Dracula 2000; or Captain Von Trapp, Vampire Slayer; or THIS IS TRANSYLVANIAAA!

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Blood Thirsty Thursdays, where we watch films that are crucifix, holy water, and garlic heavy! You join your reviewers, Andy and  Lilly, as they try to find sanctified ground to use for a hide out until dawn.

Today’s film offering: Dracula 2000

Lilly: Oh my gosh, guys, you have no idea how long I’ve been wanting someone else to have seen this film. Like anyone else. I’ve been holding in my childish glee over it for years. Sixteen, in fact. Well. More like fourteen, since I tried to watch it, rented it and all, and then got scared so didn’t try again for another two years. True story!

Andy: Also true: my IT teacher when I was in Year 8 had the poster for this movie on his wall, and that was my only exposure to this film until today.

Lilly: Anyway.

Dracula 2000 is the story of a robbery gone wrong when it is discovered what a mysterious Mr. Van Helsing (oh ho hoooo) has been keeping in his private vaults is a certain member of the undead. Dracula! Yes! And oh, by the way, Mr. Van Helsing isn’t the grandson of Abraham, he IS Abraham. And Johnny Lee Miller is around. Oh, and then there is this girl, Mary, who keeps seeing Dracula in her dreams (when he is played by Gerard Butler, what is the problem there?), oh, oh oh, and there is a gang of thieves, and–well. It’s great, people. Think of every plot you could have tied to Dracula, and Wes Craven clearly already thought of it and put it in this film.

Andy: Yep, we’re back in the comforting arms of Mr. Craven, who when I pointed out he was probably Lilly’s favourite horror director, she responded “Huh. So he is.”

Lilly: Okay, all my excitement aside, I actually really like this film. First of all, Dracula. I have my favourites (Richard Roxburgh in Van Helsing and Keith Lee Castle in Young Dracula)–

Andy: What, no Christopher Lee? What is this?

Lilly: …but Gerard Butler brings up a close third with his predator romantic traitor take on the Count. There is some fantastic moments of showcasing his power, such as a cameraman watching the person he is filming get scratched along the neck to only realize Dracula is standing there once he pulls away from his camera–because vampires don’t show up on film! Get it! AhIloveit.

Secondly, throwbacks to the book. At the beginning, Mr.Van Helsing makes a joke about his grandfather not being worth a character created by some ‘Irishman’. But once it is evident everything is real, it kicks off! Van Helsing’s building is called Carfax, the main character has a roommate named Lucy, a Dr. Seward shows up, and the ways to kill vampires are narrowed down to the basics–silver or wooden stake to the heart, beheading. Boom. Vampire Basics 101.

The tone of the film definitely works with the topic matter–there are some over the top action sequences tied in with some over the top sex scenes and romancing between Dracula and Mary, and then there is the last third of the film, with scenes that just completely kick you in the face with plot, imagery, and twists.

Andy: And If I can talk about the twist for a second without spoiling it…

Lilly: SPOILER SPOILER WATCH FOR A SPOILER OR SKIP THIS BIT.

Andy: What…

Lilly: Oh. No spoiler? FALSE ALARM. NO SPOILER. DON’T SKIP THIS BIT.

Andy: Anyway. There are some films where you feel like you should have seen the twists coming. Of course, Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are the same person! Of course, Bruce Willis is dead! Then there are others that come so far out of left field that there is no way you could have seen them coming.

Then there is this film.

It has a twist of such BATSHIT insanity that I laughed, yelled ‘WHAT!’, and felt impressed all at the same time. The movie, unfortunately, is not quite good enough to pull it off, but you’ve got to admire the sheer balls it took to make the decision to go in that direction. Seriously.

Lilly: Globe sized balls, really. And that twist is actually why I figured people wouldn’t like it, why I never really pushed it on others. And I’m not wrong, I don’t think. You got to be willing to really commit to that twist to be a fan of Dracula 2000, and that’s hard.

Andy: I would say it’s worth watching for the twist alone, but for the casual vampire fan there’s not as much new going on, other than a cool Dracula and a couple of cool scenes. The scene where his coffin first opens manages to be spectacularly creepy in a genuine way – something surprisingly rare for a Dracula movie. It’s certainly entertaining. And Christopher Plummer’s in it! Brilliant.

As for downsides, I can rattle them off pretty quickly – the soundtrack mostly sucks, filled with absolutely godawful nu-metal from twenty years back; there are definitely some actresses in here that suck (pun intended); it doesn’t do a very good job of exploring the few new aspects of vampire lore it does introduce aaand that’s about it. Although there are also possibly a few too many shots of people being thrown across rooms into things or through windows. It happens all the time for some reason.

Lilly: There are actors that suck, too, of course, but the women get to last longer because sex appeal. Which I can’t complain about since Gerard Butler is shirtless for a lot of the film for no reason, which I’m thankful for, so. Equal opportunity objectification? Yay? And yeah, the soundtrack doesn’t really help the film–at one point, you are hoping the music playing is just some shitty party mix they are walking by while wandering the streets of New Orleans.

Andy: But that twist though. What a ludicrous thing to run into. It’s like walking into someone’s bathroom and finding a jetski in the tub.

Lilly: Go, watch, en–wait, what?

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A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night; or shomâ fârsi sohbat mekunid?

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Blood Thirsty Thursdays, where hopefully only the vampires suck.  You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they settle in to watch their first Farsi-Vampire-Romance-Western.  

Today’s film offering: A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Lilly: The first vampire film to be set in a Middle-Eastern setting (though filmed in California), A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is the story of the inhabitants of Bad City, a run down ghost town in Iran that is deader than the protagonist of the film, a vampire known only as ‘the girl’ in the credits. Shot in black and white and featuring subtitles (Persian is used for the dialogue, unsurprisingly), it stands out not just for its rarity but for its approach to the vampire on film, especially the female vampire.

Andy: Which are fairly rare anyway, at least alone. The only vampire film I can think of off the top of my head with all-female vampires is Brides of Dracula, and even they only exist in the title in relation to a male character – one that’s been dead since the last movie!

Lilly: Hey now, don’t forget Daughters of Darkness (Andy: Oh yeah!) . But you’re right, they are super rare, and if they are around, you are more likely to come across Vampira types than the variation you see in male vampires, from Nosferatu to that Cullen Boy. Instead of vampy fashion and stereo-typically sexy attire, this vampire wears a chādor and a striped shirt, eyes lined with black and lips a dark red (well, one guesses, as it is a black and white film) that seems more of a move to ‘fit in’ than to attract. The fourth most sexualized character in the film–I see you, Arash (the male lead), with your James Dean looks and tight trousers–she actually blends in while standing out. The only other female we see wearing a chādor is wearing a colourfully printed one, even.

Andy: Not to mention it actually makes a vampire threatening again. We’ve been over-exposed to both the Eastern European aristocrat and the waifish fop – now we’ve got someone in Middle Eastern attire lurking in shadows and attacking people – something that is somewhat coded as threatening in the modern Western world anyway. Who wants to ask themselves uncomfortable questions?

Lilly: While the depiction of the undead is shook up a bit, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night features some of the basic tropes of a vampire tale. However, while you usually get the point of view of the person who is falling in love with the vampire (who is usually female because chicks love fangs, amirite?), this film works between the two points of view of ‘The Girl’ and Arash, a put upon son of a junkie father who tries to work with what is dealt to him. ‘The Girl’ remains mysterious (who is she? How old is she? What does she want?) and almost mischievous at times while still, as Andy mentioned, bringing the threatening air at just the right moments.

Andy:Or to put it another way, she pootles around on a skateboard and then can appear RIGHT BEHIND YOU.

There is a plot to this movie, but it’s much more about tone and mood than anything that actually happens. There’s a slow, meditative quality to the whole thing, and many scenes are open to multiple interpretations. It’s, like, deep man. I mean, in a poverty-ridden city with oil derricks as far as the eye can see and a hell of a drug problem, is a vampire really the worst thing lurking in the streets?

Of course, if you’re more into shocks and thrills and violence, this probably isn’t for you. But if you want to watch something that truly defies genre, you should definitely check this out.

Lilly: There is a lot to be said for this film, and for once, I don’t desperately want to spoil it with details discussed. For this review, I think the simple fact that it is so different should be a reason you give it a chance. Go, watch, and enjoy!

Only Lovers Left Alive; or Carpe Noctem

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to another edition of Blood Thirsty Thursday, where we review films featuring characters who suck…blood. You join your reviewers, Andy and Lilly, as they sit around and reminisce about when humankind really went wrong.

Today’s film offering: Only Lovers Left Alive

Lilly: You all have no idea how long I’ve been trying to get Andy to watch this film. I’m not entirely sure I didn’t suggest the theme of vampires for Thursday just so I’d have an excuse. Ever since it was announced Tilda Swinton (yesss) and Tom Hiddleston (Hiddleyesss) were going to be in a vampire film, I was on board. But. I don’t have to convince him to watch it anymore, now it is you lot I have to work on, so! Here we go!

Andy: It’s worth starting out mentioning that this film is really, really good. Really good. I should have watched it some time ago. It may be my favourite new film I’ve seen this year. 

Lilly: Only Lovers Left Alive is the story of two vampires who have spent their immortal lives intertwined, living together and apart all while desperately, deeply in love. Their relationship is compared to Einstein’s “spukhafte Fernwirkung” or “spooky action at a distance” entanglement theory. These vampires are intellectual romantics and the film does not shy away from that. And while Adam reminds you of the melancholic vampires of Interview with the Vampire (see our review from last week!), the main difference is that he suffers depression not due to his love for humanity and his desire to grasp onto it, but rather the opposite. He detests humans (or ‘zombies’ as he refers to them) and doesn’t want to put up with them anymore. Yes, this is the story of a vampire who wants to end it all–and apparently not for the first time has this desire struck.

Andy: It’s actually a very good representation on film of depression. He doesn’t want to die because he’s sad; he wants to die because he feels nothing any more. Ennui and disaffection have seeped into his soul, and he’s stuck in a rut, to put it mildly.

Lilly: The mirror opposite and perfect fit for Adam is Eve (aha, get it?), a vampire who loves life, engages with her environment, and, while she acknowledges the world can be difficult, sees life as something to cherished. She can have that view and not be contradictory due to the fact that vampires in this world don’t need to feed off the blood of innocents and drain them dry–in fact, a small glass of blood, practically a shot, seems to do them well. She even comments at one point that draining a human dry and killing them is ‘13th century’ of a vampire to do. So not civilized. Love it.

Andy: Plus this is one of the very small number of films to show immortality being done right. If you had all the time in the world, of course you would speak a dozen languages, play a dozen different instruments and read The Temple of the Golden Pavilion in the original Kanji script. I mean, I would. What you do with your eternal lifespan is your business.

Lilly: So, if it’s not obvious, I really enjoyed this film. Unlike some vampire films that explore immortality (seelastweeksreview) with a sort of lazy ache about missing out on human experiences, this one seamlessly moves between the two viewpoints of the protagonists. Adam doesn’t want to be alive anymore because the zombies around him are so aggravating while Eve embraces life of all sorts and faces each night with a fresh new curiosity to explore. And either viewpoint seems valid, really, the optimism and pessimism of living forever perfectly explored.

Andy: Yes. It’s so, so good to see a movie that doesn’t conflate vampirism with nihilism. That’s one of the reasons myself and many vampire movies may not have got on. As the great philosopher Harvey Danger once said, if you’re bored, then you’re boring.

Lilly: And oh, the beauty of the film! Using shots that echo drug use scenes in Trainspotting for when they feed, the visual of what it is like to drink blood in this universe is captured in expressions of satisfaction and ecstasy. Long shots of beautifully chaotic rooms, Eve’s costume designs, suitcases full of books–Yes, yes, yes. If that is what being a vampire is, sign me up.

The mythology of the vampires is also intriguing. Their eyes are made to glow unnaturally, so they wear shades. They have hands cold as death, so they wear gloves. They do not have to be invited in, but it is considered ‘bad luck’ to cross a threshold uninvited. Wooden stakes are still a threat, and fast movement is a staple that isn’t left out. Then there is the very interesting use of dreams to ‘call out’ to other vampires, the appearance of Eve’s sister in not only her dreams, but Adam’s (plus their friend Kit’s, or rather, Christopher Marlowe, played by John Hurt) is a sign she is looking for them. Beautiful. I love it. They have lived forever, so name drop names like Tesla, Byron, Shakespeare. Of course! And why not! Throw in the drama about blood being more and more contaminated due to the environment humans are living in, so vampires have to seek out the ‘good stuff’ from specialised doctors, and well. Yes, please, thank you, please.

To sum up (because otherwise I would go on about this for ages), as said before, we both really enjoyed this movie, so go, find it, watch it, enjoy!

Interview with the Vampire; or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Night

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Hello and Hallo-welcome to Thirsty for Blood Thursdays, where our brave bloggers will be facing the children of the night (and whatever music they might make). You join your reviewer, Lilly, as she settles down to have a chat with a melancholy member of the undead–what could go wrong?

Today’s film offering: Interview with the Vampire

Lilly: Imagine you’re a reporter, looking for a story, looking for a lead, looking for anything that could make your dismal existence exciting again, to make it worth getting up in the morning. You are out one night, having a drink to make things that much less dull when you stumble upon a man like no other. And is he a man at all, with his pale skin and long nails, eyes shining brightly in the dim streetlights?

Andy: I’m assuming you mean he’s a vampire and not a sex wor…

Lilly: Whoops! Sorry, I think I got some of the film’s melodramatic atmosphere on me. Bit carried away there. And shoo, you aren’t even part of this review! Shoo!

Today’s film, Interview with the Vampire, is one near and dear to my heart. Just as Andy is the resident zombie fan, I’m Hallowfest’s vampire groupie, and this is one of the heavy hitters in the world of vampire cinema. Before we get to talking about the film, I do want to make a quick little note here: while this film does feature vampires and blood and all that fun stuff, I’d be more likely to put it into the gothic category than horror. It’s decadent and romantic and full of death, and that’s pretty much textbook gothic right there.

Interview with the Vampire is the story of Louis Pointe du Lac, a melancholy member of the undead portrayed by the magnificently maned Brad Pitt. It follows his life from the beginning of his life as a vampire, found at the pointy end of the fang of Lestat (or the oddly cast Tom Cruise, who, production lore says, had to stand on boxes to give off the tall, demanding air of the vampire when in the room with the actually tall Pitt). We see him change from a morose human to an even more morose vampire (you apparently don’t only get hotter as a vampire, you get more introspectively sad) as he blunders along, trying to understand the world with the less-than-understanding Lestat as his guide. We learn very early on that Louis’ maker isn’t the best at teaching (it’s a hard job, okay?) and soon, once the honeymoon period wears off, their relationship becomes antagonistic. In an attempt to make Louis happy, and to make him stay at his side, Lestat makes him a little friend. Enter Claudia (or the very teensy Kirsten Dunst).

Now, I keep name dropping because this is a horror film, my gothic labelling aside, that had some big names in it. Christian Slater is the aforementioned reporter! Antonio Banderas even shows up after his success in Philadelphia. Tom Cruise was still bankable, Brad Pitt was wanted–I mean, seriously. That’s impressive for a vampire film. And their performances are not phoned in. Even teensy Kirsten Dunst (who snagged her first kiss from Pitt! From Pitt! Jealous.) is excellent as a child growing up yet staying the same physically, and all the mental angst that causes. There is real weight to every performance that you don’t always get in a film that features vampires. It’s like they know the motivation of the characters beyond ‘be vampires’ or something. And the Ricean vampires are definitely layered, so this cast had a job. And they managed it.

Interview is a great example of a book-to-film adaption, as well. I try to veer away from comparing books to films since they aren’t the same thing, duh, but if one were to read The Vampire Chronicles novels, you’d get the same sort of atmosphere in the novels as you find in this film. It’s decadent, it’s homoerotic, and it treats the story as one not of vampires but of creatures trying to adapt and survive who happen to be vampires. It’s over the top, but then, so is the existence of vampires–it is above and beyond that of a human. The film really captures that with the music, the costuming, the ambience, the Brad Pitt. Plus, you don’t need to know the vampires and their lore well, as the film covers most questions one might have about them (how they die, how they live, etc.) throughout it through the maker/made relationship between Lestat and Louis. I know this because Andy asked the questions to have them answered within five to ten minutes of each film interruption. 

The thing is, I think Interview with the Vampire is more along the lines of films like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil then Twilight or Underworld, where the vampires are less monsters that eat people and more monsters who were people (who now eat people). You hear me?

Andy: No.

Lilly: Oh my gosh, shoo already! Go. Andy will be back later in the month with his opinions on this film, but not. Right. Now.

Andy: Oh.

Lilly: I preach the gospel of the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles novels whenever I can, and laud Queen of the Damned (even if it was a messed up jumble of a story that didn’t match the Ricean universe really at all, ssh) and Interview with the Vampire is no different. If you are into vampires, and enjoy a bit of introspection in your walking undead, then do give this film a watch. Also, you get to see so much gasping sex faces as Brad and Tom give and take blood, and can you complain about that?

Andy: Well–

Lilly: Nope! I can’t and this is my review, so there! Go, watch, enjoy!