Saturday, November 17, 2012

Three Films Make A Post: IF STARK TERROR WERE here would be sheer bliss!

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012): In my book, the good silly movies are often those that may know about their own silliness well enough, but still decide to treat their stupid (and possibly tasteless) "high concepts" with a face so straight and earnest, you can't really be sure they really do know how silly they are.

Case in point is Timur Bekmambetov's film with the self-explanatory title, the axe-swinging Lincoln and the very stupid yet entertaining action sequences. The whole thing treats seriously what can't be taken seriously by anyone, and is more like a comic book than most films actually based on comic books. Plus, there's an awesome moment where Mary Elizabeth Winstead suddenly does excellent dramatic acting as if this weren't a film about a vampire hunting Lincoln but about actual people, which is the sort of thing actors earn my never-ending respect with.

I was highly entertained by the whole thing, though your mileage may vary depending on your emotional closeness to the US Civil War and your tolerance for stupid ideas. When in doubt, just look at the title. If this sounds like the sort of thing you might enjoy, you probably will.

Skull Soldier (1992): Musician/actor Masaki Kyomoto attempts to sleaze up the the tokusatsu genre in a direct to video project written and directed by himself, with himself in the lead role. On paper, I could totally get behind adding blood and boobs to the Japanese costumed hero biz (like Garo would later do quite a bit more successfully), but unfortunately, Kyomoto is one of those Jennifer Lopez/Kenneth Brannagh "multi-talents" who does everything, but is not very good at any of it, proving that egos can be bigger than talents anywhere on the globe. Acting-wise, we're in the same territory as with the hair brigade in Hong Kong; direction-wise, it's verve-less crap; music-wise, pestilential soft jazz plays in the most inappropriate moments; and writing-wise, horrible comic relief drowns out the already not very exciting rest of the script.

Life's just too short to waste time on an ego-trip this boring.

The Thompsons (2012): The Butcher Brothers on the other hand clearly don't set out to bore with the sequel to their vampire movie The Hamiltons. The vampire siblings from the first part have gone on the run in Europe after a very unfortunate incident that left their bloody faces all over the news. In the more civilized part of the world, our sentimental vampires try to find others of their kind, and a little bit of help. When brother Francis (Cory Knauf) makes contact with a British country vampire family (with location shots at least in part actually shot in the UK for a change, and with actual UK actors that spare us the expected fake accents), things do seem to take a turn for the better, with peace and discipline promised by the family's elders, and romance for still brooding Francis by their mutant daughter Riley (Elizabeth Henstridge). Alas, it seems a bloodsucking monster family can't even trust another bloodsucking monster family anymore.

While the film does from time to time descend into scenes of very silly fang-baring and snarling like an even less convincing True Blood, this is for the most part a successful attempt at a) fleshing out The Hamilton's particular vampire mythology in a somewhat slicker film, b) philosophising about the nature of monsters and family, and c) spicing things up with blood and boobs in a much more effective way than Skull Soldier does.

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