Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Devil Rides Out (1968)

        

 The Devil Rides Out (1968)
 Directed by: Terence Fisher 
Written by: Richard Matheson, based on the novel "The Devil Rides Out" by Dennis Wheatley.
Starring: Christopher Lee, Charles Gray, Nike Arrighi.

Hammers 1968 occult/satanism themed horror The Devil Rides Out (aka The Devils Bride) is by far one of Hammers best films and even Christopher Lee has often cited it as his favorite film hes starred in. Britain for whatever reason has made a lot of great occult themed films, especially in the 60`s and "The Devil Rides Out" is by far my second favorite after 1957`s "Curse of the Demon". The film though is fantastic, beautifully shot and oozes with English Gothic themes that Fisher was always so good at conveying.
   
        The film is about the character Duke de Richleau (Lee) who has come to investigate the sudden strange reclusive behavior of the son of one of his friends, Simon Aron. Not long after Richleau has arrived at Simons residence he sudden realizes the situation that Simon has involved himself in a very serious satanic cult led by the sinister leader Mocata. From there Richleau and his accomplice Rex Van Ryn are forced to venture through the deepest and darkest secrets and rituals of the occult to free Simon from its influence and hopefully bring an end to Mocatas cult in the process.
     
       As i`ve stated before the film is based on a novel by the same name by Dennis Wheatley. Wheatley was one of Lee`s favorite writers and had been pushing producers in Hammer to make a film based on one of his novels. For the longest time they were a little weary of attempting it due to the fact that most of his novels especially the ones Lee wanted to see get made into films, dealt with the occult and satanism. Though by 1968 that wasn't so much of a taboo subject that the censors were going to get too upset about, by the time this was made Hammer had already an occult based film with Joan Fontaine called "The Witches". Then in 1962 you had "Burn, Witch, Burn" and then just before this was released Polanski's "Rosemary`s Baby" had been released. So obviously by now satanism and occult themed films weren't as difficult of themes to get made as they used to be.

     Christopher Lee is the star of the show for me, this is not only one of his best performances, but probably one of his most unique. For one he`s a good guy, not the lead satanist which I feel a lot of people would just naturally assume. Charles Gray also does a very notable performance as the Mocata the lead satanist. When ever he has a scene with other charterers you definitely get the feeling that there is something very off about this man.

 Overall "The Devil Rides Out" is a great film and I can defiantly see why Lee considers it his favorite film he`s done. Its very well directed by Terence Fisher and Christopher Lee`s performance is one of his best. It has a fantastic 1920`s period setting and the scenes involving satanic rituals are creepy and NOT cheesy. So if you haven't already seen this film, i`d highly recommend it.













Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Quiet Ones (2014)

                  

The Quiet Ones (2014)
Direted by: John Pogue
Written by: Craig Rosenberg, Oren Moverman, and John Pogue. Based on a Screenplay by Tom de Ville.
Starring: Jared Harris, Sam Claffin, Olivia Cooke. 

      In 2012 Hammer Pictures released "The Women in Black" which I went to see and immensely enjoyed, in fact it was my favorite horror film of 2012. So naturally i`ve been eagerly awaiting there next film "The Quiet Ones"for two years now, and unfortunately I have to say I walked away a little disappointed. Its not a "bad" film but its flaws definitely out way its pluses.

    One thing this movie does have going for it is it does have a good plot. Its set in the 1970s in Oxford, England were Professor Joseph Coupland (Jared Harris) is attempting to create a poltergeist and in doing so prove that the ''supernatural'' doesn't exist but is just a manifestation of a form of mental illness resulting from an excess of negative energy and that if he can cure one person of this he can cure the world of the "supernatural''. As you can see (or maybe its just me) but the basic plot is very interesting and original. I have to add though like so many horror movies these days this one is "inspired by true events'', and I guess a little bit of this stuff actually happened except in it took place in Canada not England.

    Problem is this good plot is just not presented very well. I`m not sure how to explain it but its just one of those movies that you can tell they did a lot of rewrites on and had probably too many writers trying to get there to get their individual ideas crammed into the movie. One indicator of this is its the film says "based on a screenplay by Tom De Ville'' and this movie is not a remake. A lot of the ideas end up getting convoluted like; the scandalous love affair triangle that's going, the "this is a hoax" sensations, and the ancient Sumerian demon cult, all just didn't end up blending together very well.

    My next issue I had was how the movie kept going between found footage and not being found footage, which got old for me. It didn't make it any scarier and the fact that i`d say 3/4 of the movie is found footage really disappointing me (in case you couldn't tell i`m not a fan of found footage). I admit that at first it was a kind of cool novelty to see it transfer into this grain 70`s film footage but it wore off pretty quickly. The other thing that I didn't really like was the off and on sexual tension between the camera guy Brian McNeil and the proposed possessed girl Jane. It felt awkward and like it was thrown in haphazardly.

  I will say though the actors give it there best. Especially Jared Harris, you can tell he`s embraced the character and made it as convincing as possible. In fact i`m disappointed there wasn`t more  of his character in the film. The next person who stood out for me was Olivia Cooke who plays the possessed girl. I found out later shes from the TV show "Bates Motel" (which i`ve never watched), but here shes very creepy and very interesting to watch. I understand this is one of her first roles in a feature film. Shes about to be in that upcoming science fiction film "The Signal" that's coming out in next month, so hopefully she will continue having a productive career in acting.

   "The Quiet Ones" was a good try by the recently revived Hammer Pictures but unfortunately despite the good story, the film just doesn't end up being more than a so-so forgettable film. Hopefully Hammers next film which I believe is going to be  a sequel to the "The Woman in Black" will be a more successful film. On a side note, yes I have seen all the new Hammer films which counting this one is about five (I`m not counting that made for internet movie "Rave to the Grave") and if I were to rank them i`d rank "The Quiet Ones" as the third best of the five.






Saturday, February 15, 2014

An Overview of Some of the Early H.P Lovecraft Adaptations


                                                            




   


       Anyone who knows me will know that I have a deep love and regard to the works of none other than H.P Lovecraft. I have been a big fan of his writing since around my fresh man year of high school and to this day read and reread his stories periodically. He is without a doubt one of Americas greatest figures in literature and to this day inspires so many other writers.

       Anyways recently I got to thinking how has Lovecraft`s fared in regards film adaptations of his stories? I know there really haven't been that many, which is so strange to me. But you have other fellow "horror" writers such as Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King  who have had numerous adaptions of there stories and many have been fantastic. Yet Lovecraft seems to be ignored and when his stuff does actually get adapted to film they either drift ridiculously far from the story to the point it can hardly be identified with the original story or they are just plain awful. Yet there have been a few exceptions. Anyhow to get the full perspective of Lovecraft film adaptions lets start from the beginning with Roger Corman`s "The Haunted Palace".

    The Haunted Palace (1963) was directed by the great Roger Corman and written by Charles Beaumont ("The Seven Faces of Dr.Lao", "Burn, Witch, Burn!"), apparently Francs Ford Coppola did some additional writing on the movie as well. The Film was based on H.P Lovecraft`s novella "The Case of Charles Dextar Ward". Interesting fact when this released Lovecraft was still not really well known so they made Corman name it after the Edgar Allan Poe Poem "The Haunted Palace" and act as if its just another one of Corman`s Poe films.
     The film is a fair adaption of the short Lovecraft novel and a superb film. I know some people might find the pacel "slow-burn" but I think its paced perfectly. Vincent Price stars in the film as Charles Dexter Ward/Joseph Curwen. Another Horror Icon Lon Chaney Jr co stars as one of Prices followers, (this was the only movie Chaney ever did with Corman). Elisha Cook Jr and Debra Pagent also have roles in the film. Overall its a good Lovecraft adaptation in fact id definitely say its  one of the best and just a really good Gothic style horror film, I highly recommend it.



     The next film adaption i`d like to mention is "Die Monster Die!" (1965). This film is a adaption of Lovecraft`s story "The Color out of Space". "Die, Monster, Die!" was directed by Daniel Haller and written by Jerry Sohl. It stars Boris Karloff, Nick Adams, and Freda Jackson.
      I`ve come to realize though that  people generally don`t really like this movie, now I can see why but personally i`m fan of this film. I think Boris Karloff is great in the role of Nahum Witley and the sets/art direction just looks really good. Unfortunately I admit it does end up being a bit of a lose adaptation and the special effects are something Mystery Science Fiction Theater would have so many jokes about.  Though overall I think its a fine film on its but I admit its definitely not the most loyal of adaptations. I`d say "The Haunted Palace" was a more loyal adaptation then "Die Monster Die!" by far.

   



 The next "adaptation" is so lose its debatable that even counts as an adaptation at all and and that is of 1968`s "Curse of the Crimson Alter" (aka The Crimson Cult). This film is supposed to be based on Lovecraft`s story "The Dreams in the Witch House" but it really just does its own thing. There`s some themes from the story in the movie like how the main character is haunted by disturbing dreams, but truthfully if you expect a movie based on the story your going to be disappointed. There no big rat eating through anyone's chest, appearances of Elder Things, or anything like that from the story.
      Its to bad to because it has the makings for a really good film, i`m not saying its a bad movie i`m just saying it could have been much better. Its directed by Vernon Sewell and stares a bunch of really great horror actors like Boris Karloff (this is one of his last films), Christopher Lee, Michael Gough and Barbara Steele. Yet with all this talent the movie isn't really much more than just OK and is so loosely based on the story "The Dreams in the Witch House" its debatable that its even based on the story at all.



     Next up is "The Dunwich Horror" from 1970. This film tends to get a mixed reception from people. Personally I just think its ok, its a very psychedelic and kind of weird horror film. Its directed by Daniel Haller (same person who directed "Die, Monster, Die!"), produced by Roger Corman and stars Dean Stockwell, Sandra Dee, and Ed Begley. It was supposed to have Boris Karloff in the Ed Begley role of Dr.Henry Armitage which would have been perfect but Karloff died before production started. Then Peter Fonda was originally in the Dean Stockwell role of Wilbur Whateley.
      "The Dunwich Horror" has some really good moments in it. For example the scenes that involve the occult are really well executed, they genuinely chilling and creepy. Not at all cheesy or campy like so many films that attempt doing scenes involving the occult and occult rituals. Then there scenes that are set up to like look like bad acid trips which was unique and definitely a testament to the time it was made. Ed Begly was a good choice for Dr.Armitage and worthy successor to late Boris Karloff for the part.
     Now the not so great is that to me it didn't include enough of the story in movie. It adds some weird and unnecessary aspects, but by no means ruins the original story. Then of course we have to address the monster that we finally see at the end. Some people have gone so far as to say it ruins the movie, I wouldn't go that far but I do admit it looks kinda hooky. I don't even describe the thing you have to see it for your self.
     Overall despite its flaws "The Dunwich Horror" is not to bad. It could have been a bit better, but is fairly loyal to the original story, has a very good cast of actors, and very cool poster. So would I recommend it? If your interested or have read the original story by Lovecraft then yes, otherwise there's no real big reason to go out of your way to see it.
     







Friday, January 24, 2014

Dracula Films Two Years Later...

You may or may not remember back in 2012 when I wrote a little article on three upcoming "alternative'' Dracula  films (by alternative I mean films that were not literal adaptations but a unique aspect of the Dracula legends). Well anyways its been about two years so lets see were their at:

The Last Voyage of Demeter:
           
         This was the one that I thought sounded the most interesting and also the one that seemed to be most likely to be made. In case you don`t remember what its about is its about what happened on/to the crew of the ill fated ship Demeter which transported Count Dracula from Romania to England.
         So whats the updated on it? Well two years ago David Slade was set to be director, and before him was Marcus Nispel, but since then one of my favorite current directors Neil Marshall took over the project. Then for awhile the film sounded like it was really moving along but since summer of 2012 I have not heard a word about the movie, the latest article about it I could find was from June of 2012 and its IMDB page is now completely empty. It used to at least have Viggo Mortenson, Jude Law as Dracula which was kind of a odd choice, but before him it supposed to be Adrian Brody as Dracula which is an even oddier choice, and then Ben Kingsley was going to be the ships captain. Sadly no one is listed on its IMDB page anymore and in all likely hood are no longer even attached. So I hate to admit it but it sounds like its gonna be in development hell for awhile and its likely hood of being made seems dim.
          BUT have no fear there is a comic book called "Bram Stokers Death Ship" its published by IDW and written by Gary Gerani ("Pumpkinhead" & "Dinosaurs Attack!") and illustrated by Stuart Sayger ("Shiver in the Dark"), this comic is basically about what The Last Voyage of Demeter would be about. I haven't read it but i`ve heard its good and I know the artwork in it is supposed to be especially good.

Next we have the ambitious Dracula project called;
Harker:

       Harker was an interesting idea were it was going to change around the whole Dracula story were the Character  Jonathan Harker from the novel is now a Scotland yard inspector who is obsessed with finding and killing Count Dracula. Well back when I talked about this movie two years ago, Jaume Collet-Serra was supposed to be directing but he left it to direct that upcoming Liam Neeson thriller "Non-Stop". Instead now its supposed to be Eli Roth. I don`t mind Roth directing the film but I fear this will become another Eli Roth horror film project that just gets talked about forever and never actually made like for example; his remake of "The Funhouse", an adaptation of Stephen Kings novel "Cell", and that Thanksgiving themed horror film he always was talking about. But hey maybe hopefully i`ll be wrong this time.
     Russel Crowe is supposedly set to be playing Dracula, I originally thought he was gonna play Jonathan Harker (which I still think would have been a better role for him). It should be noted no one is casted as Harker yet. Lee Shipman and Brian McGreevy have written the script, they hope to make the character a franchise series. This project seems a little more optimistic than The Last Voyage of Demeter, at least this summer things seemed good for the film, but as of right now I have no idea weather or not Harker will actually make it to the screen. Now even if it can`t make as a feature film I think it would make the basis for a really cool comic book or television series, and if those are popular maybe it can spawn a feature film (kinda like what happened with "30 Days of Night")

Finally we have this film:
DRACULA UNTOLD:
You want to hear something ironic? Two years ago this was the film that far and way sounded most unlikely to happen, it had hardly anything being said about it just that Gary Shore was supposed to be directing and its title was Dracula: Year Zero. Well guess what this is the only one out of all three that's actually been made!
        Yes this movie has actually been made, well its still in  Post production  (filming wrapped up in November) and is scheduled to be released October 17th of this year. Its still being directed by Gary Shore whose a relative newcomer in fact this will be his first feature film. Its starring a couple of really good actors like Luke Evans who will be Vlad Tepes and Domnic Cooper as Mehmed the Conqueror. Its production company is Legendary Pictures and being distributed by none other than Universal! I read a interview that was published a couple days ago of Dominic Cooper and he kinda talked about this film and how its going to be a little bit more of historical premise focusing on Vlad and how he more or less becomes Dracula. Anyways it sounds really good, I don`t know if its gonna be R or PG-13 but I know for a fact its coming out this October.
     
        So there we have it, two years later and one of the three movies is actually being made. Which is better than nothing, hey maybe if its really successful it spur the other two into being made. Interesting fact "Dracula Untold" will be the first Dracula movie to get a theatrical release in 14 years, the last one was "Dracula 2000". Well anyways well just have to see what happens with the other two in a year from now.

What are your thoughts? Which do want to see get made or even not get made?