Challenge Totals to Date:
Movies Watched Today: 3
Total Movies Watched: 37
Total First Time Views: 10
Amount raised: $266.40
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LCC K9 COMFORT DOGS, sponsored by Mark Matzke
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Van Helsing (2004) d. Sommers, Stephen (USA) (2nd viewing) 132 min
A thundering, crashing exhibition of bloated Hollywood razzle dazzle that missteps so many times there must have been a bet on. Writer/director Sommers, who previously exhibited (relative) good sense reworking classic movie monsters in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns, operates here under the assumption that more is more and ye gods, is he ever off the mark. Turning the dignified vampire expert into wisecracking action hero Hugh Jackman was a dubious call to begin with, but we soon learn that he doesn’t limit his bounty hunting to the bloodsuckers. Heck, he’ll hunt anything that was ever in Universal’s film vaults, including Frankenstein’s Monster, Igor, werewolves, vampirettes, and the big baddie himself, Dracula. (If he could have found the Invisible Man, he probably would have taken a poke at him, too.) A whirling fizzle of special effects, convoluted plot, substandard wire-work, cartoonish CGI, and lame one-liners, this is an affront to classic horror fans everywhere, showing no respect for the past and no inspiration in the present. Kate Beckinsale is fetching but vapid in her corset and tight pants, Richard Roxburgh plays the head undead as a sullen shrieking bore, and Jackman wrestles with his costumes and curiously futuristic firepower. That sound you hear is Edward Van Sloan and Peter Cushing rolling over in their graves. Rest easy, boys.
The Squad (2011) d. Marquez, Jaime Osorio (Argentina/Spain/Colombia) (1st viewing) 107 min
A premise with promise is nothing without proper execution. That’s the lesson to be learned from this exercise in military horror, one that covers nary an inch of fresh ground that GP 506, The Bunker, Deathwatch, The Objective, and any number of its cinematic band of brothers haven’t already explored with varying degrees of success. The titular squad of soldiers seizes a deserted Colombian guard-post only to discover that their former comrades have been brutally and mysteriously slain, the only survivor being a terrified mute woman. Again, a solid jumping off place, but Marquez spends the next 90 minutes abusing his depth-of-field lenses (seriously, if I had a nickel for every tracking shot with someone’s head in the center of the frame and blurry shapes in a halo around him, I’d have the budget for another, better movie), and narratively running in place and around in circles. There are sporadic moments of violence, amidst the brow furrowing and jaw tensing tedium, as the squad is predictably whittled down, but mostly I was just waiting for something – anything – to happen. The closing credits stinger hints at what might have been a more interesting film, but as it stands, this is a 30-minute Twilight Zone episode padded out to a near two-hour running time. It’s also a bit disheartening that Marquez can’t be bothered to reveal anything about his characters such that we might, oh, care what happens to them, focusing instead on pumping up the fog machines and keeping the lights dim. Bleah.
Horror of Dracula (1958) d. Fisher, Terence (UK) (5th viewing) 82 min
The success of Hammer’s Curse of Frankenstein update made a redux of Universal’s other “Dark Twin” a foregone conclusion, and with its fresh injection of sex, blood and vampirism, Horror of Dracula announced itself as a landmark horror film, cementing Lee’s status as a rising star. As the bloodsucking Count, his formidable screen presence and striking physical prowess are well put to use, creating a Dracula that is by turns courtly, shocking, seductive, vicious, charming, and terrifying. Lee is well matched by top-billed Cushing’s charismatic turn as Van Helsing, a man as proficient with a tourniquet as he is with a hammer, stake, or a pair of candlesticks. Director Fisher keeps the action moving along nicely, and the climactic chase through Castle Dracula is probably the most exciting and memorable climax to any vampire film, full stop. With James Bernard’s epic score pounding away, Cushing and Lee leap over stairs and tables, flinging themselves at each other like two young swashbucklers. Shattering box office records around the globe, the film was so successful that distributors Universal-International gave over the remake rights to all their classic horror characters. The floodgates open, Hammer spent the next two decades sating fans’ newfound taste for flesh and blood with sequels, remakes, variations on classic tales, and Psycho-inspired b/w thrillers. . .many starring Lee, the original Tall Man.