Saturday, October 31, 2009


I just saw a movie the other day that I did not, by any stretch of the imagination, expect to like. But it would be more than a worthy addition to my list of vampire movies that don't suck.

Vampire in Brooklyn should be an awful movie. It has 11% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 4.3 on IMDB. It has Eddie Murphy in it, a man whose movies are alternatively comedic masterpieces or soul-crushingly dreadful. It's directed by the similarly hit-and-miss Wes Craven (who, despite being the horror director who gave the world Scream trilogy and the Nightmare on Elm Street series also gave us Cursed and the original iterations of The Hills Have Eyes and Last House on the Left.) It's a horror-romance-comedy about a Carribean vampire who is hunting for one woman to keep his race alive. It has Murphy inhabiting multiple rolls (the vampire, a preacher, and an Italian mafioso.)

This isn't a masterpiece, but it's a good vampire movie. I really enjoyed it, and I think you should give it a chance. It's currently on HBO, and is on demand, and I bet any reputable DVD rental source should have a copy sitting somewhere. It isn't as awful to watch, as say, Norbit, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, or any other number of bad Eddie Murphy movies that one can immediately think of offhand...


Happy Halloween everybody, goblins and ghouls, courtesy of Son of Double Feature!

In my previous post, I mentioned F.W. Murnau's classic 1922 film Nosferatu. While doing some research on a new spec screenplay (I might post details after I get a draft together and register it with the WGA) I found out that Nosferatu is in the public domain in the United States.

I found this through And now, without further adieu, Nosferatu!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Top 11 Vampire Movies That Don’t Suck

In honor of the re-appropriated pagan fertility festival-turned-candy frenzy known as Halloween, and the 13 days of Halloween reviews going on at 11 Word Movie Reviews, I have decided to put together a list of my favorite 11 vampire movies.

I’m going to immediately note that Twilight isn’t on this list. Although Stephanie Meyer’s Romeo and Juliet with sparkly bloodsucking undead is very popular with the kids right now, it’s literally defanged a lot of the menace of the vampire in fiction. Where once the horror of a creature that infects its victims with an uncontrollable lust that consumes its life and destroys those around it, has been thoroughly sanitized and presented as benign or (overly) sympathetic. This is not to say Twilight isn’t a fine dark fantasy romantic melodrama, but the vampiric Cullen clan could have easily been mutants or demons than the walking dead, and a lot of the flavor and weaknesses of the vampire have been tweaked or outright forgotten, so I don’t think of it as a particularly good example of vampire movies.

But the Twilight brood isn’t the only example of watered-down vampires, be they cereal mascots:

Vegetarian duck vampires:

Count Duckula actually has very little to do with this article. I just like him.

And, of course, we can’t forget when Leslie Nielsen was Dracula: Dead and Loving It:

The vampire story, overall, is so ingrained in the contemporary mindset, most films (and TV series) are variations on the theme, or mocked for comedy (like the example above, and some below.) A lot of the rankings here have to do with technical quality and personal preference than anything else.

Here are 11 good movies that capture the terror (and perhaps, the comedic neuroses) that come from being one of the children of the night:

11. Interview with the Vampire

Interview was the pendulum swing that sent popular culture to the romantic vampire. With famously handsome actors like Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise it’s of little surprise this happened. It’s actually a very engaging movie, and brought about the big resurgence of vampire fiction in the early 90’s (which more than a few of my friends were into.)

10. Once Bitten

Jim Carrey became an A-list star after Ace Ventura, but few remember his pre-In Living Color career. Mostly with good reason. (That’s unkind, I actually really like Earth Girls are Easy.) Once Bitten in hindsight feels like someone desperately trying to paddle after the Teen Wolf wave, in which teenaged Carrey is threatened with vampirism by a seductive (what we would call now) cougar. It’s not so much wacky as it is a teen-friendly pseudo-comedy about vampires.

9. 30 Days of Night

I believe the in 30 Second Reenacted by Bunnies did this far better than I could ever hope to.

8. Nosferatu: Phantom Der Nacht

An adaptation of F.W. Murnau’s classic, Klaus Kinski gives an amazing performance as the titular bloodsucker. Werner Herzog is one of the bolder German directors out there, and he manages to find quite a lot of thematic material to work with here.

7. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust


Dark, visceral, fun. ‘Nuff said.

6. Blackula

I have a soft spot in my heart for exploitation movies. So in the little Venn diagram of my fascination with horror and my love of exploitation movies (amongst many other topics,) Blackula falls square in the middle. It has action, adventure, romance, and black vampires! Ok, really, all it has is black vampires. But still, I like it.

5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Joss Whedon is my hero.

That is all.

4. Nosferatu

If we’re going to talk about German Expressionism, this is one of the movies I’d actually want to discuss. F.W. Murnau is one of the best directors to come out of the movement and this is my favorite. Nosferatu is so dark and moody and complex that it really manages to hit all the emotional notes while trying really hard not to pay the Bram Stoker estate anything.

3. Dracula (1992)

Not a lot of people have affection for the Coppola version. I’ve expressed how awesome I think Gary Oldman is before, and will leave it at that. And, barring Keanu Reeve’s kind of minimalist accent, the movie is quite strong and a very faithful adaptation. It’s got great production values, good script, and a lot of amazing performances.

2. Shadow of the Vampire

Take the concept “What if Max Schrek, who played Nosferatu in the Murnau movie, really was a vampire?” and bring in some of the finest American actors of our time (and Willem Dafoe, sorry Willem,) and what do you get? Simply put, a great movie.

1. Dracula (1933)

Okay, honestly, did you expect anything else but this? It’s the quintessential vampire movie. Bela Lugosi’s best performance, and it’s nothing short of inspired. It’s probably the reason we as a culture on occasion go batty for vampires.

So, if you’re going to catch The Vampire’s Assistant, watch True Blood or Vampire Diaries, or catch the Twilight sequel New Moon, here are 11 vampire movies that are pretty choice...

But you don’t have to take MY word for it. DA DUN DUN!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fever Night

Fever Night
(aka A Band of Satanic Outsiders)

Initial Disclaimer: This movie was produced by some fellow UCSB alumni, and very good friends of mine. I’m going to try my best to be objective and think of this outside of my prior relationship to the filmmakers, but, just in case I ever smack of favoritism, keep that in mind.

Initial Tangent: Support local and indie filmmakers! See small unknown movies, even if they aren’t by your friends.

I’ve reviewed some questionable horror films on this blog in the past. Fever Night (Schrader and Harris, 2009) is definitely not questionable in terms of scope, ambition, or general production skill. The story deals with three friends getting lost in the woods and their encounters with strange and disturbing forces of darkness. It evokes the same ‘70’s B-Movie exploitation aesthetic tapped in Grindhouse, up to and including the 1970s Warner Bros logo. But, like the aforementioned Tarentino-Rodriguez collab, it brings a lot more to the table to literate film afficionados.

Although to anyone thinking about it, the choices of locations, amount of actors, and general production aesthetic scream low budget, it definitely doesn’t seem like it was shot on the cheap. The visuals were crisp and very aesthetically pleasing (or displeasing as was required,) the soundtrack was great, and the cast generally gave great performances.

The script for me is a mixed bag. The dialogue and characterization are great, and there are some very interesting payoffs and structuring devices used. However, I feel parts of it for me got lost, possibly in editing; I was at times genuinely confused about just what I was seeing and what was supposed to be going on. However, it was not the bad kind of confused that makes me want to stop watching the movie, but definitely kept me intrigued for more. I’m still not entirely sure what happened in parts of the movie, but it kept my interest and kept me emotionally involved, if confused.

So, if Fever Night is playing in a theater near you, I’d wholeheartedly recommend it, especially if you’re a big exploitation horror buff. It’s a loving tribute, and you can definitely sense the affection towards the source influences. Overall, I’d give it a B.