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?








Friday, December 27, 2013

The Plague of the Zombies (1966)



The Plague of the Zombies (1966)
Directed by John Gilling
Written by Peter Bryan
Starring: Andre Morell, Diana Clare, John Carson

1966`s The Plague of the Zombies is Hammer film studios attempt at a zombie. It predates George Romero`s genre defining zombie film "Night of the Living Dead"  and to the best of my knowledge was the last traditional zombie film before Romero reinvented it. But I must say its a very good movie and not only one of the best films by Hammer but one of the best films of all time.

For people who have been reading my blog since I started it, might recall I reviewed this film back in 2010 and that I wasn`t really crazy about it. Now its been a few years and i`ve seen the film a couple of times i`ve come to really love the film and view it as a incredibly under appreciated movie. The films story is about a doctor answering a plea to come help from one of his former students whose now a doctor in a remote small village in Cornwall and who cant figure out what mysterious disease is killing off the young villagers and how to even begin to help them. When professor Forbes (played by Andre Morell) arrives in the village to help, he finds it under the iron grip of its sinister magistrate whose less than enthusiastic to have them snooping around for the source of the plague. Which as they look deeper into the case they are plunged into a world of murder, black magic, and voodoo.

     All I can say is its just a really good horror movie. It has a great spooky atmospheric English film that ranks up with some of Hammers best. It also has been a very influential film influencing such movies as Night of the Living Dead itself and the imagery of many other zombie movies. This is a zombie movie that is a more traditional zombie type movie were that its more like "White Zombie" and "I Walked With a Zombie", (which means there`s no gruesome flesh eating). Yet its still a great effective movie and for me one the best zombie movies of all time. Plus this has one of the greatest posters and film title ever.

     John Gilling was an interesting director he had previously directed "The Flesh and the Fiends" with Peter Cushing and Donald Pleasence which was a excellent black and white horror movie about the Burke and Hare murders and than a really cool pirate/adventure film for Hammer called "The Pirates of Blood River" with Christopher Lee. After The Plague of the Zombies he went on to to direct other horror films for Hammer such as "The Reptile" and "The Mummy`s Shroud" but neither really compare to this film. The film is written by Peter Bryan who had written such films as the excellent Sherlock Holmes film "The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959) "  and "The Brides of Dracula (1960)"which were both for Hammer. Unfortunately after "The Plague of Zombies" his work gradually declined in quality going on to write such terrible films as "The Blood Beast Terror" in 1968 which stared Peter Cushing who went on to later say that it was the worst film he was ever in and the film "Trog" in 1970 a film on par with "Troll 2" in badness which I find weird considering that there were a lot of talented people working on "Trog" I think even John Gilling was one of the writers or something, Oh well. Anyways on a different note the film has a well assembled cast with Andre Morell who might remember as Watson in "The Hound of the Baskervilles", the beautiful Diana Clare playing his daughter in the movie, and the always awesome John Carson who is very young in this movie and plays its haunting villain Squire Clive Hamilton.

     I really like this movie a lot and its fortunately been recently released on Blu-Ray! Unfortunately its only been released on region B format so that means that Americans like me can`t watch it yet cause were on region A, so I cant get it on Blu-Ray until its released on region A. I've heard though that  its Blu-Ray looks really well restored and has some good special features to boot, but i`ll just have to wait till it gets its region A release. Other than that I can`t recommend the film highly enough its actually become one of my favorite films from Britain`s Hammer films and is definitely just an incredibly underrated film. So if you get the chance watch The Plague of the Zombies watch it, because i`m sure you wont be disappointed.





Friday, December 20, 2013

The Skull (1965)





The Skull (1965)
Directed By: Freddie Francis 
Written By: Milton Subotsky, Based on the short story"The Skull of the Marquis De Sade" by Robert Bloch
Starring: Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Patrick Wymark 


1965`s The Skull was a Gothic period horror film made by Hammer studios rival Amicus. Its directed by the great Freddie Francis who had just previously directed "The Evil of Frankenstein" for Hammer and "Dr.Terrors House of Horrors" for Amicus and based on a short story by Robert Bloch (who wrote the novel Psycho in case you don't know who that is). The cast is then assembled with some of the greatest English actors of all time with Peter Cushing in the staring role and Christopher Lee, Michael Gough, Patrick Wymark,and Patrick Magee. The final film though is a very interesting result, that will probably have peoples opinions divided, my opinion is that its a fantastic film and one of the best of its kind, but I can understand why people would not be attracted to it.

The film is like I said based on a short story by Robert Bloch called "The Skull of the Marquis de Sade"; in which an avid collector of  occult artifacts and antiques Dr.Christopher Maitland (Peter Cushing) who purchases the skull of Marquis de Sade. In case you dont know who Marquis de Sade is he is i`ll give you a quick overview of him; he was a french aristocrat whose extreme perverse sexual preferences and erotic writings gave rise to the term sadism. His writings combined philosophy with pornography depicting sexual fantasies that emphasized violence, criminality, and blasphemy against the Catholic Church. He spent over 30 years in an insane asylum and wrote most of his works there. I could go on about him but if your curious to know more just go to Wikipedia or Encyclopedia Britannica, they have a lot of information on him. All you need to know about him in regards to this film is he was a really crazy person and his skull is the cursed skull in the movie. Anyways after Maitland is convinced its the actually skull of De Sade he buys it and almost immediately begins to suffer from a series of nightmarish events that drive him to the brink of madness.

I personally really do enjoy this movie and have actually grow to like it more over the years. I do have to warn some people though its kind of a slow film. Its not fast paced horror movie and takes on the more slow burn style horror film, I prefer it that way and personally feel its what helps make the film more effective. It also allows the actors to be more naturalistic and gives the director Freddie Francis who by the way was also a Oscar winning cinematographer, to be more at ease and artistic with  how he set up shots and scenes.

One major thing worth mentioning about the movie is how great the cast is. Its one of the best assembled casts for an Amicus film. First off you have the star Peter Cushing who is one of my favorite actors of all time playing the lead. Obviously he does a great job and plays the role completely convincing and is joy to watch when every he`s on screen. Christopher Lee has supporting role in the film as Maitlands friend and fellow collector of items of the occult Sir Matthew Phillips. Another Hammer film regular Michael Gough plays a small role as an auctioneer who actions off Occult items to rich British people. English actor Patrick Wymark who was in bunch of great movies like Prices`s "Witchfinder General" and Polanski`s "Replusion" plays a seedy graverobber/thief who gets hard to find items for Maitland, no questions asked. And Patrick Magee ("A Clockwork Orange" & "Masque of the Red Death") makes a welcome appearance in the film as a police surgeon.

Overall you cant go wrong with The Skull. Its a wonderfully directed atmospheric film, that's presented in a fantastic 2:35 format. The story is a great and entertaining occult/possession film that never gets dull or derivative. Of course though the cast alone makes this movie worth checking out, Cushing and Lee are at there best here. So if you get the chance I highly recommend checking out this great little lesser known English Gothic horror film.