Fright Night (1985) review

Fright Night posterDirector: Tom Holland

Starring: William Ragsdale, Chris Sarandon, Amanda Bearse, Roddy McDowall, Stephen Geoffreys, Jonathan Stark, Dorothy Fielding

“I have just been fired because nobody wants to see vampire killers anymore, or vampires either. Apparently all they want to see are demented madmen running around in ski masks, hacking up young virgins.” (Peter Vincent, Fright Night)

The classic Dracula films aside, my favourite vampire movies are the ones set in the present day, taking an ancient monster thats often hundreds of years old and putting them in a modern setting.

No, I’m not talking about that. You wash your mouth out.

I’m talking about stuff like The Lost Boys, Near Dark and Vampire In Brooklyn. Okay, not that last one either.

The point I’m struggling to make here is that Fright Night is great. Well, that could have gone better. Continue reading “Fright Night (1985) review”

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The Creeps (1997) review

The Creeps posterDirector: Charles Band

Starring: Rhonda Griffin, Justin Lauer, Bill Moynihan, Jon Simanton

“You’re history, you little pervert! No, you’re archaeology, as in old garbage!” (Anna, The Creeps)

Full Moon Pictures is one of my favourite B-movie horror studios. Established in the 1980s, it was well-known among horror fans for its cheesy low-budget efforts.

Some, like Puppet Master and Subspecies, were so popular they went on to spawn their own multi-sequel franchises. Others, like Dollman – in which an intergalactic bounty hunter crashlands on space only to realise he’s ten inches tall – weren’t.

Full Moon continues to this day, and while most of its recent output retains all of the cheese, it leaves out most of the charm. Titles like The Gingerdead Man and Dangerous Worry Dolls sound like they should be superb slices of low-budget larks (well, they do to me at least) but ultimately they end up in the TWABM Hall Of Shame.

A great example of how it used to be is The Creeps, a Full Moon pishfest that was given a DVD re-release this week. Continue reading “The Creeps (1997) review”

The Lost Boys (1987) review

The Lost BoysDirector: Joel Schumacher

Starring: Corey Haim, Corey Feldman, Jason Patric, Kiefer Sutherland, Dianne Wiest, Jami Gertz

“Look at your reflection in the mirror. You’re a creature of the night, Michael, just like out of a comic book! You’re a vampire, Michael! My own brother: a goddamn, shit-sucking vampire. You wait ’til mom finds out, buddy!” (Sam, The Lost Boys)

If you want to see how to do a teenage vampire movie properly, here’s a handy guide. Step one – take the Twilight films (either DVD or Blu-ray format). Step two – shove them right up your arse. Step three – watch The Lost Boys instead.

It may be 25 years old now but The Lost Boys is still a fantastic film, with a superb script and a brilliant ’80s rock soundtrack. It’s telling that of the many “teens as vampires” movies released since, only a tiny handful of films (such as Near Dark) have come close to matching it for quality.

The Lost Boys
“Hmm? Oh, um, we’re just taking our girlfriends to bed. No, they’re just sleeping. They definitely haven’t been drugged or anything, HAHAHAHAHA.”

It tells the story of Sam Emerson (Corey Haim), whose parents’ divorce sees him moving to the small beach town of Santa Carla along with his mum and brother Michael (Jason Patric). Eager to get involved with the local nightlife, Sam and Michael go to a party where Michael becomes enamored with a girl called Star.

Unfortunately, Star hangs around with a dodgy crowd, a crowd who don’t like the daylight, if you catch my drift. They’re not fans of garlic, if you get me. They can’t see themselves in mirrors, if you follow what I’m saying. They’re fucking vampires. So, in an attempt to get in with the in crowd (led by a young Kiefer Sutherland) and win Star’s heart, Michael decides to join the gang and become a vampire too. Continue reading “The Lost Boys (1987) review”

Twilight (2008)

Director: Catherine Hardwicke

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

“I hate you for making me want you so much.” (Edward, Twilight)

I’ve spoken of my dislike of a Twilight film before when my girlfriend dragged me to see Breaking Dawn Volume 1, but since then said girlfriend has become a fiancée and as such the values of compromise, sharing and such bollocks are reinforced more than ever. It’s for this reason then that I was recently sat down in front of Twilight, the first film in the interminable Twilight saga and the only one I hadn’t had the “pleasure” of seeing yet. Needless to say, my thoughts on the series haven’t changed after watching this 110-minute prologue.

Not everyone has nearly two hours to watch a bunch of fannies jumping about and pretending to be vampires, so I’ve decided to present you with a slightly rewritten version of the Twilight script. I’ve basically taken out all the needless romance stuff and left you with the core story. Enjoy.  Continue reading “Twilight (2008)”

The Monster Squad (1987)

Director: Fred Dekker

Starring: Andre Gower, Duncan Regehr, Tom Noonan

“The Creature stole my Twinkie.” (Eugene, The Monster Squad)

Kids’ films in the 1980s were much better than they are today. They had an edge to them, a realism that most of today’s films are too scared to address. You only need to look at Spielberg’s 2002 re-release of ET, in which he digitally removed the guns being held by the agents and replaced them with walkie-talkies. In short, today’s children’s movies are for pussies.

Anyone who’s recently watched The Goonies will know exactly what I mean. The kids in that film acted realistically, they had an attitude, they got into nasty scrapes, they wanted to see women’s boobs, they make fun of the fat kid, and every now and then they’ll swear to sound tough (but only in each other’s company, mind, never when an adult’s around). It felt real. Ditto, then, with The Monster Squad, a similar film of that era which for some odd reason never gained the same cult following as that other much-loved “group of kids go on an adventure” movie.  Continue reading “The Monster Squad (1987)”

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 (2011)

Director: Bill Condon

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

“No measure of time with you will be long enough. But we’ll start with forever.” (Edward, Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1)

There’s a scene in Breaking Dawn where Jacob, the miserable hormonal werewolf, tells Edward, the miserable hormonal vampire: “I know how this ends, and I’m not stickin’ around to watch”. I wish I had that luxury.

You see, I love my girlfriend, and part of what makes our relationship so strong is our ability to compromise. She puts up with it as I make her watch a slew of shite horror films and I put up with her love of Sailor Moon, SpongeBob Squarepants, The X Factor and Twilight (don’t worry, she likes other stuff too, fortunately). The latter thankfully doesn’t affect me too much – the only time I have to put up with it is when the latest Twilight film hits the cinema. It’s for this reason I was made to watch Breaking Dawn.

"There's nothing like a good game of chess, that's what I always say"

Much like Jacob, then, I too know how this is going to end – I’ve already had the plot of the book explained to me in unnecessary detail and already I know how Part 2 goes – but unlike Jacob, my relationship means I won’t be able to avoid it. And if it’s going to be anything like Part 1, I’d better bring the sleeping pills.

Before I continue, a disclaimer: I am in no way a Twilight fan. I never saw the first film, then met my girlfriend and was subsequently dragged to (and struggled through) the last two. I have no doubt fans of the series will adore this film and weep openly throughout, after which they’ll run home and weep hysterically a little more as they cut their hair off and stick it on their homemade Jacob and Edward voodoo dolls. But I’m trying to judge it on its own merits.

"I've got to stop them playing chess. Hopefully this poster saying CHESS IS SHIT will do the trick"

While it would have been perfectly possible to fit Breaking Dawn into one film, it seems the studio behind it wanted to do a Harry Potter and spilt the film into two for the simple reason it’ll make them double the money. What we have, then, is the first two acts of the story stretched over an excruciating two hours, with more padding than that in the bras of its target audience.

Yawn! As a wedding scene lasts half an hour, complete with the longest “you may kiss the bride” moment in cinematic history. Struggle! As you endure a needlessly lengthy honeymoon scene complete with a white-hot montage featuring at least three scenes where Bella and Edward play chess for a bit. Sigh! As Bella gurns, looks gormless and bites her lip so often you wonder if she isn’t already practising to be a vampire.

"Don't worry, I don't believe what they're saying about chess either"

Incidentally, speaking of Bella and Edward, it’s understandable that Twilight is aimed at a teenage audience, because watching the on-screen relationship between actors Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson reminds me a lot of my own teenage school days – it’s awkward, it’s painful and (because of the subjects I chose) there’s no chemistry.

Anyway, after what has to be a whole fucking hour of wedding and honeymoon nothingness, the story finally progresses when Bella finds herself up the duff with some sort of mutant baby. Cue another 40 minutes of her looking deathly ill while the vampires look at her, then look at each other, then look back at her again, interspersed with bits where moany Jacob grudgingly chats with moany Edward then argues with the other werewolves who keep threatening to fuck up the vampires but take ages to actually go through with it.

I could go on and on, but I’m actually getting angry as I type this, and I just keep remembering ridiculous things. The scene where the werewolves all meet on a beachfront and argue with each other, in shoddy CGI werewolf form, without even opening their mouths. The numerous scenes where Edward zips around really quickly – while swimming, while walking through the woods, while packing his fucking suitcase – just to remind the audience he’s a vampire because otherwise he gets to do the best part of fuck all vampire-related.

"I fucking love chess, me"

The “fight” between the vampires and the werewolves, which takes place in the dark, lasts about two minutes and is so filled with jump cuts it’s impossible to tell what’s going on. Or the fact that the film is literally fifteen seconds old before Jacob once again peels his shirt off to appease the swooning teen audience.

The film’s one saving grace is the final scene, which admittedly is excellent and a fantastic way to end the film, and the story as a whole in fact. I’d much rather a line was drawn under it at this point, but of course we still have to deal with another whole film showing Bella coming to terms with her new situation, no doubt moping about for another two hours doing very little.

Breaking Dawn Part 1 is 110 minutes of piffle followed by 10 minutes of relatively interesting goings-on. Perhaps the best compliment I could give it is that it helped me understand how it must feel to be a vampire, because as I watched this mindless, over-long drivel I too felt dead inside.

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Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992)

Director: Fran Kuzul

Starring: Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, Luke Perry, Paul Reubens

“I’m the chosen one. And I choose to be shopping.” (Buffy, Buffy The Vampire Slayer)

Long before Buffy The Vampire Slayer became one of the most popular television shows of recent times, there was the Buffy movie. With a different tone, different storyline and different characters, the only real connection was that both were about a teenager who discovers she’s been chosen to fight vampires who are trying to destroy the world. While the TV series is undeniably better than the movie, there’s still some fun to be had here.

The investor's request for a bigger stake in the movie was misunderstood slightly

Buffy (Swanson) is your typical popular high school kid. She’s head of the cheerleading squad, all the lads fancy her and she spends her weekends at the mall with her clique of Clueless-a-like friends. Buffy’s perfectly content in her little bubble until it’s burst by Merrick, a well-spoken gent played by the legendary Donald Sutherland. Merrick reckons Buffy is the chosen one, the one to save the world from the impending attack of Lothos, master of the vampires. At first she’s not having it, but after getting in a few scraps she ultimately accepts her destiny and sets about kicking some vampire arses in the hope of sorting things out in time for prom.

"I don't care if he does have a wealthy family, I'm not marrying Dead Jeff"

The most interesting thing about Buffy these days is the number of big names in its cast (many of whom weren’t big at the time, of course). Look! It’s a young Hilary Swank (pre-Oscar) in Buffy’s group of chums! Look really quickly! It’s an even younger Ben Affleck (pre-Oscar) in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cameo. Look once more! It’s David Arquette (pre-WCW Championship belt) getting bitten and turning into a shit vampire.

And that’s just the good guys. Among the vampires are cult legend Rutger Hauer who appears as Lothos, the head of the vampires, and proceeds to chew as much of the scenery as he can find in a fantastically over-the-top performance. Meanwhile, the ‘bizarre casting decision’ award goes to Paul “Pee Wee Herman” Reubens as Lothos’ right-hand man. Seeing Pee Wee try to play it serious as a long-haired vampire is a very odd experience though he ultimately fails to play it straight right through to the end of the movie, leading to one of the most memorable death scenes in cinematic history. Sort of.

Dave Grohl wasn't a fan of Buffy's jacket

While it has a different feel, different cast and different plot to the TV series that followed it, Buffy does at least share one crucial element with its serialised sibling – Joss Whedon. As his first major writing credit before going on to do Firefly, Serenity and of course the Buffy TV series, Buffy’s dialogue is a little shaky at times these days but certainly fits the era it’s from, showcasing Whedon’s knack for capturing teenage sarcasm perfectly. In any other movie Buffy would be an irritating character but here it seems to work, primarily because of the entertaining words Whedon puts in her mouth.

Even if you’ve never seen the TV series, Buffy is an interesting little curio that’s worth a watch. It’s very much trapped in the early ’90s (except for Luke Perry, whose fashion sense was probably odd at the time but seems strangely stylish now 20 years later), but it’s a quirky film that deserves to stand on its own without the shadow of its far more successful offspring looming over it.