Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bloodstone: Subspecies II (1993)


If you are like me, and I know I am, then you were filled with the desire to know more about the infamous Bloodstone introduced in the “hit” film Subspecies. So when the sequel was unleashed on the direct to video market there was much rejoicing. Not only would we find out more about this mysterious arcane object, but we would also be treated to more tiny demons and of course more of the terrifying Radu. Well, let’s modify expectations a bit, because this film goes in an unexpected direction. Unless you watched Subspecies and said to yourself, “You know what this movie needs? Shatner!” then you are in for a treat.


Picking up right after the original film ends, Radu (Anders Hove) has a bit of a dilemma. His brother has decapitated him and stabbed him with a wooden stake. For any other vampire this would mean certain death. But Radu has the Subspecies at his command, and they pull his head close enough to his body so the spine can stretch out and reconnect everything in an admittedly cool looking effect. Radu rises and takes vengeance on his brother and nearly slaughters Michelle (Denice Duff taking over the role). But the sun interrupts his murder spree.

Michelle manages to escape Radu’s castle and makes for Bucharest, where she contacts her sister Rebecca (Melanie Shatner). But things don’t go quite as planned. You see, Radu is still pursuing Michelle because she has the Bloodstone, and because he created her, making her his fledging. Along the way he makes contact with his Mummy (Pamela Gordon) who gives him magical aid. Rebecca teams up with Mel (Kevin Spirtas) from the American consulate and the eccentric professor Popescu (Michael Denish). Can these three save Michelle’s tainted soul or is she doomed to walk the night forever with the Bloodstone?

Good Points:
  • Denice Duff does a good job portraying Michelle’s confusion and anguish as a new vampire.
  • The movie never takes itself too seriously, providing intentional and unintentional laughs
  • Location shooting in Romania gives the whole movie a unique feel

Bad Points:
  • The script is a mess, and character motivations are very hazy
  • Most of the scenes with Mummy are hilarious when they should be scary
  • Radu comes across as an idiot in this movie, an imposing idiot, but still an idiot


Bloodstone improves on the previous film in some ways and is worse in others. The final product is just as entertaining but for different reasons. This movie is much less serious and going for pure entertainment. Hove still goes for the gusto as Radu, but the script turns him into a bumbling idiot for half the running time. If you enjoyed the previous film, odds are you’ll have a good time with this one. Perfect October viewing if you are in the mood for cheesy vampire fun.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 3
Acting: 3
Script: 2
Music: 3
Direction: 3
Entertainment: 4
Total:  3

In Depth Review

Radu loves the night life. He loves to boogie in Bucharest.
Subspecies was going for a traditional gothic horror film set in modern times (the early 1990s in that case). But Bloodstone: Subspecies II is going for… um, well its not aiming totally for horror, because it is aware how cheesy it is and throws in quite a few laughs into the mix. It makes for a bit of muddled viewing experience, but one that is fun enough that you can forgive some of the missteps it makes.

One thing I really like about the film is that it is a direct continuation of the events and characters from the previous film. It almost feels like it is sticking closer to trashy horror novels or comic books in that way. Bloodstone literally starts minutes after the events of the previous film (the blood from Michelle’s dead friends is still wet on the floors of Radu’s castle). The events of this film occur over the course of a few days and it gives the film a bit of urgency.

"I'm telling you, Meatloaf stole my act!"
What helps this continuity work is Anders Hove back in the castle as Radu. Once again, Hove is all in with his performance. He is still horrific and intimidating as the fearsome vampire, looming into scenes, melting in and out of the darkness and drooling blood. Those eyes, damn are they malevolent. I’m probably going to say this in every review of the Subspecies films, but this series would have crashed and burned way sooner than it did if they didn’t have Hove as the primary antagonist. I love the way he savors each murder he is about to commit and his unleashed rage when he realizes that the Bloodstone was stolen from him. This is how a vampire should be.

Unfortunately the script doesn’t really help Hove out too much. Time and again Radu makes really dumb choices and could have easily avoided half the problems he runs into over the course of Bloodstone. I really wonder how much of this script was written days before filming, because it feels like with a bit more time and script tweaking, half of these issues could have been avoided.

Diaphanous gown? Check! You are ready to be the
vampirical bride.
Let’s just look at the first sequence in the castle as an example. So Radu is rescued by the Subspecies (in their only appearance in the film – what gives? Why name the film after them if they are barely in it? Rumor has it that the stop motion animation was too expensive to keep up, so they were dropped from the films entirely). Radu takes his revenge on Stephan (who is played by another actor who looks completely different from the original guy and is way older to boot). Now, Stephan was holding the Bloodstone, but Radu just leaves it there in the pile of slime and bones. He opens Michelle’s coffin and says “You are mine” and then proceeds to spend a good thirty seconds slowly raising his wooden stake and glowering. If he wanted her, why is threatening to kill her? Doesn’t matter because the sun comes through the window and Radu cries out in anguish and runs from the room – leaving the Bloodstone behind. Sure enough when it gets dark Michelle rises, grabs the Bloodstone and weeps a little over Stephan’s bones and her friend’s corpses. She then escapes from the castle as Radu sleeps in. You’d think the Subspecies would have woken him up or something.

The bloodstone gets and upgrade. Shame the
script didn't.
How to remedy this? Easy, have Radu kill Stephan (because seriously who cares about him, he was the weakest part of the first film), pick up the Bloodstone and gloat a bit. Then carry the stone over Michelle and taunt her with it, lording his power over her and the death of Stephan. You can even keep the “You’re mine.” line in there too. No need to threaten her with a stake. It also gives him an excuse to put the Bloodstone down next to her as he gloats in her face about his triumph, then the sun appears and he rushes off. All this keeps in character, is just as terrifying (if not more so) and allows Michelle to get a taste of the Bloodstone early on, so it makes sense why she keeps it throughout the movie.

See, I just made all that up after a few hours thought about the film. This is why I get the feeling that the messy script was written in a hurry right before filming. Because things like that happen all the way through the script and most of it impacts Radu in a negative way.

Vampire fledglings come running for the great taste
of saints' blood.
Time and again Radu is thwarted by stupid choices he makes. And as fearsome as he looks, he starts to become a less credible enemy, because he is so dumb. Again, with some script work you could have him in more of a fish out of water scenario where modern Bucharest befuddles his medieval mind and causes him to get distracted or confused. But none of that is really used either. Bloodstone seems more concerned with using him to loom in the shadows and glower, instead of actually building his character in a way that makes him a threat in the modern and medieval worlds.

Perhaps the worst offender of the weakening of Radu is the character of Mummy played with outrageous verve by Pamela Gordon. Looking like a combination of The Crypt Keeper and a deranged Mummy, the character is literally Radu’s mother. He keeps calling her, Mummy and gives her sheepish obedience. With these two actors chewing the scenery in their scenes you have some of the most entertaining sequences in the film. Mummy’s makeup effects are pretty good, she’s gross to look at, and devilishly amused by everything. But Radu’s total obedience to her reduces his fearsome nature. And the scenes are so funny that it is hard to take Mummy seriously as a threat to anyone.

Mummy gets down with her bad self.
Again with some script tweaking this character could have been something interesting and build on the horror of Radu. If he had used a spell to raise this mummified witch from the grave and have her serve him as a minion using her magic to find Michelle, or to grant him some kind of power this could have made sense. You could have kept her performance as outrageous, but dropped the mother-son dynamic and maybe even have her as a rival to Radu. Her actions to save him at the end of the film would make sense, if she was his servant and not a vampire. Anyway, Mummy is a fun character, and she adds a lot of humor to the film. It is just a shame it is at Radu’s expense.

That covers the villains of the movie, but how about our heroes? While I did like Laura Tate as Michelle in Subspecies, Denice Duff does a good job with the character in Bloodstone. She handles the desperation and fear that Michelle feels as her vampire instincts grow within her. After the events of the previous film, she is terrified of Radu (with good reason), so her constant paranoia that he is following her is handled well. I also like how Duff gives us that self-loathing at her desire for blood combined with the lust to kill. It’s a tricky mix of emotions but Duff does it well. Obscurus Lupa did give Duff some grief about crying so much in these movies, but I think it makes sense in Bloodstone. After all the shit she’s been through and dealing with now, I would think her emotions are a real mess.

"Vampires. Why did it have to be vampires?"
Melanie Shatner does a good job as the concerned sister and the newest damsel in distress as the film progresses. The movie doesn’t give her too much to work with other than concern for her sister and making googly eyes at Mel. But I do like how she has an open mind when it comes to the Romanian folklore about vampires. I also like the way she respects Professor Popescu, even when the old man keeps admitting that he is getting on in years and may not be remembering his vampire lore quite right. Shatner gives a solid performance, and would come back for Bloodlust: Subspecies III.

Fearless vampire slayers? Or posing for for the
Romanian travel brochure?
Spartas has a pretty flat role as Mel, but he does a decent job. He’s the solid hero type that falls for the cute girl. I do like how the script has him bail out near the end because it all gets too incredible and he doesn’t want to lose his job at the consulate if they find out he’s been “vampire slaying” with an old man and a cute girl. Michael Denish is pretty amusing as Professor Popescu, mixing the wise old mentor and doddering old man archetypes together in a fun character. He has some very funny interplay with Rebecca and Mel. Sometimes you think he really knows what he is talking about and then his eyes go a little mad, and you start to really wonder about him. There is also a subplot with Detective Marin played by Ion Haiduc. He’s mostly around to bumble his case and make jokes about learning his English from American cop shows. It’s another amusing character, but he kind of vanishes part way through.

Nothing brings the giggles like being evil and undead.
What annoys me about Bloodstone is the simple fact that you have this relic in the title and at times it seems like an important plot element with Radu chasing after this and Michelle coveting it. But really, it all comes to nothing. We don’t learn anything more about the Bloodstone, or what it does, or why everyone wants it (even Mummy). It just is there. At least the prop looks more impressive this time with a brass claw gripping the crystal push-pop. This feels like such a missed opportunity, the Bloodstone could have been developed into the crux of these films with Radu seeking it and unlocking its power. But it really is just a MacGuffin that goes nowhere.

Michelle stopped her blood drinking to call the
Castlevania hotline.
That said, there is a compelling story to be told in Bloodstone. Michelle as Radu’s fledging and her slow but eventually corruption should be the primary tale being told. And for the most part it is. Rebecca does hijack the film a bit with her antics with the three male characters. But when this movie really works it does because we follow Michelle in her flight from Radu, battling her cravings for blood, and eventually succumbing to her hunger and killing a heavy metal fan. Her disgust and fear of herself and eventual fear for her sister are handled really well. It also gives the Bloodstone a reason for being something Michelle needs. She can sate her hunger with the stone and not harm anyone doing it.

I also like the finale where Radu has captured Rebecca and threatens to destroy the sister in front of Michelle – severing her last link to humanity. A more interesting approach may have been to force Michelle to drink from Rebecca and by killing her sister destroying everything good within Michelle. But that is just my twisted mind at work. In any case, these elements of the story are effective and with a tighter script this sequel could have surpassed the original as an examination of Michelle’s fall and Radu’s pursuit.

Two sisters separated by darkness.
What we get with Bloodstone is a messier movie all the way around. But I still had a great time watching it. The location shooting in Romania is still very impressive. Director Ted Nicolaou does a great job of making Bucharest look creepy and threatening at times. There are some excellent scenes of Radu’s shadow rising, moving and overwhelming the screen, just as effective as it was in Nosferatu. The music is nice and gothic and the sound effects support the action. It makes for a solid night of bloodsucking entertainment. You may even find yourself quoting Radu and his Mummy from time to time afterwards. Bloodstone is light on actual scares, but very entertaining any way. Recommended if you are in the mood for some cheese on a chilly October night.

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The finger demons are going to play tether-ball
on Radu's corpse.

Radu plays hide and seek with Michelle. He's not very

"Do you think you cold get your dad to sign this napkin?"

Even the graffiti in Bucharest is vampire themed.

"Seriously, look at these hands. You know what they
say about a guy with big hands, right?"

Radu's got a headache this big, and it has Michelle written
all over it.

"Van Helsing? I taught him everything he knew."

"I can make some awesome shadow puppets.
You wanna see?"

Would you trust this guy to save your sister's soul?

Friday, October 27, 2017

And Then This Happened... Bloodstone: Subspecies II

You would think that being a very old and powerful vampire that you'd be able to take care of a few silly coeds and your annoying but wimpy brother. But as we saw in Subspecies, Radu just wasn't able to manage it. Luckily he has some help from this friends, who also manage to rate so highly in the minds of the creators that they named the series after them. Still not sure why, but I digress. In any case Radu's little buddies are able to come around and give him a hand. Otherwise we wouldn't have a sequel, right. But I think there might be some more conversation going on here than was originally revealed in the film. What do you think they are saying?

And then this happened...

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Cat People (1942)


It seems like more and more fans of classic films are finding the work of director Jacques Tourneur and producer Val Lewton. These two created some excellent horror films for RKO in the 1940s. I didn’t hear much about these for a long time, but a revival seemed to take place in the 2000s where these films were brought back up in conversations. I caught them on a marathon on TCM a few years back and finally picked up four of them for my collection. The first and maybe the most famous is this film from 1942.


Irena Dubrovna (Simone Simon) is a recent immigrant from Serbia. She is artistic but quiet and shy, living by herself in an apartment. One day, while she is sketching a black panther at the zoo she meets Oliver Reed (Kent Smith) a handsome young man. The two fall head over heels for each other, even if Irena’s strange superstitions make Oliver chuckle.

But after they marry, Oliver realizes that Irena’s fears have taken over her life. She is convinced that if she feels any strong emotions including hate, jealousy or lust, she will transform into a monstrous black panther and go on a killing spree. Oliver discusses his problems with his coworker, Alice (Jane Randolph) who recommends a Dr. Judd (Tom Conway) as a therapist for Irena. As the three attempt to work with Irena she falls further and further into a paranoia fugue state. But is the shadow stalking Alice really a panther? If so, is it an escapee from the zoo, or is Irena really one of the Cat People?

Good Points:
  • Simone Simon’s performance sells the whole film
  • Builds tension and dread with style
  • Keeps you guessing as to what is actually happening

Bad Points:
  • May be too heavy on conversation for some viewers
  • Looking non stop thrills and action – keep looking
  • If you aren’t a fan of atmospheric horror – keep looking


This movie does a fine job of creating a fascinating character with Irena and following her journey into darkness. Simone Simon’s performance is excellent and you end up caring about and fearing for her. All along the way the other characters try to help but their actions only seem to make things worse. It does a fine job of building to its conclusion. A really well made classic horror film.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 4
Sound: 4
Acting: 4
Script: 4
Music:  3
Direction: 4
Entertainment: 4
Total: 4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.

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Friday, October 20, 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)


I’ve always wanted to see a sequel to Blade Runner or at least an expansion of the world we see in the 1982 film. But I figured that was just a daydream, even if I did hear rumors about it from time to time. In 2017 we got a follow up that looked promising from all the trailers. Director Denis Villeneuve was at the helm of this endeavour, and I’ve found his work to be pretty interesting. Maybe we had a second excellent sci-fi film in store for us during 2017 after the magnificent War for the Planet of the Apes.


K (Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner, an officer working for the LAPD that hunts down rogue Replicants. Usually these artificial humanoids are older models with a tendency to rebel against human masters. During his latest assignment K comes across some clues that hint at the impossible: a Replicant giving birth to a child. K’s superior, Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright), fears that if news of Replicants being able to procreate got out, then there would be mass panic in the already unstable world. K is tasked with finding and retiring this “miracle” child.

K starts his investigation, finding and putting together clues. His girlfriend Joi (Ana de Armas) offers her take on the case, as well as some moral support. He meets with the creator of stable Replicants, Niander Wallace (Jered Leto) who keeps things close to his chest. The case gets very dangerous, as it becomes apparent that others are looking for this child, and will murder to get it. Eventually his search leads him to seek out the old Blade Runner, Deckard (Harrison Ford) to find out his role in these mysterious events. What revelation will be unearthed when K finally discovers the answers, and will they change the world as he knows it?

Good Points:
  • In nearly every way, expands and evolves the world of the previous film
  • Delves into the future noire concept with both feet, and also twists it in interesting ways
  • Excellent performances by the entire cast

Bad Points:
  • If you don’t like the original film, than you won’t like this one
  • Moves at a deliberate pace, focusing on clues and characters over action
  • Some of the music is so overpowering and loud that it distracts


This sequel takes everything from the previous film and expands and builds on it. From a production point of view it is startling, pulling us back into that world with ease. It has a measured pace, that fits the tone and style of the movie. The themes it explores are familiar. Even more impressive are all the layers to explore in this movie. Some of the music overplays its hand, but other times it feels like a perfect continuation. All told, this fan of the original film loved the sequel. I can’t wait to revisit and explore it again.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals: 5
Sound: 5
Acting: 5
Script: 4
Music: 4
Direction: 5
Entertainment: 4
Total:  5

In Depth Review

More human, than human? You decide.
I’m going to do my best to keep this review spoiler free, and will either revisit or write some in depth posts in another blog after the movie comes out for home viewing.

Blade Runner 2049 pulls off one of the trickiest issues for a sequel. It keeps things familiar and yet expands and develops on what came before. The film is closely tied to the previous film from a narrative and thematic sense. But it also acts as a mirror or bookend of it. Some scenes, shots, dialogue and confrontations are taken from the previous film and replicated (pun sorta kinda intended) in a way that changes the meaning for the new film. In that way, to get the most out of Blade Runner 2049 requires intimate knowledge of the 1982 film.

But even if you’ve only seen the original film a couple of times, Villeneuve makes sure that you can follow this film from its main detective plot, as well as the side plots dealing with Joi and Wallace’s role in the whole film. And just like the previous film, this movie focuses more on K’s hunt, his character and the way the case changes him.

Rough day at the office for K.
That search is what drives Blade Runner 2049 in many of its production decisions. This is not an action film. This is a detective drama set in the future. It moves at a measured pace, with a few action scenes to punctuate moments. But this is not a thrill ride. It was never intended to be one. But the film is pretty long, and I can understand why some folk may feel it drags in places.

Villeneuve is a fan of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and it really shows. He is dedicated to bringing the world presented in that film back to life in nearly all aspects. He advances some technology and design for the 2049 setting, but all those changes are based off of what was presented in the 1982 original. So you still have some very analogue technology in the film, but pushed forward a bit in places. There are now holograms of various sizes through out the city, something that actually was more inspired the cityscapes of Akira.

And you thought Vegas couldn't get gaudier.
The film does move outside of Los Angeles into some of the battered landscapes near San Diego and into Las Vegas. Seeing these new locations adds a bit of spice to the familiar locations of the previous film, and reduces some of the claustrophobia you feel. But visually it is a twist on the original film. Deckard was a man lost in the mire and filth of the crowds of Los Angeles. K is a man lost in the desolation and loneliness of the vast world. There are many shots of K standing in stark relief to these deserted locations, offering an interesting visual contrast.

The visual effects are truly impressive. You get a great mix of miniatures, computer images and fully fleshed out sets that are full of detail. It is a tribute to the original film’s dense production design, and it gives Blade Runner 2049 the same realistic feeling. This world feels lived in, it feels beaten up, it feels like it may be on the very edge of collapsing. I was never pulled out of the film because of some incongruous visuals.

I'm not touching you. Does this bother you?
Instead Villeneuve is uses unreality of visual effects to his advantage. Holograms play a key role in the story and themes of this film. At times they can appear realistic, at other times they look incomplete and unresolved. That imperfection against the reality of the sets and human characters makes them stand out on purpose. Sometimes that flickering gives them a forlorn feeling. Other times they feel uncanny, and not to be trusted.

The sound effects in Blade Runner 2049 build on what we heard in the original film. Most of this is real world sound effects with only some unique sci-fi sounds added in for the vehicles or some of the technology used.

Both Blade Runner films build thier unique sonic world with the scores. The original was composed by Vangelis, and is a score that is immediately feels like part of city. Nothing else really sounds like Vangelis’ score, not even other Vangelis albums from the period. There is a darkness to the score that really comes through.

It is still raining in L.A. even in 2049.
For the sequel Villeneuve ended up dropping his regular composer Johann Johannsson and went with the duo of Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer. These two composers do a fine job of using Vangelis’ style and tone and expanding it in a more modern way. They use many of the same vintage keyboards and synth sounds that Vangelis utilized, and they even carry over his Tears in Rain theme from the previous film. But what fans of the older score will notice is that the tone and atmosphere feels almost perfect.

I think he is attempting to use his Scanner powers!
There are two changes here. The first is that the score for 2049 lacks some of the blues/jazz influences that Vangelis utilized in key scenes. It doesn’t hurt the film, but it does make the listening experience of the album feel a bit too samey at times. I know, film score fan first world problems. What I’m not a fan of is the HORN OF DOOM effect that is used in the score. You get those long sustained portentous whole note blasts of sound in this score. We first heard this in Inception and it was ridiculous there (at least in my opinion), but by the time we hit 2017 this effect is so tired and stale. Nearly three quarters of all trailers use that ridiculous HORN OF DOOM effect. To hear it invade the Blade Runner world is a disappointment. The problem also becomes troubling in the sound mix of the film, because these blasts are so invasive they draw attention to themselves and pull the viewer out of the film.

Now to be clear this kind of thing appeared in the original score and mix to the earlier film. But, it seems like the new composers picked up on the single track that this did occur in and proceeded to sprinkle it a bit more in this film. I found it distracting, and there were a few moments where it seemed dreadfully out of place. Why the music was blasting away at a few characters walking toward K, I’ll never know. Just an odd bit of scoring. In some ways it may work better as a listening experience as part of a Blade Runner concept album.

I hear no body walks in L.A.
It is a bit tricky to talk too much about the acting without spoiling some of the plot revelations, so I’m going to keep this a bit more surface than I normally would. The entire cast does a really great job in their roles. Each character is a shade of grey in this film, and that keeps everything slightly off balance. It can be a tough role for an actor, but everyone steps up to the challenge. Gosling in particular has some very tricky balancing to pull off. His performance feels restrained, but always with something simmering underneath. When things get brought to a boil, the emotion feels earned because we’ve seen him holding it in for a good chunk of the film. It is one of those performances that may seem a bit dry when the movie starts, but it really seemed to evolve for me over the course of the film.

It is great to see Ford playing Deckard again, and he does a very good job. That bitterness that we saw in the previous film seems to be amplified by his life after the first film ended. Ford plays a key role, but don’t expect him to have a lot of screen time, just enough for it count. And he gets a great scene with Jered Leto (who balances mysterious and disturbing perfectly) that puts Deckard through the ringer.

She looks nice and helpful now... but just wait.
But my favorite performance in Blade Runner 2049 has to go to Sylvia Hoeks as Luv. She’s the femme fatale of this future noire, and man does she play it to the hilt. This is one replicant you don’t want to get on the wrong side of, and of course K finds himself on the wrong side of Luv. Without giving too much away, I will say that she does a good job of keeping you feeling off center. When she’s on the screen early in the film, you are uneasy. But when she starts showing up in the final half, you get tense – because you know she is willing and able to do just about anything. She makes for a great antagonist.

Now the challenging part, the writing and direction. It is really hard to cover these without any spoilers, but I really think that if you are interested in the film you should check it out first. I’ll cover what I like about these elements, but avoid diving into the themes and plot points too much.

Deckard has seen some Dangerous Days indeed.
Blade Runner 2049 was made by fans for fans. You can tell that everyone involved in the film wanted to make a sequel worthy of the previous film, one they hold in high esteem. It starts with the plot. You could have gone so many different ways with a follow up, and they could have taken a quick and easy action packed movie set in the world fashioned in the previous film. But instead, they decided to carry over the detective noire concept as well. In fact I would say the case at the heart of this film is more engaging than the one in the previous film (which was really an extended bounty hunt). In 2049 we get more investigation and personal links that act as clues. K must engage and understand each person he encounters if he is to solve this mystery. These plot points are intriguing and carry the viewer along with him. As K closes in on the truth it starts to impact his view on the world and how he sees himself. But like everything in this universe, the writers keep it all in shades of grey. Truth is a tricky thing, and just like the previous film, when the case closes some questions are still left unanswered, not just for K, but also for the viewer.

What is great about the script is that it really does work as a standalone film, with K acting as an excellent protagonist. But the writers know Blade Runner very well, and use the new story and characters to impact how we view the original film. It really does take themes from that film and shape and twist them in new ways. Not an easy task to pull off, but the script manages it. This film feels like it needs to exist, not like it was thrown together just to get another movie based on 80s nostalgia.

Replicant prostitutes... of the FUTURE!
Villeneuve handles the entire production with amazing skill. He gets great performances out of the cast. He keeps the production feeling true to the original film. But he also takes a very good script and makes it even more impressive in the way he lays out scenes and constructs the movie. I sound like a broken record here, but I’m really impressed with the way the new film, in all of its aspects, enhances the previous film and pushes things forward. It takes someone with an eye for details (and in the older film Ridley Scott’s obsessive fascination with production design make it even more challenging) to craft a film like this. It can be watched by casual fans and enjoyed. But if you are one of those more obsessive fans (which I admit, I’m one) you’ll find so many layers and levels in this film. It is a remarkable achievement.

"All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain."
Is it a milestone in science fiction, or one of the greatest movies of the century? I wouldn’t go that far. In fact, I think this movie has a very specific audience. You have to have enjoyed the original film, and there are plenty of people out there who don’t like it at all. You have to be willing to watch a film that is slow paced and just as concerned about visual storytelling and letting the atmosphere soak in, as it is about moving the plot along. I’ve seen some people call it a super expensive art film, and yeah I think that is a good description. It is not a summer blockbuster. I’m frankly surprised the film got made the way it was. But I’m very happy that it was. I can heartily recommend seeing it (and on a big screen to soak in that atmosphere), but only if you meet those caveats. Blade Runner 2049 is a journey well worth taking and revisiting.

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I warned you. Don't get on the wrong side of Luv.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Movie Music Musings – Horrifying John Williams

Ask film music fans about horror film scores and you’ll hear a few composer names pop up almost immediately. Bernard Herrmann and his work with Hitchcock will leap to mind. Jerry Goldsmith crafted some amazing work for The Omen and Poltergeist. Christopher Young is the current master of horror music from the creepy music for The Grudge and the bombastic thrills of Drag Me to Hell. Even Hans Zimmer has taken on the genre with some really intense music for the Hollywood version of The Ring.

But one name you don’t hear too often related to horror scores is the maestro himself, John Williams. This has more to do with the type of films that Williams gets attached to and isn’t a commentary on his skills. Williams has provided some excellent scores to thrillers and individual cues in the Harry Potter films and Jurassic Park have some excellent moments of tension and fear. But these days, Williams works primarily in dramas and fantasies.

You have to journey back in his career, right when it was really taking off, to hear some of his most interesting horror music. The 1970s were fruitful time for a more experimental side to Williams work. He hadn’t been locked quite into the full Golden Age mode he achieved with Star Wars and Superman. But you can hear hints of those scores in some of this work. Instead, this is a Williams fresh from The Towering Inferno and the Poseidon Adventure.

1975 kicked it off with one of the most famous monster movies of the decade: Jaws. The movie isn’t wall-to-wall horror, in fact Williams provides the film with a wonderful nautical heroic theme for Chief Brody and his band. But everyone remembers the shark motif, something so simple and primal that it actually builds on images and makes them even more impressive. This motif gets quite a workout in the film, sneaking in and out of the music and building to terrifying levels. This rerecording for the Boston Pops conducted by Williams himself is a treat. Love how the audience chuckles as soon as they recognize it.

In 1977 Williams worked on Close Encounters of a Third Kind. Again his music played a big role in the finale of the film, with his communication theme become instantly memorable. But in the first half of the film, Williams scored the movie like it is a horror film. One of the most terrifying scenes in the movie, is the abduction of young Barry. Williams pulls out all the stops raising the tension to amazingly horrifying levels and making a wonderfully discordant and disturbing track. For real fun, play this back to back with Jerry Goldsmith’s Twisted Abduction track from Poltergeist for a nasty one-two punch.

The next year saw Williams score a sequel to Jaws but more interesting is his work on the Brian Depalma thriller The Fury. Williams creates a lovely main theme that starts off so quietly and then build and builds in power as it carries along. The end credits version is really something else. What is great about this whole score is that Williams takes lots of inspiration from Bernard Herrmann, almost giving The Fury a Hitchcockian feel when it comes the music. For my money this is easily one of Williams best scores of the decade. And yeah this decade includes some of his most impressive work.

In 1979 Williams got to write music for one of the most famous of all horror icons: Dracula. With Frank Langella as the bloodsucker and Lawrence Olivier as Van Helsing, well this was something else. The score has a gothic romantic sweep to it, but remains pure John Williams. In fact, you can hear ideas in this score that would be fleshed out further in The Empire Strikes Back during the Cloud City sequences. Sadly this score has never gotten a good release. The archival sound quality is pretty bad. Film score fans are hoping for some good quality recordings to be found, or to have a full rerecording supervised by the Maestro at some point in the future. That said, it is clear that Williams has the chops to craft excellent horror scores, you just have to know where to look.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Void (2016)


I’m always on the lookout for horror films with a Lovecraftian feel to them. But it is pretty tough to find movies that really capture the feeling of cosmic horror. Then I heard about this film which combined elements from The Thing and In the Mouth of Madness two of John Carpenter’s more Lovecraftian films. This sounded like just the kind of horror movie I could get behind, but were all the rumors true, or was the real eldritch horror the fact that the film doesn’t quite measure up to the hype?


Officer Daniel Carter (Aaron Poole) is having a rough night. He finds an injured man on the road and takes him to the nearby hospital. Unfortunately, the hospital is undergoing renovation and is operating with a skeleton crew. Luckily Dr. Powell (Kenneth Welsh) is on hand to help. But the injured man seems a bit, well... crazy is the best word for it.

Then everything goes south quickly as two deranged men enter the hospital with an arsenal of guns. They are after the injured man with murder on their minds. Then the hospital is surrounded by hooded figures with strange symbols on their robes. Officer Carter finds himself trying to make sense of the motivations behind these interlopers and some of the hospital staff. As things escalate bodies mutate, offerings are made and a door to The Void is being opened. Does Officer Carter stand a chance in any dimension of stopping the insanity?

Good Points:
  • Impressive visual and make up effects
  • Handles the crazed cultist and dimensional horror really well
  • Manages to capture some really disturbing moments. 
Bad Points:
  • None of the characters feel quite fleshed out.
  • Pacing feels off for most of the movie
  • Lovecraft fans may be disappointed at the movie not quite meeting its potential

Love the concept behind the film. It really nails that Lovecraftian feel of cultists attempting to bring about trans-dimensional forces into our world. Unfortunately the execution doesn’t quite hit on all cylinders. The pacing feels off for nearly the entire film. If it had slowed down, and built up to the tension instead of going full bore with the intensity it might have worked better. But the impressive visual effects and practical creatures and gore makeup work really well. This movie has some real gross visuals, and is worth a watch for fans who like their cosmic horror with a dash of graphic violance.

Scores (out of 5)
Visuals:  4
Sound: 4
Acting:  3
Script:  3
Music: 3
Direction: 3
Entertainment: 4
Total:  4

Curious about a full review, sent me an email and I’ll make additional thoughts to this review.

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