If You’re Going To Kill Somebody, Kill Them! Don’t Stand Around Talking About It! – Van Helsing

26 10 2016

Van Helsing (Universal Pictures - 2004)

Are Heroes Overrated? You know, some evil thing is stalking the planet, only for the hero to come in and save the day, as they do. It is all rather common at the moment, and it appears that there are a lot of heroes out there that can do the same, so is it all a bit overrated? I mean, if there are many who can do it, why do we bother putting so much faith in one Super Hero when chances are there is someone else out there equally qualified to do the job of ‘saving the day’. Why do we need to worry if something evil comes along, when we all know too well right now that someone is likely to come along at some point to solve the problem. Maybe we should all just get on with our lives, in the fullest knowledge that there are heroes out there tackling things that go bump in the night, and in the meantime we can all sit down, flick on the TV and drink Hot Chocolate!

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Released in 2004 by Universal Pictures, Directed by Stephen Sommers and Produced by Bob Ducsay; Van Helsing is a Fantasy Action-Adventure film which intends to pay tribute to the Universal Horror/Monster films of the 30’s and 40’s released by Universal and based on the works by Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley. Set in the horrifying (maybe not in real life, it may actually be really pleasant, who knows) area of Transylvania, the film follows the adventures of Monster Hunter Van Helsing; inspired by the character of the same name from Bram Stoker’s book Dracula. The film endeavors to include other monsters in it story too alongside Vampires including Frankenstein’s Monster and Werewolves.

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In 1887, Dr. Victor Frankenstein (Samuel West) has successfully created a monster with the help of Count Dracula (Richard Roxburgh). Dracula though wants to use the creature for his own evil plans and Kills Frankenstein. While his castle is raided by the local villagers, Frankenstein’s Monster takes his creators body to a nearby windmill which in turn is burned down by the villagers. In Paris one year later, the renowned monster hunter Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) is wanted by the police, but before he leaves he quickly dispatches the elusive Mr. Hyde (Robbie Coltrane). He returns to the Vatican in Rome, where his superior; Cardinal Jinette (Alun Armstrong) tasks him with yet another mission: to go to Transylvania, and kill Count Dracula. The mission being to help the last bloodline of the Valerious family, who may not enter Heaven until Dracula is killed. Jinette also suggests that Helsing may find out answers to his nightmares and forgotten past there too. Before setting off on his mission, Van Helsing gets weapons and gadgets from Friar Carl (David Wenham) who also accompanies Helsing to Transylvania. Meanwhile in Transylvania, Velkan (Will Kemp) and Anna (Kate Beckinsale) Valerious try to kill a rogue Werewolf, but Velkan is seemingly killed in the pursuit, leaving only Anna left.

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Van Helsing and Carl arrive in Transylvania, where they get less than a warm welcome from the townsfolk, especially the gravedigger Top Hat (Tom Fisher). Anna arrives and tries to get their weapons off them both, but then Dracula’s Brides Verona (Silvia Colloca), Marishka (Josie Maran) and Aleera (Elena Anaya) attack. After a quick attack Helsing manages to kill Marishka, which makes the other two flee. Back at his castle, Dracula orders his remaining brides and his little minion Dwergers with their supervisor Igor (Kevin J. O’Connor) to prepare Castle Frankenstein for an experiment. Back at her home, Anna is knocked out by Helsing determined to protect her, only for her house to be broken into by Velkan now a Werewolf.  Anna and Helsing track him to Castle Frankenstein where they discover Dracula is trying to give life to his dead-born children using Velkan’s Werewolf DNA to power Frankenstein’s lab. The experiment fails however, and after a brief confrontation with Dracula; Helsing manages to escape from Dracula, rescuing Anna in the process. The two then stumble into an underground cave where they find Frankenstein’s Monster (Shuler Hensley) who tells them that without him, Dracula cannot successfully give full life to his offspring. Believing the creature not to be evil, Helsing tries to get the creature to Rome with the help of Carl and Anna. During the night they are attacked by the Brides and Velkan, now fully consumed by the curse. Verona and Velkan are both killed but Helsing is bitten by Velkan, meaning soon he too will turn into a Werewolf. To make matters worse; Aleera kidnaps Anna and takes her to Budapest, and informs Helsing that Dracula will trade her for the Monster.

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At a Grand Masquerade ball, Van Helsing rescues Anna from the clutches of Count Dracula, but watches on in horror as Igor manages to capture the Monster. With only a few hours left until Van Helsing transforms into the Werewolf, and Dracula manages to put his plan in motion, Carl reveals that Anna’s great ancestor was the father to Dracula. Dracula was murdered but in turn made a deal with the Devil. Not wanting that on his soul, Anna’s ancestor makes a pact with the church, for his entire family and bloodline to go to Heaven as long as Dracula is killed, but was unable to do so as he could not kill his own son. He did leave messages however as to how they may be able to accomplish it, and in turn are able to find the location to Dracula’s castle. All three go there, and find out that Dracula holds a cure for Werewolves, because the only thing that can kill him is a Werewolf. Anna and Carl head off to get the cure, running into and a foul of Igor in the process, while Helsing tries to save the Monster. Too late however, Dracula’s offspring are born. Aleera tries to kill Anna, but with help from the Monster and Carl, Anna is able to kill her and proceeds to get the cure to Helsing. Meanwhile, Helsing runs into Dracula, and at the stroke of midnight he turns into a Werewolf, strong willed enough to attack Dracula, eventually killing him. Anna arrives and is about to inject the cure, but Helsing attacks her. Just as Carl is about to kill Helsing, he notices that Anna managed to get the cure into Helsing, who takes the dead body of Anna in his arms, howling into the night as he slowly becomes human again. The following morning, The Monster is given its freedom and rows out to sea. Meanwhile Carl and Helsing hold a pyre funeral, but then Helsing sees Anna and her family’s spirits finally ascend into the clouds.

Now just to be clear in case anyone got confused by my introduction, this is not a Super Hero based movie. It does not feature anyone in brightly coloured flamboyant costumes nor does anybody wield any amazing super powers that they use on and off willy nilly. In all honesty this film actually has more in common with spy films along the lines of James Bond. Yes, it is at heart a fantasy adventure film with lots of interesting well designed monsters and creates some interesting ideas in its story, however I do get the feeling that more detail could have been provided. When watching this you will be forgiven for thinking it’s a cross between James Bond and Indiana Jones, lots of near swashbuckling adventure scenes like those of Indiana Jones (or at least I think so) while also containing a gadget based scene not too similar to Q Branch in the 90’s and 2000’s. Once you get past those near comparisons however you can finally get in-depth with this film. It’s adventure style works quite nicely and the action is well done, but what this film tires to do is create a fun fantasy film, incorporating creatures and stories of the kinds that modern Gothic fairy tales are known for, continuing to show a real sense of peril and danger, while also making it light-hearted enough to be enjoyed to the full, and not needing to hide behind your seat.

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When looking at the film’s plot, it is quite interesting to note that this film is near two hours long, but the lack of thorough detail makes you think otherwise. Don’t get me wrong; it is beautifully crafted and creates some ideas and goes on to generate incredible twists, it just doesn’t feel all that smooth, more blocky and jumpy, like as to say they could have included a bit more detail here and there. The ending is rather anti-climactic and it feels like it is trying too hard to move onto the next scene throughout. I just feel that in the end it could have revealed a lot more; it feels like there is some stuff that is mentioned, or answered little bit but not fully. This whole history between Dracula and Van Helsing especially, the idea that there was history between them, but as to exactly what that was goes relatively unanswered, more suggested. When walking away from this film you’ll begin to wonder if Helsing is the Arch Angel Gabriel and the one responsible for Dracula’s death in the first place, something sort of suggested but again; not really answered. It is something of a shame that there isn’t enough bite, there is a squeeze of teeth and the story does try to wrap up everything neatly but I think it just tried to do too much in the end, and couldn’t wrap it all up either; however the history of Dracula is still a pretty interesting scene.

Van Helsing is made up of a rather interesting selection of cast members, all who do their role well. Well when I say well, there are a few who just fall short of the mark. While you do have people in much smaller parts like the Gravedigger who is a rather nice addition to the cast, and whose appearance be it all a bit small, he is the kind of character you want to see more of; whereas the brides of Dracula are rather annoying. Not annoying because their villains, but annoying because they are annoying! While it is fair to say that the vampire voices are rather generic and possibly a bit camp, all three brides are just over the top. Their look in Vampire mode is definitely over the top and their human presence is far more interesting, but to me their look is too, sort of, Sultan. They look like extras picked from a movie version of Arabian Nights. What did it for me is that Marishka is the better performing of the three, but when you take in all their voices together, plus a brief moment of Marishka posing off in the village, they look and sound a lot like the actress Valeria Golino in Hotshots! Part Deux. It’s just off-putting and rather unnecessary, they don’t even make good villains. With those 3 are out of the way though, the rest of the cast are pretty good. Although I would say that I think Velkan is rather over used, not as much as the three brides, but is sort of toyed around with a bit too much to the point where it is not really necessary anymore. To begin with he is, and it is a great way to show how the Werewolf curse works for the sake of the story, I just think for someone who is meant to be a Werewolf, there is a lot of human scenes.

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The film does struggle with some moments of casting I feel, especially when you consider having Alun Armstrong in a part and only have him on-screen for about five minutes. The same could be said for Robbie Coltrane as Mr. Hyde, a very interesting character that you just want to see more of, but is more used as an introduction. It’s just a shame that not one, but two high-caliber and very experienced actors, are not used in a much longer or greater position; I mean I could understand more if you had lesser known or relatively newer actors in those parts, but why the other way around. Just want to point out though that both Stephen Fisher and Samuel West do good jobs, if very minor ones for the roles of Dr. Jekyll and Dr. Victor Frankenstein respectively.

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As for the films main sightings after the above, they all do really good jobs in the roles they have been asked to do. Igor for instance does well of being conveyed as the foolish and simple Igor, who at times shows some level of his own will and even levels of grumpiness toward Dracula. It is meant to be a more comedic role, but as the film progresses you can see more of his strengths, and even who he really is as he begins to talk more sadistically and even gets into a fight, and that voice is pretty chilling too. Frankenstein’s Monster similarly has a wonderful voice; more operatic which makes me think of Dynamo in The Running Man (but thankfully not all the time). The monster is very much like the creature he is based on, at least in the popular media light fashion, although is seen to be more physically active, and a real fighter. But deep down he is not muscle; but a man wanting his right to be alive in a world that will not accept him. A lot of work has been put into his back story, and he shares some brilliant quotes with the rest of the film’s cast, especially the line: “I Want to Live!” He is a great addition to the cast, and a very entertaining one, maybe a little over dramatic in places but a real good entertaining character while also not being in any way, shape or form; the comic relief. That is more handed down to Igor and Carl equally. Carl is something of an assistant as well as a librarian, not much of a fighter, but more like Willow in Buffy. He is a researcher, someone who shows the important side and value of good research. He is something of a minor fool, who sounds like someone trying to responsibly not get into trouble, but does. In the end though, he shows his true strength, and even a little attitude, as without him they would never have been able to defeat Dracula, as in the end it came down to reasoning and understanding as well as a touch of philosophy too.

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The film’s main trio are made up of some really fine acting talent. For many years now, I have said that Richard Roxburgh’s performance as Sherlock Holmes is my favourite, and still do. Here we get a rather more different performance with him as Dracula. Yes the voice could be considered Generic, but I would not say the passion was. The way he can just say the right things in the right fashion of voice is amazing. Sometimes he could be sorrowful and sad, others he can be mysterious and cold, and others he can be grand and excited. He too has some really good quotes from talking about his lack of heart, to his lack of ring in the final fight with Helsing. Richard Roxburgh delivers in what is a rather fine and fun role, making sure that Dracula lives up to the vampire we all know and love (I know) while also making sure that we know he is the villain and why he should always be the villain; a very enjoyable character, possibly also my favourite depiction of Dracula. Kate Beckinsale meanwhile plays not a damsel in distress, but a brave and confident vampire hunter. She does possibly overplay the accent a little too heavy, but for everything else that she does, she too, like Roxburgh is rather enjoyable. Be it living up to the Indiana Jones like performance, to the voice of reason unlocking the true person of Van Helsing, to of course being the ruthless lady of vengeance. It is hard to really see her in a role like this; however I cannot see anyone doing a better job than she does. She is very Countess of Monte Cristo like in how she performs and how she talks, but in that essence she is rather cool and fun to watch. It’s hard to really pin her down as to whom she is and what she does and what makes her so good. It’s another one of those je ne sais qua moments, where she is/doing something really quirky and cool, but you don’t know what?

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Hugh Jackman is of course playing the titular character of Van Helsing. Here he plays the Vampire Hunter of course who at least to begin with is rather cold and callous, more being a simple Monster Killer than anything else. He is a man with a history, and much like Wolverine (weirdly) is a man whose history is currently not well known (and as explained in the plot section above is still rather unknown to the audience). As the film progresses however he begins to learn more about compassion, first showing it to the Monster, and then learning it through desire for Anna, who helps him see more. In her part, she is more of a secondary object, but he too begins to learn and realize more and begins to see her in a different light (although I feel that him immediately coming onto her by the end is a bit clichéd and could have been developed more). This new character though is definitely different to the one who first appeared in the streets of Paris, although his search for his missing past definitely takes something of a back seat and it seems as in the end he does not really care. One thing remains though throughout is how cool a character he is. This ranges from the way he acts to how he talks, but one thing that certainly helps is this Undertaker like look: The Hat, Jacket and standing in the shadows with a pistol.

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Van Helsing, much like many other fantasy films comes with a whole castle full of visual special effects, some of which are absolutely gut wrenching. The effects on the whole are done quite well and are mostly visible in monster designs. The Dead Born vampire spawn are really icky and creepy while also hanging around in those pulsating pods which are near stomach wrenching. Mr. Hyde is a nice little effect although be it not a long one, as too is Dracula’s Mirror Scene and the Transylvanian Horses scene. Dracula’s monster form I would say is ok, but all of these effects really tremble under the majesty of what has to be the most impressive Werewolf in movie history, that of Van Helsing’s transformation. The transformation is quite creepy, especially where the skin appears to fall off (similar to another icky effect early on with Dracula’s healing burned face), and to begin with he looks more like a gorilla than a wolf, but then when his snout takes form, and as you see him standing over Dracula, it is such an impressive sight (I keep wondering why on earth Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban couldn’t create one just as awesome), and the fight between the two I feel is not as long as it could be, and nearly wastes this amazing Werewolf. If I was a Werewolf, I would want to look like the one at the end of Van Helsing, who wouldn’t? For me that is the whole highlight of this film.

Which is more than can be said for the soundtrack! The soundtrack composed by Alan Silvestri does actually sound rather pleasant and for the genres that this film is trying to convey is a suitable fit. It’s just it’s rather overused. Not as much as The Last of the Mohicans (which I am certain only has one piece of music in it); but still quite a lot. It does have some nice pieces of music, the End Credits is good, some of the battle scenes, the funeral, the Masquerade ball, and the adventure style theme tune used prolifically throughout are all pretty cool; however, there are two pieces of music which sound near exactly the same (unless they are just one piece) which is used nearly every minute during the last great battle, and it is so noticeable (like Last of the Mohicans) as it is used prolifically in scenes that suggest Indiana Jones like action: Like swinging on a rope for instance. It’s not exactly annoying, just irritating, because the music on show is pretty good but nearly let down by one (or two) piece used too much.

On the whole though, I think this is a really cool film, maybe not the best or the greatest of Fantasy Adventure films, but overall I think it’s a really cool, fun film. It has an interesting story, a cast made up of categorically worthy actors but not overplaying their roles; keeping their roles fun and interesting, some cool special effects helping to create some certainly breath-taking Monsters and one of those soundtracks that is now rather recognisable for certain pieces used elsewhere. Yes, it does have its issues: Some cast members are near gratuitous, the plot is a bit sketchy with bits not even answered and there are a lot of uncivilized bits as scenes and effects go. Though for everything that does not work, there is more than one that does altogether creating an entertaining yet very cool and sincerely engrossing film.

GENEPOOL

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Here Comes Santa Claus, Here Comes…..Wait; No, It’s Not Him – Krampus

6 01 2016

Krampus (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

“I know that it’s January!” Anyway; I am not all that big a fan of horror films. I like the ideas of horror films, plus have the real understanding of how a horror film should work. It’s not about blood and guts, it’s about being scared, receiving a frightful shock that makes you jump out of your chair, or not able to go to bed that night. The only Horror films I have seen so far are films like Battle Royale, The Purge, Aliens, bits of Predator and AVP. But the idea of taking such a happy time as Christmas and then subjecting the setting to an awful situation that leads to kidnap and possibly death is an interesting idea, plus also why I wanted out to point out that I know its January but am reviewing a film that is set during Christmas.

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Released in 2015 by Legendary Pictures and Universal, and Directed by Michael Dougherty; Krampus is a Christmas themed horror film based on the folklore legend of Krampus. Personally I never heard of the character of Krampus until this film came out. According to Wikipedia:

“In Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. Regions in Austria feature similar figures and, more widely, Krampus is one of a number of Companions of Saint Nicholas in regions of Europe. The origin of the figure is unclear; some folklorists and anthropologists have postulated a pre-Christian origin for the figure (see Germanic paganism).”

Anyway, that’s what/who Krampus is according to folklore; I just thought I better mention some form of knowledge before I start.

The film begins with a scene of people shopping for Christmas Presents, in a similar hysteria and mad panic that people get involved in during Black Friday. After getting into a fight in the store, young boy Max (Emjay Anthony) along with his sister Beth (Stefania LaVie Owen) and their parents Tom (Adam Scott) and Sarah (Toni Collette) return home where Tom’s mother known as Omi (Krista Stadler) is busy making Christmas cookies. Max still believes in Christmas traditions and hopes for Christmas to be as close as that could possibly be, but the house is in chaos, and gets worse with the arrival of Sarah’s sister Linda (Allison Tolman), her husband Howard (David Koechner), their children Stevie (Lolo Owen), Jordan (Queenie Samuel), Howie Jr. (Maverick Flack), their baby daughter, and Linda and Sarah’s Aunt Dorothy (Conchata Ferrell)…oh, and their dog too. The chaos at home rises as the two family’s thoughts and beliefs begin to clash, and end with Stevie and Jordan taking Max’s letter to Santa Claus and reading it out loud during dinner, resulting in a fight. Tom tries to comfort his son, but Max decides to rip up his letter to Santa and throw it to the winds. At that moment a snow storm arrives and causes a power outage throughout the whole area. The following morning, the family struggle with the loss of heat and power, while Max is wondering about a snowman that has appeared in the front garden. A delivery man arrives with presents for the family, as well as a sack which is just left by the door. Beth decides to visit her boyfriend’s house to see if he has power; on the way though she spots a tall horned entity standing on a house rooftop. She runs away but is pursued by the strange being. She hides underneath a van, and watches as a creature with hooves walks around her. It soon leaves, but Beth is then attacked by something inside a Jack in a Box.

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The family grows worried for Beth, so Tom and Howard go outside looking for her. They find it strange that there are no other people in the area, no cars, nothing, other than for a snow plow. Back at the house, everyone else hears strange noises coming from the roof. Upon reaching Beth’s boyfriend’s house, Howard and Tom notice how much devastation around them there is, with the chimney split, and hoof prints on the floor. Upon leaving Howard is attacked by a snow monster. Tom saves him and drags him back home, telling the family to board themselves up inside. Omi, who has begun to act really strange, tells Tom to keep the fire burning. During Howard’s watch however, he falls asleep and the fire dies. While everyone else sleeps, a hook with a Gingerbread Man attached comes down the chimney. Howie Jr reaches for it and takes a bite, only for the Gingerbread man to suddenly come to life, wrap him in chain and drag him up the chimney. The family tries to save him, but is unable to do so. Omi then tells the family what is going on, and that they are being attacked by Krampus (Luke Hawker and Gideon Emery). When she was young, Omi lost her faith and hope in Christmas due to her poverty-stricken life in the village where she lived. As a result the ‘Shadow of Saint Nicholas’; Krampus came to town and took the whole town with him to the underworld, leaving Omi behind, with a Krampus Bauble to remind her of what happens when one loses their love of Christmas. Howard refuses to believe her, and goes outside where the whole garden is full of Snowmen and maliciously laughing creatures. He goes back inside. Tom forms a plan for them to try and run for the Snow Plow and find help. Meanwhile the sack of presents upstairs begins to rattle and shake. Stevie and Jordan hear Beth’s voice in the attic and go looking for her. Upon hearing the two girls scream, Tom, Sarah and Linda go into the attic and find a giant Jack in the Box creature swallowing Jordan whole. They are then attacked by the Jack in the Box and some other Christmas toys, while Howard is attacked by a trio of Gingerbread Men in the Kitchen. They are just able to fight off the creatures, but back downstairs a horde of Dark Elves burst into the front room and take the Giant Jack in the Box, Howard, Dorothy and the Baby with them. Krampus is then heard landing on the roof and descends down the chimney. Omi stays back at the house to give the retreating family some time to escape. Krampus seemingly recognizing her unleashes his monstrous, demonic toys on her.

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The rest of the family reach the snow plow, but then Tom, Linda and Sarah are all sucked into the snow by the Snow Monster from earlier. Max with Stevie in tow tries to start the plow, but it doesn’t work, and Dark Elves arrive and carry off with Stevie. Krampus then lands in front of Max, and gives him a bauble, wrapped in his ripped up letter to Santa, revealing that it was Max who caused all this to happen. Back at the House, Krampus, his minions and a chained up Stevie prepare to leave back to the Underworld, when Max shows up, throwing his bauble at Krampus and demanding he fixes everything. A pit of Lava opens up, and Max tearfully pleads for Krampus to return his family, and take him instead. In a silent moment Krampus sees Max Tears, but then begins laughing. Stevie is thrown into the pit, and Krampus drops Max in too. The following morning, Max wakes up in bed. Thinking it was all a dream, he sees the neighbourhood as it should be, heading downstairs to see his family is alright. They begin to enjoy their Christmas, when Max opens a Present with a Krampus Bauble inside, to which the whole family falls quiet. The camera then pans out to reveal the house is inside a snow globe, along with many others inside Krampus’s Workshop.

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Terrifying and Enchanting, that’s the best way to describe Krampus. It’s a term I have used since about 5 minutes after leaving the cinema (I didn’t walk out if that’s what you’re thinking). Krampus is a very clever film and one that sticks to both the modern Christmas life and the folklore legend that inspires it. It tells a story, but also teaches one; plus values. It opens up with scenes resembling the over commercialized Christmas holiday scene, with people rushing into a shop, tripping over and fighting one another in the hope of getting a present, then goes into the troubled Christmas family life with tensions between family members plus the arrival of the inappropriate and offensive in-laws. It makes the start of an over-promising Christmas family comedy film (which given by this evidence doesn’t usually work out). But then things begin to take an ugly turn, as the horrid in-laws begin to upset the family more, which instigates an unbelievable situation, which leads to horrible consequences, with each family member one by one getting picked off and killed by a supernatural entity and his minions. It begins with the over commercialized view of Christmas, but develops into teaching the true values of Christmas. It tells the story of a boy wanting the best for his family, but once is made fun of by his horrible cousins, loses his spirit for the holidays. This then leads to their terrible situation and shows that while there is heat between family members, there is still love, and once said members are lost, they are missed. So while the family life may not be paradise, there is still more value in it than any gift wrapped up in paper. The telling of this story then is much like how most good films work, it revolves around change, change from where you started from, and learning to bring about something much stronger. Even if it takes such a horrid situation to make people realize this. But then Krampus does something very clever. It does revert the narrative back to a normal life and make the idea that it was all just a dream and that everything is fine. But to prevent them returning to their old, miserable, horrid habits; they are presented with a reminder. A reminder that is true to everyone, not just one person, that what happened, was real, and that it can be done all over again just as easily. This makes both the family and audience think, and remember to take Christmas and the beliefs surrounding it more seriously in the future, because just like the film, it can all be taken away so quickly…even at this time of year.

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Krampus sticks very closely to its Christmas traditions and to its folklore legend. I mean that though into how Krampus as an entity works. Krampus is a horror film, and a very scary one at that, but the use of Christmas iconography to deliver these frights is very well done. For many who see this film, Krampus will remain a very mysterious figure that will require some access too to fully understand who he is and what he means. Krampus as a creature is more a man with creature like attachments, possibly more like a faun, but his great bulk and size, plus his two horns continue to present a monstrosity, than anything else for most of this film. For the meantime, it’s through the aforementioned use of iconography well known at Christmas time to deliver the first few frights. Things like Gingerbread Men coming to life (a scene which reminded me of the living cake scene in the Young Sherlock Holmes), traditional Christmas toys attacking the family residents, snowmen in the garden. Ok, I don’t know where Dark Elves come from, but for the most part, it comes down to Christmas traditions. Other things too like Krampus coming down the chimney (“sound familiar?”), snow globes, a giant jack in the box, a teddy bear, an angel, and even a robot, all these things work together to take the happy, joyous setting of Christmas and turn it around to create nothing but pure frights. This continues throughout most of the second act, but then come the third; it’s pretty much all reserved for the film’s titular character.

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As for the film’s cast, it is sort of filled with hits and misses. They all have their own major perks, but some are better presented than others. You do of course have the Tom and Sarah as the strong willed parents having to take care of the family. While there is a minor level of tension between them, the situation does bring them closer together. For the most part they are really strong and favorable characters who get sucked into a horrible situation, but are still level headed enough to keep their heads above the snow…as it were. While she may only appear very briefly, Beth is a pretty cool character. Playing the average teen at Christmas, more concentrated on her boyfriend than her own family, but is strong and caring enough for those around her. She is the first one at this event to see Krampus, and possibly the first victim too, but her death is a strong death and is just a taster for the misery to come. Then you get the in-laws, a miserable bunch of inappropriate. Linda is ok, but I don’t feel like she comes out all that strongly enough except for when her children are in Danger closer to the third act. Howie Jr. plays the role of a fat little kid who can’t stop eating, very much so representing the idea of gluttony during the Christmas period. He is quiet all the way through, and it is through his gluttony that he gets caught by Krampus. He is the first of a few comedy characters for this film. Jordan I feel doesn’t have much of a presence in this film to talk much about, other than being one of Howard’s very masculine like daughters. As for the comedians, this comes in the form of Howard and Dorothy. Howard is like the stereotypical, hard as nails Texan with a shotgun. His first answer is always his gun and is far more inappropriate than appropriate. A man who obviously wanted boys over girls, and enforces masculine like tendencies on his two elder daughters. He however has a redeeming quality in that he becomes a hard fighter during the fight against the monstrosities, and a worthy ally in such a situation, sort of making up for his attitudes in the films earlier scenes. Aunt Dorothy meanwhile is full on comedy, a character who just doesn’t really change. She is the negative aunt, the character who only really cares for herself in any situation, and pretty much ends hat way, but like everyone else falls silent during the end. Her role though in this is mostly just for laughs.

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Omi I find quite an interesting character as her place in the film is almost like a connotation or tribute to old American Monster Movies. Omi is someone who has experienced the wrath of Krampus before and instantly knows what’s happening and is consistently trying to prevent what is going on while everyone remains oblivious to this. She knew how it happened last time and knows what to do from that experience this time. Then she explains that its Krampus that is causing all this to happen. My mind keeps jumping to old American monster movies with her role, because she is a lot like the expert, or the scientist; the character who walks in half way through and explains the origins of the monster attacking the city, just to cover the science background and explain in detail what is really happening. I therefore feel like that towards Omi as she does just that but in a different role and context. I don’t have any problems with it, I actually quite like that and think it’s rather clever, it covers all basis and fills the audience in more with the details of the ancient legend. Then there is Max, the one who, while not the lead exactly, is the one the legend has come for. He starts off the film with belief and desire to continue the traditions of the Christmas and family, but things take an ugly turn when this is used against him by Stevie and Jordan, who use this as a ploy to have some fun. From that moment Max loses his belief in the Christmas spirit, and therefore Krampus comes calling. Throughout the film, Max plays a very strong and caring role, looking out for and trying to protect his family, even those he doesn’t like, as best as he can, but is of course the main target for Krampus, and so has to watch helplessly as his family is taken away from him. But then, as he is about to be left alone by Krampus, Max comes back, to try and get his family back, even so far as going to try and save Stevie, the instigator. While this in the end doesn’t really work out well for him, this courage and strength make him not just some weak crying kid, but a nice change with a strong one instead; and in some way is the film’s narrator too. Stevie meanwhile I find as something of a breakout role. While she does start off as this horrid instigator (and personally I think the real reason for why this is happening), I am sort of drawn towards her as a character. She remains tough most of the way through and changes herself much like everyone else, and in somewhat ironic way is the last one to be taken, despite it really being all her fault. However, despite all that bad stuff, Stevie is a really great character and I think Lolo Owen who plays her does it really well. I can see (but also hope) that Lolo Owen gets more roles in the future from her performance in this, because I think she really deserves it.

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The lead role though is of course the big guy – No, not Godzilla – Krampus. Just one quick thing firstly. I love the Dark Elves in this film. I didn’t know how they were going to be done when I first read about them, but the use of costumes and wonderful masks really do make them a fun, yet still terrifying, inclusion in this film. Anyway back to Krampus. The film is of course all about the titular character, the film title suggests so, and the shadowy figure in the film’s poster makes it so. For most of the early parts of this film, Krampus is merely just a suggestion, his figure is seen, but doesn’t really act. However I think this is Krampus at his best, because his legend is merely a shadow of Saint Nicholas, and so his presence is mostly just that, and I really like it. You see this monster, bigger than a man with some of the most magnificent horns (oh, and don’t forget the hooves) you have ever seen. He is like an army general leading his men from the sidelines, but then enough is enough, and here comes Krampus. His minions running to one side, following orders, and enjoying the prospect of watching their great leader getting his hands dirty. This shadowy like approach to Krampus is really rather fun and builds up magnificently to the point of where you finally see what he looks like. His character then comes out, followed by a malicious laugh later on. It’s really creepy and the buildup is so enjoyable. Despite all this though however; there is some disappointment.

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Krampus bolsters some terrific special effects for a film that was made on a relatively small budget. This lack of budget however did not seem to turn the filmmakers away. Most of the film’s special effects come in the form of costumes and puppets. The toys in the attic, the dark elves and even Krampus himself are all more like costumes and suits than CGI, and this is how most of the film’s special effects are done, however on 2 occasions at least there is also some brilliant CGI work too. The earliest of these is from Beth getting chased by Krampus, which is rather quick, but then comes the Gingerbread Men. Bringing these dastardly creatures to life is done really well, and really freaks you out when they come to life and then start attacking everyone. It’s a haunting sight, and one that will make you think twice before eating one ever again (and don’t forget their devious laugh too). There is one disappointment though I feel, and it’s the same one as mentioned at the end of the last paragraph. You see, despite all the great effects, done any way possible: either be the CGI gingerbread men, or the Dark Elves costumes, I feel like it’s a real shame that the face of Krampus is so lifeless. The film has been building up to this point for a long time, just seeing this great shadow like figure in the area, and now he finally shows us his face, and it’s a bit disappointing. The face of Krampus looks like a big mannequin face, wide mouth, but is just so dead. No movement, no life. The only thing seen moving really is the eyes, close up. Where is this great monster we have been looking forward to? Sure, he may be more human than monstrosity, but even Father Christmas has facial movement. It just feels like a wasted moment and can bring down with ease, what we have been waiting for. It sort of puts a real sour note to both this film, and this character.

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As for a soundtrack (composed by Douglas Pipes) to this film, it’s hard to really think about it, as for the most part I don’t remember hearing much in original music made specifically for a film sense. That doesn’t necessarily mean though, that there is a lack of music. The film instead makes great and ironic use of traditional songs and pieces that have become so well-known during Christmas. They’re used in some of the most ironically funny ways, such as the theme “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” which is used to depict the mass crowds running into the shopping Centre, and chaos enveloping in the last Christmas shop rush. There are a lot of instances like this taking place all over the film. The most powerful piece though I think is used during the end credits. Now for years I recognized the piece (Carol of the Bells) as a song used in Family Guy when Peter works in Burger King; but through the end credits, it was used to talk about the legend of Krampus. Now if that is what it was originally made out to be for, then it’s great to finally hear it as such, and since then leading up to Christmas, I couldn’t stop singing a sort of version of that with Krampus in the lines. It is a really nice thing to wrap the film up with, but still present a level of haunting and non-existent peace in the film’s final credits.

Terrifying and Enchanting, I used that term earlier and have since to describe Krampus the film, and I still hold to it. What I have stumbled upon here is a true Christmas cinema gem. There are many Christmas films out there, and every year like clockwork another one is released, but it’s fair to say that producing a Christmas based film is rough, because there are so many bad ones out there. What do you do for a Christmas film while still maintaining the theme of Christmas all the way through? It’s a hard thing to do because that’s what you’re setting out to do. Through the cracks of the good and the bad, every blue moon, one comes out that just shakes up the scene and becomes a legend within cinema goers during that time of year, and Krampus is one of them. It’s a film packed with laughs, frights and shocks. It’s set in a very believable setting and begins with very believable situations before developing into something else, something magnificently terrifying. It’s got a story, characters and monsters. It’s there for those who at Christmas want to see something else and while it may not be the greatest or even the scariest horror film out there, it’s definitely one of the best Christmas films. “You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why; KRAMPUS IS COMING TO TOWN!”

GENEPOOL (I’m surprised Lordi wasn’t asked in helping out with the soundtrack).





Godzilla News – Giant Apes and Big Insects

4 11 2015

King Kong vs Godzilla

Yes I saw it too. A few weeks ago I heard exciting news regarding the future of the new American Godzilla series. The news being that in 2020, the King of the Monsters will be going toe to toe with the King of Skull Island; King Kong. This is will not be the first time that these 2 Behemoths of the silver screen will have met in combat before. Back in 1963, Toho in Co-operation with Universal released King Kong vs Godzilla. This featured two clashes between the monsters, one which Godzilla won nearly setting Kong on Fire, and the other which ended with Kong swimming away and no sign of Godzilla. The film itself though was not much of a Godzilla film as Godzilla featured characteristics very un-Godzilla like and was portrayed as more a big dinosaur akin to American Monster Movies, than the Japanese Monster. This time around though, things should be different all thanks to Godzilla’s resounding, triumphant return to America in last year’s film. So all being well, Godzilla won’t be all that messed around with in this new battle between the two. This is not the first time since 1963 either that another fight between these 2 has been suggested with plans for films dating back to 1963 (and one I remember seeing on the same site planned for some time in the 90’s).

News of this film comes nearly a year since the announcement that Legendary Pictures plan to release a King Kong spinoff/prequel in form of Skull Island. Originally planned for a 2016 release, this date was pushed back to 2017 (the film itself currently in production, as in right now). Plans for the film were tossed around a bit though since its original announcement and come as part of a plan to create a shared universe (another one) with classic and new giant monsters in them, possibly due to the success of Godzilla last year, plus the acquisition of the rights to classic Toho Monsters including Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah.

Godzilla v.s Mothra and King Ghidorah

Things though are a little confusing about this announcement. When you compare the sizes of both creatures, Godzilla in the recent film is about 110 meters tall, King Kong’s height has been measured to be no higher than 25 feet which when run through a converter comes to about 7.62 metres. Therefore Kong is definitely the smaller of the 2, a lot smaller. Still big enough not to be entirely squashed underfoot, but still too small to cause any real damage to Godzilla. Plus, if Kong is really that hairy, Godzilla’s Atomic Deathray will easily cause the ape to catch fire. So for this new film, Kong is really going to need to be rescaled. Because well, you can’t down size Godzilla to 7.26 metres as that will be very inaccurate (reminds me of something once said on Vidzilla over 15 years ago).

Godzilla vs King Kong 2020

Supposed plans for this film at the moment suggest that at some point the 2 Goliaths will face each other in battle, but will together face a mutual threat. No idea what this threat is at the moment, we are still waiting for Godzilla 2 to come out (which is a little delayed with the Director moonlighting over at LucasFilm). Hopefully though once that and Skull Island are out of the way news will come in thick and fast (although I am a little worried for Godzilla 2 as Universal have announced that the sequel to the best film this year: Jurassic World is going to be released the same month as Godzilla 2) regarding what will be happening. Who knows, Maybe Godzilla will finally get a match against Desghidorah or a long overdue rematch with Battra. With a little bit of time still to go though (about 5 years of it) until this film gets released, there is still plenty to look forward to with both Kong and Godzilla getting outings until they finally meet in 2020.

Desghidorah

Quickly I just want to mention something completely un-Godzilla related. I found out news last week (after buying 3 classic Michael Crichton books for £5) that a film of Crichton’s last book: MICRO is planned. DreamWorks are the ones pursuing it with input from Producer Frank Marshall and a close friend of Crichton’s; Steven Spielberg. While there is no real news of when it will be coming out, I am really excited by this news. Micro was the second best book I read last year, I preferred it to Jurassic Park and to hear that Spielberg is helping in the production of the film is great news. So expect insects galore as Micro will hopefully be released sooner or later. But until that happens, you have plenty of time to read the book. So head down to your local chain of Waterstone’s and pick it up……….”NOW!”

Micro (Harper Collins - 2012)

GENEPOOL





Top 7 Most Exciting Films In 2015

21 01 2015

Film Reel 2015

Since 2012; I have annually produced a list of my top 10 most exciting films of the upcoming year. These are the films which I am most excited about that are due for release later in the year. This year however, there’s a problem, there are only 7 films I feel genuinely excited about. While there is the new Star Wars film due for release later this year, I just don’t feel all that excited about it, the new Terminator looks much better, but I don’t feel all that strongly for it, and while films like Monsters: Dark ContinentChappie, Minions and Crimson Peak do look rather interesting, I don’t know much about them to feel anything major for them. It’s quite the dilemma, but I have found at least 7 films that I am genuinely looking out for and so here is my list of the Top 7 Most Exciting Films In 2015 (it would have been 8 if Kung Fu Panda 3 had not been pushed back to 2016).

Avengers: Age of Ultron (Marvel Studios - 2015)

7. Avengers: Age of Ultron – When The Avengers (Avengers Assemble in the UK) was released, I was relatively OK with it. I thought that having all characters on-screen could ruin it but overall was impressed with the portrayal of The Hulk. I however thought that the film would ruin future one-off releases by constantly mentioning that film instead of being its own thing and until recently was not all that excited to the release of the new film. Even when the first trailer for Age of Ultron came out, I thought it looked rather rubbish, particularly the ridiculous giant Iron Man armour (but not as ridiculous though as the upcoming Ant-Man film). The second trailer though look more refined and when I began to look at it in-depth it began to look a little more interesting. While I am sort of wavering on this film, I am a little more excited about it, and am interested to see how they are going to portray two X-Men characters in it.

Spectre (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer - 2015)

6. Spectre – The next instalment in the James Bond series and sequel to Skyfall. The next film sees Sam Mendes returning to direct this new film which is set to star Christoph Waltz and former World Heavyweight Wrestling Champion Dave Bautista. While the plot of the new film is still rather unknown, the promise of a new bond film, let alone being directed again by the director of Skyfall shows promise.

Insurgent (Lionsgate - 2015)

5. The Divergent Series: Insurgent – The sequel to Divergent. Having not read the books myself I don’t know what is going to happen but the trailer does look rather good. Previous cast members return for the next instalment, including both Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz and altogether at this stage, the film looks rather interesting.

Blackhat (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

4. Blackhat – I have been looking forward to Blackhat for a while now. The first time I heard of it was when I was researching the biography of Legendary Pictures founder Thomas Tull. I sort of kept the film in mind before eventually finding the trailer, to which I am impressed. What looks to be a hacker based drama starring Chris Hemsworth, the trailer made this jump so high in my list. While the film has not yet been released in the UK, it has been in America, so fingers crossed, it shouldn’t be too long until it gets released in the UK (not unless it’s going to be like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles all over again).

Seventh Son (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

3. Seventh Son – I have mentioned this film a lot over the last several years and it has been a long time coming. Had it not been for it being pushed back an entire year (especially as the trailer for the film was released several months before that was announced), it would have been released by now. Based on the book series The Spook’s by Joseph Delaney, the film follows the Spook taking on new apprentice Thomas Ward to fight the forces of darkness and protect the local people from the things that go bump in the night. What is supposedly based on the first book in the series; The Spook’s Apprentice, Seventh Son follows the story from the beginning. The trailer however shows things which I can’t remember in the book, and I think the character of Thomas (Ben Barnes) looks a little old for a character who is supposedly a teenager. The Spook (Jeff Bridges) however looks pretty close to perfect. While I am a little unsure of what the trailer shows, I am still excited to see what the film does.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (Lions Gate - 2014

2. The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 – The film series that gripped the world from its first instalment finally reaches its ultimate climax. What will be the second part of the third book (a trend that is taking over the whole of cinema), Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and company will fight through the city streets of the Capitol to reach and ultimately bring down the ruthless Capitol, ruled by the villainous President Snow (Donald Sutherland). While Part 1 ended where I roughly thought it would, it’s going to be interesting to see how Part 2 will ultimately finish. I’m probably going to cry when this is all over, it’s been one of my favourite film series, not just in recent years, but I have seen to date, and I’m gonna miss it when it’s all over later this year.

Jurassic World (Universal Pictures - 2015)

1. Jurassic World – I have been waiting for this film for a long, long time. I love the Jurassic Park series, to me, it’s better than it’s close rival; Star Wars. I have always loved dinosaurs and the Jurassic Park films have always been fun (even number 3 has it’s moments). Having read though the book of Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton this past year, I do see the films in a different light. The trailer for the new film has been out for a long while now, but from the moment I saw it, I already fell in love with it. The film’s setting looks terrific, and the premise looks awesome and terrifying. While a second trailer is due to come out relatively soon, it won’t be too long until this film gets released, but the first trailer gives me plenty of reasons to be excited about it.

GENEPOOL (I would have included Birdman, but seeing as it has already been released in both the US and the UK, I thought it felt a bit late to mention it).





You’re Gonna Need A Bigger Boat – Jaws

1 10 2014

Jaws (Universal Pictures - 1975)

Imagine you are being pursued by a terrifying creature, but you don’t know what it is. You turn around for a second, lose some running time and momentum and you see the horrible creature that wants to kill you and eat you. That want and desire to know what is after you, do you really need to know? Movies are filled with such creatures, ranging from The Alien and Predator, to Dragons and The Host. But when you watch said films, there is a level of reassurance in them in which you know they don’t exist. But what if the creature is real? What if a film could make you scarred of something that is real and make you think twice before engaging in an activity in which, while rare of course, means there is still a chance of meeting the creature. Well, there is one film that has done just that for nearly 40 years now.

Jaws (Peter Benchley - 1974)

Released by Universal Pictures in 1975, Directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the Peter Benchley novel of the same name; Jaws is highly perceived as one of the best films in the world, helping to launch the career of Steven Spielberg in the process and to this day being one of very few films on Rotten Tomatoes with a 100% fresh approval rating as well as becoming a major moment in the history of cinema upon its release. All of that for a film about a Great White Shark.

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The film begins on Amity Island with a young girl called Chrissie (Susan Backlinie) who goes skinny dipping before being pulled under water. The following morning, Police Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider) who lives on the Island with his wife Ellen (Lorraine Gary) and two sons Sean (Jay Mello) and Michael (Chris Rebello) goes in search of Chrissie meeting up with Chrissie’s supposed boyfriend Cassidy (Jonathan Filley) and Amity Police Deputy, Jeff Hendricks (Jeffrey Kramer) who has found the remains of Chrissie’s body washed up on the shore. Chief Brody waits to hear from the coroner who tells him that Chrissie died from a Shark Attack. Brody spurs into action wanting to close the beaches, but the island’s mayor Larry Vaughn (Murray Hamilton) however persuades Brody to keep quiet, so that he can keep the beaches open during the summer period. Brody decides to let it slip and go with the coroner’s new statement suggesting that the incident was a boating accident. While relaxing with his family on the beach, Brody spots something odd happening in the water and calls everyone to get out of the water, however, a boy named Alex (Jeffrey Voorhees) has disappeared, and the mother of the boy, Mrs. Kintner (Lee Fierro) puts up a $3,000 reward for whoever can kill the shark that killed her son. At a meeting to discuss this, Brody states he is closing the beach, but the mayor says only for 24 hours. Everyone is then drawn to the appearance of local Shark Hunter Quint (Robert Shaw) who says he will kill the shark, but demands $10,000 in return.

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The next day, fishermen head out to the ocean to hunt the shark. Meanwhile, marine biologist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) arrives on the island and looks at Chrissie’s body and states that she was in fact killed by a shark. The fishermen then catch the supposed shark but Hooper states that it is a Tiger Shark, and not the shark they are looking for. That night, Hooper goes to have dinner with Martin and Ellen, saying he would like to look inside the caught shark’s stomach, but the mayor wouldn’t allow it. Brody and Hooper do it in secret and find no trace of Chrissie. They go out to sea and find a boat belonging to local fisherman Ben Gardner (Craig Kingsbury). Hooper goes underwater to look at the wreckage and finds a sizeable tooth but drops it after he sees the fisherman’s corpse. Brody and Hooper try to persuade the Mayor to close the beaches but he doesn’t listen and decides to keep the beaches open for the fourth of July.

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Tourists arrive in their hundreds to enjoy the sea-side resort while Brody and Hooper do what they can to keep the beaches safe. The mayor persuades people to go into the water and everything goes ok until a prank caused by a couple of kid’s forces everyone to run out of the water. The pranksters get found out, but a shark fin is spotted going into a pond/estuary where Brody’s son Michael is on his new yacht. A man in a rowing boat (Ted Grossman) is killed and Michael goes into shock. Brody has the mayor sign a contract to give Quint whatever he wants in return for killing the shark. Quint immediately falls out with Hooper but reluctantly agrees to take both him and Brody on the voyage. The next day, all three men head out to sea and Quint has Hooper drive the boat and Brody putting chum out to attract the shark. Quint has something hooked onto his fishing rod and tries to pull it in, but the identity of whatever it is remains unknown and eventually let’s go. Brody puts more chum out but sees the shark and is shocked by the size of it by saying the famous line “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”. The three men manage to tag a barrel onto it but the shark manages to get away before they can attach another.

They stay the night and talk to each other showing each other their scars before Quint reveals that he was on the USS Indianapolis, the ship that delivered the Hiroshima Bomb before being sunk by a Japanese Torpedo and where a large number of the sailors were killed by sharks. The boat is then attacked by the shark. The following morning, the three men attempt to repair the boat but the shark returns. Brody tries to call the coast guard but Quint destroys the radio. They get another barrel attached to the shark and then attach both barrels to the boat, but the shark pulls the boat flooding the deck and engine. Quint, now consumed with killing the creature burns out the boat’s motor while trying to suffocate the creature in the shallow waters. With the boat now sinking, Hooper suggests a radical new plan to go down in a shark cage and poison the shark. The plan fails though when the shark attacks the cage, with Hooper narrowly escaping. Back on the boat, the shark attacks the two remaining men eating Quint in the process. With just Chief Brody left, Brody attacks the creature throwing a scuba tank in its mouth. From Hooper telling him the previous day that the tanks would explode, Brody climbs the mast of the almost completely sunk boat and shoots several rounds at the creature before finally hitting the scuba tank, causing the shark to blow up. Hooper returns to the surface and the two men swim back to shore.

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Jaws is an incredible film, a point you begin to realise the more times you watch it, the more you begin to understand it, and even more so when you discover that Jaws was supposed to look a lot different, and if had originally come to fruition may not be as good or as highly regarded as it has become. Jaws cast are terrifically portrayed from Minor to Major. Characters that only appear briefly such as Brody’s children, Mrs. Kitner, Meadows the reporter and the town’s upper-class woman Mrs. Taft (Fritzi Jane Courtney) have their own major points. Meadows (Carl Gottlieb) has a great yet brief on-screen presence, while Brody’s children add an extra level of depth to the Brody family giving them more of an emotional attachment to the screens setting as well as a connection for the audience also. Mrs. Taft is a great character as in she is an incredibly stiff upper lip toff type who is an absolute rotter to be around and acts in such a manner that makes herself feel superior to be around others but doesn’t achieve any sympathy from anyone and everyone else, particularly the audience. She is in the same league as the mayor and his cronies and believes more in stature and glory than in safety or the lives of other people wanting the beaches open instead of closed and possibly safer as a result. Scenes with her also include not laughing at jokes made by others and even protesting that she doesn’t find them funny, you know, the kind of person who believes that standards are more important than anything else. From here we go into the more major members of the cast. The character of Chrissie is only seen very briefly, but she is the all-important first victim. When she is grabbed from under water and pulled under you do see a level of terror in her eyes and the way she is portrayed, even more so to the point when she also has the look of someone who has no idea what is attacking her and it is more the fear of the unknown and death on the whole than what exactly is about to happen to her, a realization that becomes more clear as the scene carries on and as she screams for help.

Ellen Brody holds the point of sanity for her family trying to keep Brody on the relaxed side of what is going on and not get too involved or in-depth with his new enemy. She is generally more patient and holds a great scene presence when she is on, appearing to be more calm than emotional, but that doesn’t stop her getting emotional when Michael is in danger or when Brody is going out to sea. Next to that you have the character of Hendricks; the deputy of Amity Island. He doesn’t appear to have much in this film other than to be the bumbling buffoon secondary policeman who doesn’t do much in the way of standing up for himself and mostly just takes orders than showing his own opinion. He is also however the only real political support that Brody has and is seemingly the only one in a political stance who believes Brody’s judgement on the situation is correct and trust that he knows what he is doing. He is also not devoid of much life as he takes his position seriously and when he finds Chrissie’s body, a real sense of emotion comes to light as the remains are not pleasant and he shows that he is in fact human and not at all a fool, but just seen as one. Then we move onto the Mayor of amity Island, Larry Vaughn. He is a man who is much in the same league with the higher end civilians of the own who believe in the accumulation of money being the biggest priority. A fair judgement for a small island as the island very much requires a lot of tourism in order to survive, however, when it comes to the appearance of a killer shark, Mr. Mayor and his higher-ups still want to keep the beaches open and at first think nothing more than this just being a passing incident, but when it continues, he still thinks solely about the money. He is in many respects a secondary villain after the shark as he is very single-minded in the pursuit of what he thinks is best, although it really isn’t and provides the film a good opposite comparison and something for Brody to put his frustration on as Brody has safety in front and the mayor doesn’t. He is also a very dodgy character in the way that he will use whatever persuasion skill he has to get what he wants, even having the coroner change his professional opinion as to what happened to the first victim. He is overall played very well as he is the type of character, along with Mrs. Taft that you have not the slightest bit of sympathy for and it is only from pure experience in the end that he learns the error of his ways, but still tries to shift the blame off himself in return.

Lorraine Gary, Jeffrey Kramer and Murray Hamilton

Despite all these great qualities though, the films three main cast members are the highlights.

Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider

Roy Scheider’s character is that of the concerned outsider. It’s obvious that he knows what he is doing when he hears about the shark, closing the beaches and everything and while he may not be an expert or fully aware on the subject of sharks he does know the best course of action. However he does get a bit too committed and paranoid over the whole thing. There is also the problem that while his job is to uphold the law and protect others, there are those higher above him who have the authority to tell him what to do and will make him do, even if it’s the wrong course of action. The result then is that he is unable to do his job properly due to the shady characters who tell him what to do and as such becomes frustrated with the whole affair, especially when the body count continues to grow and knowing that if politics didn’t get in the way, he could prevent deaths. The use of a policeman character is also well done and makes the film not just an action film, but something of a crime drama at the same time with the policeman being the detective, closing in on his suspect and the shark the murderer but in a similar twist, it shows that the goody-goody policeman has to become as focussed as the killer and tap into his natural primal instincts in order to finally achieve the end result. He therefore gets overly committed to this result and by the end; he is a much more different person than the first time the audience sees him.

Roy Scheider

Richard Dreyfuss on the other hand starts off as something more of a decent guy. He is brought in as a marine biologist and at first you grow to like him as he knows what he is talking about but is not just some professor or lecturer. Monster Movies have always required a level of science for the audience and usually achieve this through a character who might know what he is talking about. Hooper on the other hand does not look like a lecturer or acts like a mad scientist, instead he dresses more casually and connects to the audience as a likeable guy as such as he becomes more approachable. However this nice guy attitude eventually begins to dissipate, mostly at the point he meets Quint who also doesn’t take a liking to him either. At this point Hooper takes much a defensive stance and as he continues he begins to grow more distant from everyone else, in particular Brody who originally both start off as friends but who are now at constant loggerheads with each other. It’s only at the very end when the shark has finally been killed that they return to normal. As the final act progresses though you begin to see more of a normal person in Hooper though as he jokes and has a few laughs when he and Quint observe each other’s scars, just showing that while he may be the expert guy, he is also a human being inside too and while he may go astray for a while during the final act, he grows more in person as a result too.

Richard Dreyfuss

When I first watched Jaws when I was about 6/7 years old, I always had Robert Shaw’s character (Quint) down as a bad guy, because well, he wasn’t really pleasant and so when he dies I always assumed it was a good thing. In more recent years though, particularly more so in the last year, I have grown to like Quint a great deal and observe him no more as a villain, but as the film’s best character. From the first time you see him he is unpleasant, scraping the chalk board making everyone’s ears hurt, demanding everyone to listen to him, talking about what he does and demanding more money to achieve it. When he appears again much later in the film nothing has changed, he still appears to be somewhat dodgy and angry and points out things about other people, mainly Hooper, has fun about things people do and takes the position of a lazy fisherman on the boat but when the shark arrives becomes something of a Captain Ahab type character getting transfixed on his shark and bounty up until the moment he gets killed. Sounds unpleasant and almost like he say what was coming to him. But when you look between the lines and real study who he is, he becomes much more likeable as a person. When he demands more money, he is not just some greedy Bounty Hunter; he is an experienced Shark Hunter who knows what he’s doing. When he falls out with Hooper, he is not being horrible, he just despises those he thinks are getting a better way of living for doing much less, when he is fishing and having others do his work for him, he is keeping close vigil on the water and knows how best to hunt the animal and requires the other two to do what he asks fully to achieve this. It’s only towards the end when he gets too committed that things begin to go bad for him. He is a hardworking man and believes he is getting the most out of his job in order to do well at it.

Robert Shaw

On top of that though, he is a man of experience, and not all of it good. Why is he a shark killer, because he knows what sharks can do from first-hand experience and when he tells his tale of life on the USS Indianapolis in what is a terrific monologue, you begin to get the real insight on him? You begin to fall in line with him, and try to question his position wondering if he does his job to live, or is looking for revenge; like Captain Ahab and his whale. From then on, and every time you watch the film from then, you really begin to understand him as a character and know not to judge a book by its cover, because while on the outside he is a committed man who appears to be very unpleasant, inside he is a normal human being and you become like a friend to him and understand the way he acts, because he doesn’t want to appear weak, but also you understand what he has gone through.

The characterization of the shark is terrific achievement too. When the film was initially produced, the plan was to use the shark animatronic from early on and to see the shark from early on, but the shark did not work all too well and so Spielberg adopted an approach inspired by Alfred Hitchcock in which to suggest the existence of something underwater but not to show it, and more have a look that suggests that you are looking through its own eyes. This works as it makes the shark not just an animal but more like an actual killer, as you are seeing it pick its targets. It’s only until very much later on that this technique is held off together as the audience member is with Brody, Hooper and Quint out to kill the creature, and so you no longer are looking at the creature’s perspective but the perspective of those out to kill it. To begin with though, the shark is more positioned as the animal and also the mysterious killer. When you get to the final act out at sea, you begin to see the shark take on new traits, that of taking things personal with the crew by attacking and damaging the boat to fully chasing them and picking them off one by one. This trait of revenge makes the final few moments really hectic as each character goes to extreme lengths to survive and for the shark to increasingly damage the boat to get at them or get them in the water therefore fully transforming the creature from killer shark to monster.

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Another way that the shark is shown is through great effects in using a combination of Real Life footage with animatronic. The real life footage of the creature from a distance helps the thing to look real as it indeed is a real shark on the footage. The animatronic is more used for shots of real sharks that they had to fake because a real shark wouldn’t be able to really act for them, it would more likely just swim away, or eat the film crew. Such realistic shots are mostly used for underwater shots with the cage, such as seen far away, swimming away and tangling with the cage after Hooper gets out. The animatronic fills in the rest. The actual shark animatronic, it’s actually pretty good. While the effect looks very much outdated and almost cardboard/wooden like, it still holds an element of realism in it as the thing worked pretty perfectly in close up shots towards the end and while now may look more silly, thanks to the film building up the appearance of the creature, you are now fully in the scene and the possible silliness of the creature today is almost completely removed when the creature starts eating people close up. When the animatronic is used in the water too, from the perspective of above the water, the effect is brilliant as while it may not carry a lot of close-up detail it does enough to show the size of the creature as well as what it would look like at that angle.

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The film’s soundtrack produced by John Williams also aids in the shark’s portrayal. The film for the most part uses a soundtrack which covers different topics from tense mystery moments, to everyday life in amity, happiness, sadness as well as moments of wonder. The film generally uses pieces over and over again but they are pieces that work. The moments on the land with no Shark use great themes and soundtrack for moments of joy and happiness as well as general life and that is used to great effect to portray those moments. However it is the moments with the shark that produce an interesting contrast. When the shark is being hunted a piece of music plays which sounds more adventurous, like something used in a sailing, pirate film which sound like a celebration theme as the three men attempt to kill the shark. On the other hand to that though, you have the film’s main theme, that of the shark’s theme.

The shark’s theme is iconic to this very day but its actual quite simple. It suggests the presence of something mysterious, but is not overly joyful. It sounds bad, it sounds dark, as there is a real danger approaching. The theme then builds into a tense action paced sound as the danger arrives and is now in view of sorts and you know you can’t get away, it is the approaching predator. As the theme is used into the later parts of the film, the same piece is transferred into another piece and becomes more of a piece of last stand music as Brody fights the shark alone and the tense sounding music begins to grow more desperate before finishing on a final high note which allows the film to use one more note of silence as to question what the final outcome is.

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Jaws is as amazing as it is regarded to be. The film is brilliantly shot with combinations of island life, to the perils of sea until its final conclusion out to sea with a sense of moral danger and adventure. While the film’s look and effects (not to mention Quint’s cool looking boat the Orca) may be outdated, they are still able to hold a great element of terror too as they are used to great effect. The film’s soundtrack is terrific and the portrayal of all the film’s major cast including the shark, are enjoyable from start to finish and at no point get boring. For nearly 40 years now this film has entertained and (but probably mostly) terrified audiences the world over, and still will do for decades to come. If you have not seen this film yet, you should. It is one of the true classics of cinema and still holds true to this day. While some monster films may use creatures that are entirely fictional, there is nothing more terrifying than using a subject and creature that is real, and continues to remain a real life danger as long as they continue to survive. Jaws is so well done to this point that you will be scarred of going back in the water for some time, unless it’s a swimming pool, well, because a Great White Shark can’t get into a swimming pool………………………..can it?

GENEPOOL (Has anyone else noticed that the film’s three main cast members all have names which begin with the letter R)?








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