Wednesday, May 15, 2013

feelings, whoah whoah whoah, feelings

Not feeling so hot this week. Don't really feel bad, just no desire to do anything. Update soon though, I promise

Saturday, May 11, 2013

To Sleep With a Vampire

Nostalgia is a wonderful thing, however sometimes re-visiting a fond memory can be less than wonderful. That's kind of my feeling after watching To Sleep With a Vampire for the first time since it's release back in the early 90s. To Sleep With a Vampire is a remake of Dance of the Damned from 1989 by Katt Shea Rubin. Both of them about a vampire who ends up in a strip joint looking for conversation and a hot meal, and both films follow the same basic path.
To Sleep With a Vampire cover art with Charlie Spradling and Scott Valentine

I was lucky enough to have seen both films not long after release. While I fondly remember Dance of the Damned as being a very well written, decently acted film that rises above it's somewhat sordid pretense.  However I also had those same feeling about To Sleep With a Vampire and considered it a better, and indeed my favorite of the two films. So when I found a DVD copy of To Sleep With a Vampire at Texas Frightmare Weekend, I had to have it.  Sadly watching it has somewhat tarnished my memories of it, and honestly made me feel a little more like a sexist pig.

I have never denied that the main reason I first watched To Sleep With a Vampire was because it starred the stunning Charlie Spradling. I had first seen the brunette beauty in the Full Moon movie Meridian, which also starred Sherilyn Fenn. Meridian, at least as I remember, was a damn good movie, back when Full Moon actually made really good movies. Charlie was gorgeous and incredibly hot and I quickly feel in love with her and Sherilyn. So when I heard she was the lead in a vampire movie, playing a stripper, I had to see it.
Meridian poster with Sherilyn Fenn

At the point I saw it I had no clue it was a remake, but I quickly realized it was similar to Dance of the Damned.  Being a fan of Charlie, the movie knocked me off my feet. The strip scene was, and still is one of the sexiest and most realistic I have seen in an R rated film. Spradling was no stranger to nude scenes, being topless in most of her film appearances, and she doesn't disappoint here.  She strips down to G-string and writhes seductively across the stage.

All that is still there, and Charlie is still as beautiful as ever. However there's no way I can say this is a good movie in any other way than as a testament to her beauty. The acting is pretty much horrible all around. Spradling's most believable scenes are when she is rolling around on stage, but even that seems wrong for this film. Charlie's character is supposed to be a woman on the verge of suicide, but her performance is full of power and strength.  I don't remember a lot about the original, but it seems Starr Andreeff (as the lead stripper) did a dance that was much more melancholy and sad. Now Andreeff can't physically compare to Spradling, especially when it comes to cup size, and sadly that may be why I have always considered To Sleep With a Vampire to be it's equal in quality.  So OK, I'll admit I can be swayed by a great rack.

Still the bad acting can't be limited to Charlie, Scott Valentine from TVs Family Ties gives an absolutely ludicrous performance as the vampire. Seriously what is that twisting your head and snarling thing you keep doing? And every line you deliver is like a mockery to anyone who has ever played a vampire seriously. It looks and sounds like you are doing a Bela impersonation on Who's Line is it Anyway?

The dialogue is cheesy and sleazy throughout and totally ruins any compassion for either character. I simply couldn't believe any character in the movie. Bad dialogue, delivered by bad acting and the story, no matter how compelling on paper falls apart.  Even the little kids acting was horrible.  Plus there is so much lack of logic through the film.  Why do the characters take a taxi when the vampire, can apparently turn into a ball of energy and zoom around? Why does the vampire starve himself as long as possible while looking for a suicidal victim, then attempts to kill the victim when they decide they aren't suicidal. Just seems really strange to me. Hell everything about this film is just off. Except Charlie's body of course.

The effects are really cheap.  The fight scenes are so horribly telegraphed and fake.  Thugs fly through the air like a new jobber on an independent wrestling circuit. The ball of energy that Valentine can turn into is nothing short of something you might expect in a Duran Duran video. If Duran Duran were on a  strict budget.

The only real reason to watch To Sleep With a Vampire is to watch Charlie Spradling dance. And as beautiful as she is, even that seems off.  Why is a girl as beautiful as this dancing at a club this sleazy?  Why is the club nearly empty? Even the other girls we see seem way to classy for a dive like this. Even  as much as I love Charlie, her make up was so cheap and sleazy it kind of disappointed me. Maybe that was the only real attempt to show her as someone who belongs on a cheap dance stage. The fact is the scene is totally out of place in the movie.

In a movie that is supposed to be about desperation, about a person fighting to regain the will to live, the dance scene is just way too erotic and sexy.  Maybe it was because To Sleep With a Vampire was directed by a man while Dance of the Damed by a woman. Vampire was made to just be a showcase for Spradling's voluptuousness, and Valentines sleazy bad boy sexiness.  It's sad the director couldn't make a film that combines beauty and desperation.  That he couldn't squeeze some bit of realistic acting out of two people who have done better. Too bad he thought tits and fangs could carry the film.
Charlie Spradling topless from Puppetmaster 2

So I'm a bit sad that my memories have been tarnished.  That I can no longer look back fondly on this film. I'd love to be able to recommend this film, but I can't. Charlie Spradling fans will enjoy her stripping, but she has been topless in much better films. Valentine fans should stick to Family Ties where he's much more believable.  Final assessment, To Sleep With a Vampire will probably put you to sleep. After the strip scene at least.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Elijah Wood is a Maniac (2012)

Most people who have know me for a while, know that I hate remakes.  In fact i think I have started a few movie reviews with that same line. I have even said that there is never a reason to remake a movie. I have really been rethinking that belief a lot lately, especially after watching the remake of Maniac with Elijah Wood. Of course if you remake every film ever made over and over, eventually you are going to stumble and make a good film. The old hundred monkeys typing Shakespeare thing. I still think there are far too many original projects out there that never see the light for Hollywood to be remaking so many films.  Maybe if Hollywood were to concentrate on taking bad or so-so movies and making them better, better acting, better filming quality, better directing instead of just cashing in on the popularity of good films, I would feel better about remakes.  I think the Maniac remake fits into the former category.

OK at the risk of angering fans everywhere, I was never all that crazy about the original Maniac. I didn't hate the original, come on how can you hate a movie with Caroline Munro in it and featuring special effects from the master Tom Savini?  I just was never a huge fan. So, at least in my eyes, this would be a film that could be redone. Which it was. With Elijah Wood as a serial killer.

The film got a lot of buzz for casting Elijah against type, and a lot of people wondered if he could pull it off. A lot of those people apparently forgot about his chilling turn in Sin City as the cannibal Kevin. Frank from Maniac is an entirely different monster than Kevin, and this plays more to Elijah's strengths. While Kevin was a silent vicious killing machine, Frank is a deeply disturbed and almost timid character most of the time. Much more akin to Frodo Baggins than a psycho killer.  But Frank can be vicious and when the switch flips, Elijah doesn't disappoint.

Visually the film is a real treat for someone who grew up in the late 70s and 80s. The movie is dark, not just in theme, but visually and atmospherically. Watching the opening took me back to those late nights watching sleazy crime dramas on HBO with the lights out. Back to the first time I watched the original.  Once again I got that feeling of watching something I shouldn't be watching.The sound too was reminiscent of those forbidden films that seemed so taboo in my early teen years.

Maniac is filmed mostly in a first person/ POV style. I wasn't sure how I would like this as it first seemed way to close the the shaky cam, found footage film that is the flavor of the month.  However watching the film (mostly) through the eyes of a killer is a new and disturbing prospective.  Although the film does abandon the POV in a few key scenes, mostly we only see Elijah Woods character when he is reflected off a mirror, or other reflective surface.  While changing perspectives may seem corny or  even sloppy, in Maniac it is done skillfully, and adds a dizzying intensity to those scenes.  I know there will be some complaints that the POV style with feed the voyeuristic urges of some.  That it might be too close to the real thing.  While that might be a danger, art is dangerous, and this is horror. Horror should be disturbing, it should be horror.

While the overall gore factor of Maniac isn't that high, it doesn't skimp from the bloodiness of the murders. The killers motive here isn't to disembowel people but to kill them, or at least mutilate them in a certain way.  Some die fast, some die slow, but the camera doesn't turn away to spare us.  I don't want to give away any spoilers for those who haven't seen it, or the original, but the killing is secondary to his trophy taking. Part of Frank's twisted psyche doesn't even realize he is killing them.

The film manages to pay homage to at least two horror films that I noticed.  I'm not going to spoil this, but one is guaranteed to make you laugh, the other may send a chill down your spine. As for laughing, even though this is a dark film, there are a few laughs.  It never, in my view crosses over into a comedy, but there are moments of humor, some darker than others.

The ending of Maniac, like the original leaves you unsure of what is happening and possibly doubting everything you have seen.  It's a brilliant but confusing ending that will leave some in awe, and some confused.  I'm kind of in the middle of that scale.

The only real complaint I have is the lack of cameos from the original Maniac.  Come on you couldn't find a spot for a quick scene with Caroline Munro.  And what about the man himself, the man who should be the governor, Tom Savini?  Would the original film have the cult following that it does today if not for the involvement of Savini?  I really doubt it.

For the ratings, there is very little strong profanity that I remember. Not saying it's all clean talk but there wasn't enough over the top profanity (IE Devil's Rejects or Boondock Saints) to register.  There
is a couple of scenes of nudity, but nothing extreme , and some light sex scenes. The ratings kicker here will be the violence, most, but not all, directed at women.  Most of these scenes are fairly realistic, and disturbing and I can see Maniac having a hard time getting an "R" rating for theatrical release.

So my verdict? This film is awesome with no reservations. Eljah Wood gives another performance of a lifetime.  Find a way to see Maniac, if it's showing at a convention or festival near you, GO. Pass up on karaoke or the VIP party and see Maniac instead.  Hopefully it will get a release soon on DVD at least, if so it's a buy. It's the film that has softened me on remakes more than any other.  Whether you are a fan of the original Maniac or not, if you love horror, you need to see this film.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

nothing much

Ok, so time to stop neglecting the ole blog and post something. Something other than this. I just got back from Texas Frightmare Weekend, and believe me the flight back was a frightmare. More on that, maybe, later. So enough jibba jabba, on with the worthwhile posting