslöschen könnte,
weil in dessen Machtbereich der Bau
einer Atombombe vermutet wird.

Doch warum untersage ich mir,
jenes andere Land beim Namen zu nennen,
in dem seit Jahren - wenn auch geheimgehalten -
ein wachsend nukleares Potential verfügbar
aber außer Kontrolle, weil keiner Prüfung
zugänglich ist?

Das allgemeine Verschweigen dieses Tatbestandes,
dem sich mein Schweigen untergeordnet hat,
empfinde ich als belastende Lüge
und Zwang, der Strafe in Aussicht stellt,
sobald er mißachtet wird;
das Verdikt "Antisemitismus" ist geläufig.

Jetzt aber, weil aus meinem Land,
das von ureigenen Verbrechen,
die ohne Vergleich sind,
Mal um Mal eingeholt und zur Rede gestellt wird,
wiederum und rein geschäftsmäßig, wenn auch
mit flinker Lippe als Wiedergutmachung deklariert,
ein weiteres U-Boot nach Israel
geliefert werden soll, dessen Spezialität
darin besteht, allesvernichtende Sprengköpfe
dorthin lenken zu können, wo die Existenz
einer einzigen Atombombe unbewiesen ist,
doch als Befürchtung von Beweiskraft sein will,
sage ich, was gesagt werden muß.

Warum aber schwieg ich bislang?
Weil ich meinte, meine Herkunft,
die von nie zu tilgendem Makel behaftet ist,
verbiete, diese Tatsache als ausgesprochene Wahrheit
dem Land Israel, dem ich verbunden bin
und bleiben will, zuzumuten.

Warum sage ich jetzt erst,
gealtert und mit letzter Tinte:
Die Atommacht Israel gefährdet
den ohnehin brüchigen Weltfrieden?
Weil gesagt werden muß,
was schon morgen zu spät sein könnte;
auch weil wir - als Deutsche belastet genug -
Zulieferer eines Verbrechens werden könnten,
das voraussehbar ist, weshalb unsere Mitschuld
durch keine der üblichen Ausreden

Und zugegeben: ich schweige nicht mehr,
weil ich der Heuchelei des Westens
überdrüssig bin; zudem ist zu hoffen,
es mögen sich viele vom Schweigen befreien,
den Verursacher der erkennbaren Gefahr
zum Verzicht auf Gewalt auffordern und
gleichfalls darauf bestehen,
daß eine unbehinderte und permanente Kontrolle
des israelischen atomaren Potentials
und der iranischen Atomanlagen
durch eine internationale Instanz
von den Regierungen beider Länder zugelassen wird.

Nur so ist allen, den Israelis und Palästinensern,
mehr noch, allen Menschen, die in dieser
vom Wahn okkupierten Region
dicht bei dicht verfeindet leben
und letztlich auch uns zu helfen.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Glass House (4 Stars)

This is my horror film #10 for October. Though marketed as a horror, it could be called a thriller. It's something halfway between the two. Usually when people talk about a "horror film" they think of a supernatural terror, or a seemingly invulnerable killer. "Glass House" is a more down to Earth horror film. It's about two children caught up in a situation they're helpless to escape from.

Ruby is 16, her brother Rhett is 11. They have kind and loving parents. One day their parents are killed in a car accident. The will puts them into the care of Terry and Erin Glass, friends who had lived next door to their parents 10 years ago. They are respectable people -- Terry owns a car maintenance company and his wife is a doctor -- but the children soon find out that they are trapped in a hostile environment.

The film stars Leelee Sobieski as Ruby and Stellan Skarsgard as Terry. Leelee is by far my favorite actress, ever since her roles as a teenager, and Stellan is also an actor I greatly admire. They play off one another perfectly as enemies in the film. Maybe after Halloween I should have a Leelee Sobieski month. I'll consider it.

Click here to view the trailer.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Female Vampire (3½ Stars)

This is my horror film #9 for October. Made in 1973, it's an unusual film by the Spanish director Jess Franco, famous for his horror and erotic films. Or a mixture of the two, as in this case. The original title was "The Devourers", but it's been released with many titles, such as "The Black Countess" and "Erotikill". "Female Vampire" is the name of its current release.

The film takes place on the island of Madeira. Countess Irina Karlstein, played by the stunningly beautiful Lina Romay, is a mute vampiress who walks around the island naked looking for men for sex and blood. Needless to say, she finds many willing victims, and the series of dead bodies alerts the island's police force. As the film poster above shows, she also kills women, but this seems to be an exception; in the film the only woman she kills is a reporter who has discovered she is a vampire. A mysterious stranger then arrives on the island who claims that he is destined to remain with the Countess forever.

In many ways this film is similar to the psychedelic imagery of Jean Rollin's films. What we see is more important than the plot itself. That is my main problem with the film. Rollin's films are at least comprehensible. This film leaves too many aspects unexplained. It isn't a bad film, but it's not a great film either. Fans of erotic vampire stories should check out Rollin's films instead.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Young Frankenstein (5 Stars)

Mel Brooks is probably best known for having written and directed "Blazing Saddles", but I consider this to be his best film. In fact, from a technical viewpoint I consider this to be the best parody film ever made. The atmosphere, the music, the cast and the situations are accurately mimicked from the 1930 Frankenstein films, but to perfect comic effect. Anyone who knows and loves the originals will be unable to stop laughing when he watches "Young Frankenstein".

The film was made in 1974, and this seems to be when the action took place, even though there is a retro style to the American scenes (the university and the train station). Gene Wilder plays the grandson of Victor von Frankenstein, a scientist trying to deny his past. His dramatic over-acting when he discovers his grandfather's notes, and as a consequence discovers himself, is unparallelled genius. He's always been a competent actor, but this is the peak of his career. Also worth mentioning is Marty Feldman, who plays the hunchback Igor in one of his few film roles.

There's no need to describe the plot. Anyone who knows the American Frankenstein films will be able to guess what happens next throughout the film.

P.S. This is my horror film #7 for October.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Nosferatu (5 Stars)

This is my horror film #6 for October, and it's a real classic. I'm reviewing the original 1922 version of "Nosferatu", not the 1979 remake by Walter Herzog. This is a landmark in film history. It was the first vampire film ever made, and one of the first full length horror films. And yet it's only by luck that the film has survived till today.

German director F. W. Murnau wanted to film Bram Stoker's "Dracula" novel, but couldn't get permission from Stoker's widow. She was probably biased against Germany after the Great War of 1914-1918. For this reason a screenplay was written that didn't mention Dracula. The vampire was Count Orlok from Transylvania, and the hapless real estate agent that he captured was Hutter who lived on the north coast of Germany with his wife Ellen. There was a madman who ate flies called Knock. The story was simplified -- it contains no equivalent of Lucy and her suitors -- but it was still too similar to Bram Stoker's novel for his widow to remain happy. She took the matter to court, and after a series of appeals and counter-appeals it was decreed that all prints of the film should be destroyed. Fortunately one copy of the film survived and was later found in a warehouse in London.

This film is incredible. It pushes the boundaries of what is possible in a silent film. It's amazing that the use of light and shadow for mood effects was so advanced in the early days of film making.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Julia's Eyes (4½ Stars)

This is my horror film #5 for October. I bought it on a friend's recommendation without even seeing a trailer for it, so I didn't know what to expect. But I have to say, it's an incredible film. It's one of the most terrifying films I've ever seen. Its strength is built up on suspense, and it has just enough gore to give it an additional shock element.

Julia and Sara are twin sisters. They both suffer from a degenerative eye disease. Sara's condition is more advanced, and she is the first to become blind. Unable to cope with her situation, she hangs herself in her cellar.

Though miles away, Julia feels Sara's death. Together with her husband she finds Sara's body. Since she suspects that there is more to the death than a simple suicide, she remains in the house to investigate. Julia's own eyesight becomes progressively worse, and at the same time she senses that someone is watching her, taking advantage of her poor eyesight. When her husband also commits suicide, hanging himself from the same rope, she becomes certain that someone or something is stalking her.

Brilliant. I've deducted half a star for the red herrings in the mystery, which I find out of place. Overall this is a five star film. And it's a difficult film to follow. What shall I watch tomorrow?

Click here to view the trailer.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Scream XXX (3½ Stars)

This is the second film in my October horror month. Or maybe the fourth film. I only decided to watch a series of horror films yesterday, but I had already watched "Tamara" and "Strippers vs Werewolves". It's a matter of definition.

"Scream XXX" isn't directed by Axel Braun, but as executive producer his influence is visible, even though the camerawork is rougher than what he would have delivered us. This film really is a parody, but that is what is to be expected from a film about a parody. It follows the metafilm structure of "Scream 2" and "Scream 3". We see the adventures of the cast, called by their real names, trying to make a film while being murdered one by one by an unknown killer. In many cases we don't know whether what we see is happening inside or outside the film until the camera pulls back and we see the camera crew.

A good film, though not up to the standard of those directed by Axel Braun himself.

Click here to view the trailer.

This ain't Dracula XXX (4½ Stars)

Today a friend of mine told me that she watches horror films every day in October to build up to Halloween. I don't know whether I'll watch a horror film every single day, but I'll definitely watch more than usual this month. I'm starting today with Axel Braun's version of the Dracula story. I've lost count of how many times the original Bram Stoker story has been remade. At least 50 times already, in so many different forms, from F. W. Murnau's "Nosferatu" to today. It's the most filmed story ever. Visually this film leans towards Francis Ford Coppola's 1992 version.

Evan Stone gives a masterful performance as Count Dracula. In my eyes he is more impressive than Gary Oldman. His love scene with Mina in Renfield's cell is the tenderest performance I have ever seen from him. He kisses and caresses her before he removes her gown to have sex. The first scene where the three brides seduce Jonathan Harker in his sleep is the sexiest vampire scene I've ever seen.

As I've mentioned when reviewing other films directed by Axel Braun, his films are called parodies, but that's the wrong word to describe them. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a parody is "a literary or musical work in which the style of an author or work is closely imitated for comic effect or in ridicule". There is no element of comedy or ridicule in this; the film is a respectful homage to vampire films of the past, but with additional sex scenes. Maybe the reason for calling it a parody is that parodies can copy other pieces of work without being guilty of copyright infringement?

This is a film for all vampire fans, whether or not you like pornography. Brilliant!

Click here to view the trailer.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Unknown (5 Stars)

This is one of the most exciting films I've seen for a long time. It's a perfect mix of action, suspense and mystery.

Dr. Martin Harris, an American biotechnology professor played by Liam Neeson, travels to Berlin with his wife for a scientific conference. On arriving at the hotel he realises that he forgot to pick up one of his suitcases from the airport, so he leaves his wife behind to take a taxi back to the airport. On the way he's involved in a traffic accident and is in a coma for four days. He returns to the hotel as quickly as possible. His wife doesn't recognise him. She's in the company of another man who claims to be her husband. He can't prove who he is because he has lost all his papers in the accident. The stranger doesn't just have papers to prove who he is, he also knows all about his scientific work.

Eventually Martin begins to think he's crazy and returns to the hospital for treatment, but while he's there someone tries to kill him, and even kills the nurse who tries to protect him. This makes him sure that something is happening, so he hires a private detective to prove that he really is who he thinks he is.

Although the film is in English, most of the cast are top German actors such as Bruno Ganz, Sebastian Koch and Diane Kruger. This is a brilliant film, and the final explanation will come as a a total surprise. The viewers will also feel the terror of being lost in a foreign country with no identification and being denied by your wife and friends.

Click here to view the trailer.

The Return (2 Stars)

I've been a fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar ever since her days in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", and I really want to see something good from her, but she has the knack of picking poor films. "The Return" is a mess. It attempts to build up suspense, but it's spoilt by an unintelligible plot with too many sidetracks and a final plot twist that doesn't really make sense.

When Joanna Mills was 11 and lived in Texas she was separated from her father in a fairground and was scared by a mysterious man. She is so traumatised by this that when she was older she moved as far as she could away from Texas. Now that she's 25 she works as a sales rep for a truck company and has to return to Texas for a job. She takes the opportunity to return to her home town. There she meets the mystery man again. And a creepy man who tries to rape her after she rejects his advances in a bar. And another mystery man who saves her, and then tells her he's been wrongly accused of killing his wife. And then Joanna has visions of his wife. Confusing? Yes. Disappointing? Very. Come on, Sarah, you can find better films than this.

Click here to view the trailer.

Strippers vs Werewolves (3 Stars)

Scott and Lucy are a young couple who are keeping secrets from one another. Lucy hasn't told her boyfriend she's a stripper. Scott hasn't told his girlfriend he's a werewolf.

One day Lucy is dressed up as a sexy schoolgirl giving a private dance when the customer turns into a werewolf. Lucy does what comes naturally: she pokes her school pen into his eye with enough force to pierce his brain. Since it's made of silver it kills him. The local werewolf gang decides she has to die, which puts Scott in a difficult position. Eventually a full scale battle breaks out when the werewolves attack the strip club.

This British film has a lot of promise. It features outstanding actors like Billy Murray, Martin Kemp, Sarah Douglas and Robert Englund. I find it's spoilt by the chaotic film editing, especially in the first half of the film. We keep jumping from one scene to another and back for no apparent reason. Despite being set in a strip club there is only very occasional nudity. It could have been better.

Click here to view the trailer.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Reservoir Dogs (5 Stars)

This is a film that's impossible to adequately describe to anyone who hasn't seen it. It doesn't slot into any of the usual film genres. It's a fim about a diamond robbery, but the actual robbery is never shown. We only see the events that happen before and afterwards. The majority of the film takes part in the claustrophobic atmosphere of a warehouse the gang use as a hideout after the robbery. They know they have a traitor in their midst who tipped off the police, and they argue with one another who it was. Sounds boring? Believe me, it isn't. This was the first film that Quentin Tarantino directed, and his strength is in character development. The conversations between the main characters are more important (and often more entertaining) than the action itself. Hotheaded Mr. Blonde (Steve Buscemi) and the cool pragmatist Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) bounce off one another in the face of the psychopathic Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen).

I feel I should write more about this film, but I don't know what to say. In my opinion it's a classic that film fans will still be talking about 100 years from now.

Click here to view the trailer, even though it fails to give a good impression of the film.

Red State (4½ Stars)

Three teenage boys, all virgins, meet a middle-aged woman online who says she wants a foursome with them. But as they say, if something seems too good to be true it probably is. When they arrive in the woman's trailer she drugs them, and they wake up in a church building where the charismatic preacher is talking to his congregation about sin. The three boys have sinned, so they will receive their punishment from God by being executed. One of the boys escapes just long enough to call the police, but the church visitors are heavily armed and it turns into a siege.

Although there is a certain amount of action, especially towards the end, the film's strength is in the character development. The acting is first rate throughout, and the viewer has no difficulty understanding the characters and their motivation. The outstanding actor is Michael Parks who plays the role of the preacher. Quentin Tarantino calls him the world's best actor, and his performance in this film makes me see why.

It's obvious that writer/director Kevin Smith had David Koresh and the 1993 storming of Waco on his mind when he made this film, but doesn't push the comparison down our throats. Some people might not like the film because it's slow in parts, especially the extended sermon. I consider it a masterpiece.

I highly recommend that you watch the trailer.Unlike many other trailers, it gives a realistic summary of the film without giving away too much of the plot.

Tamara (3 Stars)

This is a perfect example of a deceptive film poster. What do you expect when you see the picture above? A film about a pretty girl who gets revenge on her enemies by walking round school chopping them up with an axe? That's certainly what I expected. Not even close.

Tamara is a high school plain Jane who has a crush on her English teacher. She casts a love spell to win his love. Her classmates find out about her crush and play a cruel prank on her, making her think he's interested in her. The prank results in a fight and they accidentally kill her. They bury her in the woods, but a side effect of the carelessly cast love spell is that she comes back to life, stunningly beautiful and cruel. She now has powers of hypnotism, which she uses to make her classmates and other enemies kill themselves.

When the film started it seemed like a clone of "Carrie". When Tamara turned sexy I enjoyed it even more. But the main negatives for me were the gore. Some people might like images of kids cutting their own tongues out, but it makes me sick. That's the main reason for the relatively low rating I've given it. If you don't mind gore, take a look at it.

Click here to view the trailer.