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





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





Film News – Mockingjay and Seventh Son

16 09 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Nickelodeon Movies - 2014)

It’s been a long time since I did some Film News but recently there has been some exciting developments in the film world regarding one of the most popular film series of the moment, a film that has had a greenlit sequel despite not being released in the UK yet and one film which has become one of the most annoying pieces of film news this year.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 (Lionsgate - 2014

At long last, well yesterday a trailer for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 was finally released after months of waiting. Mockingjay Part 1 is of course the first part in the final part of The Hunger Games trilogy (Quadrilogy now) and is the movie adaptation of the final book in the series Mockingjay. It has been a long time for the trailer to be released as up till now there has only been a few teasers, but even then they were only a few months ago and it is surprising really that Lionsgate have waited this long to release the trailer when Catching Fire last year was released around about March/April time, not two months before the film is due for release. Having finally gotten round to reading the book earlier this year (it was 2012 when I read the first one) due to me being preoccupied with the incredible GONE series, I have been wondering how they were going to show the underground world of District 13 as well as how it was going to look and also wonder where the film would split in half. From watching the trailer I can see that the world has once again been beautifully crafted and from shots alone can see that once again the filmmakers have been true to the books. One thing though that I think works spectacularly is that of the appearance of Donald Sutherland in the trailer. One of the things I have enjoyed most about the series is the casting and acting of both Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss and Donald Sutherland as President Snow and with him in particular having another up front role in the trailer is an added bonus. The trailer though feels very minimalist with most acting pieces going to Snow and Katniss with bits from Peeta and Haymitch, but I suspect that more will be revealed as the release date approaches on November 20th 2014, with the UK getting to see it before the United States; I suppose it makes up for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Seventh Son (Legendary Pictures - 2015)

You may remember for some time now I have constant mentions to the film Seventh Son, an upcoming adaptation of the book; The Spook’s Apprentice (which I have also made constant mentions of and even reviewed) by Joseph Delaney. Initially put down for like a late 2013 release and then an early 2014 release with a trailer originally released around about August 2013, the film’s release was pushed back by an entire year due to Universal buying the release rights from Warner Bros. when Universal Studios stepped in as the co-produce and co-finance partner to Legendary Pictures and then deciding to push back the release date to roughly the same time, (give or take a month) one year later. Well, another trailer has been released……….with the date attached (February 6th 2015), so hopefully, we may finally get to see this film. The trailer discloses a lot more than the previous trailer did with still some sections of Comedy from Jeff Bridges (the film also stars Ben Barnes, Julianne Moore and Alicia Vikander), however, much like the first trailer I still get the overall opinion of “I don’t remember that happening in the book” (much like the trailers for the recent film version of Noah as I have heard the real story of Noah). Despite that though some of the trailer looks true to the book and it is still 5 or 6 months until it gets released and so we’ll just have to wait and see. Expect Monsters, witches (not sure about Ninjas or Turtles) and Fantasy galore as Seventh Son (“HOPEFULLY”) gets released next year.

Which finally brings us on too, you guessed it……………………….Hellboy 3. No not really, the constant references to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles means that yes I am going to talk about a film that has already had a sequel confirmed for release in 2016 while annoyingly has not been released in the UK yet, and I don’t know why? This is the new live action adaptation of the popular series starring those loveable ninja turtles and their master rat. The film has been in development for a long time and all until roughly last year I was hoping it would be an animated sequel to the 2007 film TMNT. The film however is a live action film, and upon discovering this I have been sort of worried as to what it would look like, but thankfully Michael Bay was producing it. The film looks like it is in fact adopting the look and techniques that were used in producing the Awesome Transformers series and from what I can so far gather, looks really good. Trailers for the film have been hard to come by and have so far been only available on YouTube; there are however been some clips of the film too. From the looks of the film the film will be exploring the first time the turtles met reporter April O’Neil played by Megan Fox as they once again do battle with the villainous Shredder. The films cast include William Fichtner and Tohoru Masamune as the Shredder with Alan Ritchson, Noel Fisher, Pete Ploszek, Jeremy Howard and Johnny Knoxville playing the role of the 4 turtles (confusing I know) and not forgetting Danny Woodburn and Tony Shalhoub as Splinter (again, confusing). The film does look pretty impressive and I am very excited about finally getting to see this film when it gets released October 17th 2014 (10 days before Godzilla gets released on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK), particularly to see how they are going to approach my Favourite turtle, Raphael. So let us finish there with this awesome clip from the new film, and also the best lift music you could possibly want to actually listen too.

And here’s the trailer.

GENEPOOL





Clash Of The Titans – King Kong VS Godzilla

23 12 2011

I started the year with a Bang and I am ending it with a Bang. The title is no joke, King Kong and Godzilla have had a fight in 1962 (1963 if you are American). Just imagine two of cinemas greatest icons having a battle with each other.

The film was made by Toho who have made every Japanese Godzilla film to date. Universal were the distributors for the film in non-Asia countries. The film is a result of several attempts to make a new King Kong film over the years before this film. This is the first time that both King Kong and Godzilla appeared in Colour and Widescreen and it is still the most commercially successful title in the Godzilla Series.

So we know a bit about the film now let’s look at the combatants:

In one corner we have King Kong, the giant ape who was captured from his home, climbed to the top of the empire state building with the girl he loved in his hand and was the shot down by a group of airplanes. How is he still alive to fight Godzilla? Well in the case of many films what happened in New York did not happen in the timeline of this film and so he is still alive.

In the other corner we have Godzilla, The giant lizard who woke up after H-bomb tests and destroyed Tokyo before being killed by a secret weapon. Then another one appeared and had a fight with a creature called Anguirus (one of my favourite Toho monsters) and then gets buried in an Ice avalanche.

The two monsters are ready to fight so let’s see who wins the fight of the previous century.

The film starts out with a news team reporting an earthquake in Chile and then tell of some mysterious red berries that help in medicine and that the natives on the island don’t want to give it up because of the monster on the island. The head of a pharmaceutical company decide to send 2 people to the island to bring back the monster for their advertising. Meanwhile a group of icebergs are melting and so the United Nations send a submarine to investigate. They go towards an iceberg that is glowing and then crash into an iceberg. They set off an emergency signal. The submarine then catches fire as the sound of a creature’s roar is heard. A rescue helicopter arrives and watches as Godzilla emerges from the iceberg. The news is reported (on the television news channel which rather annoyingly constantly makes appearances through this film) and japan gets ready for when Godzilla attacks, they even think about using the nuclear bomb. Godzilla then attacks an army base.

The 2 men sent to collect the monster arrive at Faro Island and talk to the natives who allow them to stay after showing the chief a radio. As the natives perform a ceremony the Monsters roar can be heard. In Japan a plane crashes in Hokkaido  and a girl’s boyfriend was on the plane and she goes to see if he survived. As she leaves a news report says that Godzilla may attack there next. The 2 men look for the monster on the island and get caught in a land slide. They get back to the tribe village and as one of them sleeps a small boy goes to get some of the red berry juice. A giant octopus attacks which is then attacked by a Giant Gorilla (King Kong). Kong drives the octopus away. Kong then drinks some of the red berry juice and the natives start singing and dancing causing Kong to fall asleep. The 2 men decide to take Kong off the island.

Japan declares that King Kong is not allowed to enter Japan. The boyfriend (Fujita) arrives back safely in Tokyo and just finds out that his girlfriend’s train is going in the direction of where his plane crashed and Godzilla is in that area. He goes off to find his girlfriend. Godzilla moves towards the train. Fujita finds his girlfriend and takes her away from the area. Kong wakes up from the raft he is tied down to and the 2 men blow up the explosives tied to the raft to blow him up. However Kong survives and heads towards Japan. Godzilla and King Kong have a quick fight with Kong retreating after getting burned by Godzilla’s Atomic Deathray.

Plans are made to stop Godzilla from attacking Tokyo. They decide to build a grid of electrical wires around Tokyo thinking it will stop Godzilla. It (Strangely and I will explain why later) does and Godzilla moves away. However electricity (somehow) makes Kong stronger and Kong arrives in Tokyo. After stopping a train Fujita’s girlfriend is captured by Kong who then climbs to the top of the capital building (National Diet Building). Using the red berry juice and the sound of drums the army use the same technique used on the island to put Kong to sleep. Using balloons and some special wire from Fujita the army airlift Kong out of Tokyo and move him to where Godzilla is in the hope that the 2 monsters might destroy each other. The 2 monsters meet and after a hard-fought fight Godzilla initially wins but when lightning strikes it wakes up Kong and the fight continues. The 2 monsters then fall into the sea and then cause an earthquake. Kong the appears out of the water and swims home with Godzilla nowhere to be seen.

Here is a clip from BBC Monster Night in 1998 if you want to watch the main fight.

King Kong vs Godzilla is an entertaining film with some good scenes. What is interesting about the special effects side is that King Kong is a suit this time whereas in the original he was a Stop Motion Animation. The Godzilla suit does look pretty good but the suit does get bigger and better as the current series (showa) goes along. The King Kong suit also looks pretty good but there are parts in the film where it looks like it is out of control and the movements are not as fluid as they are in other parts. There is also some interesting uses of the cameras with a front view of Godzilla shown where as in most films he is seen from the side.

As I said earlier there is something strange about the electricity scene with Godzilla. In the 1954 original Godzilla destroys the electric grid with ease like it does nothing to him. In the film following this one electricity does not affect him in any way at all. So how come in this film he does not like it and runs away.

While the film is fun to watch and is quite entertaining the film seems to be a bit too Americanized. Some scenes look like a America Monster Movie and not a Godzilla Movie. It is almost like the film was made by America with some help from Japan. While it is fun to watch these elements stop it from reaching its full potential and that is why it’s not one of my top favourite Godzilla films (even though it is a lot better than some films I the series).

Overall it is a fun and entertaining film but in my opinion there are some Godzilla films that are a lot better than this one. Because of the Americanized style of this film it is more of a monster movie and not a Godzilla Movie. While you may find it fun to watch do not look at this and assume this is what Godzilla is about until you have watched some of the stronger films in the series. (please leave a comment if you want me to recommend any).

OH who won the fight. Well Godzilla won the first round and King Kong won the second so it looks like a draw. Maybe this calls for another film to be made. Who do you think Won?

GENEPOOL








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