Travis Stevens delivers another fantastic film, once again using horror (and this time a lot of camp!) to get at the heart of issues that affect women.
Abel Ferrara's THE ADDICTION is a philosophical vampire film about choosing good over evil— and vice versa.
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN tells the beautiful and melancholy tale of growing up left to one's own devices.
Tobe Hooper's LIFEFORCE isn't great, but its themes make the whole thing eerie enough for a dark night alone.
Maybe Larry Cohen's just talking about vampires. Or, maybe, just maybe, he's talking about neo-Nazis.
A strange, unique vampire film you won't soon forget! Not if Radu has anything to say about it.
A young man stuck in a bad neighbourhood gets lost in a fantasy of vampirism, leading to unexpected consequences.
Vampires and love on the run.
When vampires have taken over the world, feeding off humans, one vampire abstains & hopes for a way out; a way back to humanity.
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 9: “She Wants Revenge”
Directed by Michael Uppendahl
Written by Brad Falchuk
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Ten Commandments Killer” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “She Gets Revenge” – click here
This episode begins with Countess (Lady Gaga) explaining that “women age differently than men do,” but the kicker is, of course, as we know she’s a vampire. Here, she stares into the walled off corridor where James March (Evan Peters) had sealed Natacha (Alexandra Daddario) and Rudolph Valentino (Finn Wittrock).
Countess is convinced to build “something new” and makes it clear: “I will not be managed.” Later downstairs, she’s talking about her upcoming wedding to Will Drake (Cheyenne Jackson). She wants it small. Yet he tells her “I‘m a showman” and he wants a big wedding. Finally, she agrees that he will design the gown, she will get everything else taken care of. Then there’s Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare), who Countess wants to arrange the flowers. Liz does not want any part of her: “Buy your own damn flowerrrrs.” And why would she want to help the Countess, after the Tristan incident. Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny) is still kicking around, serving drinks, to a highly disaffected Countess who only grows more and more disdainful about the world around her.
Then Countess tracks down Rudolph Valentino at a motel. While simultaneously at home, she beds Donovan (Matt Bomer) again, screaming “I forgot how good you feel inside me.” They have a nice little bit of pillow talk. He asks that it only be him for her, forever; he needs commitment. Not in the way of just being with one person, but rather he wants to be the ONLY person she loves: “I swear it. But I won‘t make the same mistakes again,” she replies. Is this all a ruse on Donovan’s part? I’m sure he didn’t just switch back to loving her, did he? I imagine Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett) is lurking along the periphery of the Countess’ life, alongside Donovan. We’ll have to wait and see. For now, Donovan and Countess seem to be making a list – of who to murder.
Nice to Iris (Kathy Bates) again. She even tells the people at the front desk the “douche bag convention” is somewhere else. Proper. A couple pornstars show up with their disgusting director. Iris tells them she’ll bring up some “extra towels.” An AMAZING voice-over sequence after this, starting off with a Blue Monday cover and Iris talking about the “Sydney Pollack” of porn and how she went to see Deep Throat back in the day. She even calls herself “Dirty Harriet,” as well as gives us a little lesson on why pornography “hurts people,” what it does to the male and female psyches. Plus, afterwards she goes into the room and starts slitting throats, stabbing chests, and generally bloodying the place up. Good gore. Out of nowhere, Donovan appears. Very impressed with his mother. “You have clearly come into your own,” he tells her. Though, she warns about problems. We slip back to the Bartholomew incident, where that creepy little baby got out to wreak some havoc with its terrifying face; Iris gave up Ramona’s name to the Countess.
However, now we’re getting a bit of the real story. Donovan is definitely in love with the Countess. At the same time, he’s still looking for revenge. Will he get it? Or will the Countess figure it all out? Has she already? You can never tell fully.
Drake explains to his son Lachlan (Lyric Angel) about how the Countess understands him, gets him, all that. Then Miss Evers (Mare Winningham) shows up talking about how the Countess will only “bleed you dry“. It’s an eerie moment.
Then a flashback comes where Miss Evers talks about how she loved March. He claims that the Countess “is a creature from heaven” and tells her: “It‘s not your fault you were graced with… different gifts.” But back in the present, Will does not heed any of her warnings. Despite the fact we know the depth of the darkness into which he is about to plunge. I won’t quote her exact words because you NEED to experience them from her mouth; she lets Drake know exactly how she feels before leaving the room.
Down at the sealed, now unsealed, corridor, the Countess is trying to get a contractor to re-seal the hallway. After a bit of talk from him, March shows up to try and explain how it’ll all get done: “Make haste – much to accomplish!” Some people don’t like Evan Peters this season. Me, on the other hand, I think he is classic. At times he’s darkly funny. Others he is downright fucking terrifying, to me. Here he shows off a few more chops, as the Countess gives him an ultimatum, of sorts.
Donovan shows up at Ramona Royale’s place. He has an offering: the pornstar guy from the hotel. But she thinks Donovan is a big “pussy” in her words. Though, for all Donovan’s love for the Countess, and all the doubts Ramona may have, he actually seems to be against the Countess. He admits his “addiction” for her. Yet then Donovan claims he slipped enough ghb in her drink to “knock out an elephant.” He further admits he can’t “pull the trigger.” At least Ramona “appreciates a man who recognises his own weakness.” They seem together, toasting on the blood of the pornstar.
Another excellent flashback to Ramona in the ’90s, running back to her father (Henry G. Sanders) in L.A. Her mother (Marla Gibbs) and father helped straighten her out. Also, there’s sadness. Her parents are getting older, forgetting things, getting sick. Then her mother died and her father went further off the deep end in his mind. Such a tragic sequence, yet gives such an amazing depth to Ramona. There’s a break-in scenario and her father ends up getting hurt badly, which sees Ramona give the gift of the ancient virus to him. I saw this coming. I still found it effective, and beautiful in a sense. Eternally sad, though, as “a diseased brain is not a broken bone” and not everything can be fixed with vampirism. We see more and more how absolutely shattered inside Ramona is, having to effectively euthanize her own father so that he wouldn’t remain “frozen in amber.”
Alex Lowe is off doing her own thing, too. Not only serving up drinks for the Countess. She spies on a house, then makes her way inside only to find a bunch of dead, bloody corpses. Further in, there are a bunch of vampire kids with Max as the leader; remember, the kid from the hospital to whom she gave her blood? A few of the kids are getting sick, probably drinking bad blood. Earlier in the episode there was a news report about homeless people dead in the city: all the kids. Some of the kids don’t want to drink, they’re feeling worse and worse. They want Alex to help. Other kids are alive and thriving, one even saying they should “off them,” y’know – “all the sickies.” Such a creepy scene, evoking lots of the creepy children aesthetic. Makes things quite tense and eerie. The kids, most of them, don’t want anything to do with Alex.
Back at the Hotel Cortez, Ramona and Donovan stand outside the Countess’ room, as she lays just inside sleeping on the bed.
Then a double cross, I think? The Countess wakes up before Ramona can sink a knife into her. Donovan tasers Ramona and takes her downstairs. Iris is upset about it all. Donovan is in love and he actually fell into the abyss, even though I imagined he was on the straight and narrow. Ramona ends up locked in one of those neon-lit cages. “You‘re weak. I should‘ve let you die,” Donovan tells his mother getting a slap in the face as a response. Where’s this going to lead Iris and Ramona now?
Rudolph and Countess are having drinks at the motel. Meanwhile, Natacha is off with her head full of “shopping and Uber.” I feel even worse for Donovan now because he’s fallen back for the Countess, while she’s still wrapped up in a time almost a century ago when she and Rudolph had their first great love. All the same, Rudolph hates the modern world. He is disgusted with everything in it, no “enchantment left” anywhere. Countess claims to hate the modern world even more than him and wants to turn the Cortez into a “fortress” against it. Still there’s Natacha to deal with. She loves everything out there. Somehow the Countess begins to try reeling her in, though. Sets up a girls night for them both without Rudie. Hmm.
And then, outside as she strolls away happily, there is Donovan. Will he finally see the light?
At the Cortez the wedding is about the be finished. Naturally, Liz objects with a hilarious quip: “Don‘t mind her. She drinks,” says the Countess. But the happy couple is proclaimed man and wife. The Countess wants to get the honeymoon started, so she plans to go get changed and get going. First, she gives over the flowers to Liz and gives off some nonsense about hoping she finds true love. Sad, to see Liz have to grin and bear it against this awful vampire of a woman.
Nice little meeting at the bar between Will Drake and James March. Very good stuff with James, having a little drink with Will in congratulations. “Here‘s to new worlds to conquer,” James toasts the newlywed gentleman. Even better is when March brings Will up to see Bartholomew in his black little crib. “What the hell is that thing?” Will draws back in terror after seeing the child-thing. Countess shows up and doesn’t like the “hateful things” Will has to say about little Bart: “I‘m going to make sure you suffer immensely,” she says before whacking him over the head.
Following this new development, Will finds himself down with Ramona. Only he’s on the floor while she stays locked up. But I’m sure he’ll be caged up right away, as soon as the Countess or March or whoever returns.
However, Drake doesn’t last long. He gets Ramona out, finds their in a sealed hallway, to which he quips: “Nobody knows we‘re in here. We‘ll starve.”
“I won‘t,” replies Ramona. She then pounces on him, starts to feast on his bloody neck. Miss Evers shows up to gloat, as the Countess watches on a screen up in her room comfortably. The end.
I’m interested to see who the she is in the next episode’s title, “She Gets Revenge”. Who will get it? Who will be revenged upon? Very exciting. Honestly, the haters can keep on hating this season. I’m digging it. Especially once we see more of John Lowe (Wes Bentley) next week. Curious to see where he goes now plot/character-wise after the revelation last episode that he is, for certain, the Ten Commandments Killer.
Stay tuned with me friends and fellow fans, more to come!
FX’s American Horror Story
Season 5, Episode 5: “Room Service”
Directed by Michael Goi
Written by Ned Martel
* For a review of the previous episode, “Devil’s Night” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Room 33” – click here
Greetings, friends – another night at Hotel Cortez, is it?
“Room Service” starts out back with Alex Lowe (Chloë Sevigny), whose recent path has taken her into the arms of The Countess (Lady Gaga). Remember last episode at the finish, Alex had taken the drink, she now has the ancient virus. Here, she sort of wanders the hospital where she doctors in a fugue. Her senses, especially sound, are heightened. I love the P.O.V shots we often get on American Horror Story, but these are so great. Alex can hear a woman’s pulse pounding in her neck, almost as if it could pop right through the skin.
Then – nasty – Dr. Lowe heads in to where the blood is stored. Kind of perfect, isn’t it? She’s a vampire now and essentially has an almost unending supply of blood without all the murder.
Yet she further decides to inject a young sick boy’s IV with a syringe full of blood. An unsettling moment, watching the boy shake around, speckled with what looks like measles possibly. And his eyes come upon, springing alive before the credits. A spooky sequence to start off this episode. Gotta love it.Donovan (Matt Bomers), with his mother Iris (Kathy Bates) in tow, shows up at the door of Ramona Royale (Angela Bassett). It seems the son wants to use his mom in order to help Ramona with her vengeance against The Countess. He is one truly scorned lover. I love how there are all these vampiric characters crashing against one another. Iris isn’t happy, though, she’s terrified. Though, Donovan brings up a good point: “She never looks at you. You‘re invisible.” Which is true, really. Iris is at the call of The Countess, but she is not a friend, barely an acquaintance. All boss. So this might be a damn good plan after all.
Does anything ever go the way it’s supposed to, though, in this series? No, no, no.
Then, in other ancient virus news, turns out the young boy Alex injected with the blood has made a speedy recovery. Well, is that a surprise? Certainly not.
Iris manages to get back to the Cortez where Liz Taylor (Denis O’Hare) chastises her a little. She can tell Iris is not feeling right, and mixes up “Liz‘s special sum‘in sum‘in.” Liz reveals the cocktail is blood with a splash of Triple Sec.
Poor Iris. Even though she was one of the people doing bad shit around the hotel (think: Swedish tourists), there’s been a consistently tragic aspect about her I find redeemable. The whole purpose of going to the Cortez in the first place, for Iris, was trying to save her son, and then she got roped into staying. And now – it’s for-e-ver.
Such a great meeting of the acting minds here with a solid scene of dialogue between Kathy Bates and Denis O’Hare. They’re two wonderful actors who I’ve enjoyed before American Horror Story. Yet Ryan Murphy/Brad Falchuk & Co. are able to bring out their best qualities here, giving them each very intriguing roles season after season.Oh, the bad little boy, Max, whom Alex saved has fed on his parents. Then off to school he goes. Awesome little scene right after we see his parents bled out on the floor, as Max digs his hands into eyeballs and guts at a table setup in his classroom; fake, of course. Still, there’s a creepy aspect to this moment. EVEN MORE INTENSELY UNNERVING – Max goes in a dark room with a young girl named Madeline, where he introduces her to a bit of the measles (or whatever the hell he had), as well as that tricky ancient virus. This begins on an insane outbreak of measles throughout the class. Plus, Max kills a couple teachers.
Some of the best gore we’ve seen yet in this episode! CREEPY CHILDREN – CREEPY CHILDREN EVERYWHERE. The part where they all attack and feed on the male teacher, blood spurting everywhere, his clothes soaked through… so damn good. Then, like there would be, absolute panic breaks out.
If anybody tells you there’s no wild horror in this series, promptly tell them to fuck off somewhere. Because this was one hell of a horrific sequence. It wasn’t all gore, either. Certain people want to try and act like the show simply goes for savagery over any substance. Wrong – the entire angle of what happens with the children, all those varied moments from the classroom to the chilling scene which follows as all the kids are brought out to their unsuspecting parents, they’re an amazing bunch of scenes. Truly full of gorgeous madness.
Detective John Lowe (Wes Bentley) is seeing the fallout from his little serial killer dinner party last episode. A Lieutenant (Robert Knepper; awesome) questions him on what exactly happened. Certainly the man is a bit disturbed by Lowe’s statements, involving John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer (et cetera). Lowe is a truly sympathetic character. Unless it turns out, as some believe online, John is the Ten Commandments Killer. Though, I think there are some time issues there that won’t play out correctly for that to be real. We’ll see! For now, I feel bad for John because he is being put through the ringer in so many different ways. He’s bound to snap, or fall into a vicious spiral which could lead to death.
A couple idiots show up to test Iris and her patience. Meanwhile, Tristan (Finn Wittrock) and The Countess are dressed up, to the nines, and heading out for Halloween; love Tristan’s Gary Oldman costume. Iris is clearly thrown off and nervous, while Tristan almost sniffs her out right there and then. Both of them, in fact.
What’s even better is the conversation Iris has afterwards with the douchebags who recently checked in. They want grilled salads and other things the hotel doesn’t offer. So, she enlists the help of Liz who really seems to know people well enough – these dummies are going to live to regret their stay, I would imagine.
“Bitches want pâté, pâté they shall have.”
Amazing bit of Liz Taylor here, as she gives us a look at the past, his old home life. Nick, her original name, was a medical representative. On trips out of town, he lived the life he WANTED while alone in the room. I can’t get enough of O’Hare. He is a constant treat, and it’s gold watching him do drag, the character finding himself.
Then once Countess shows up, things get even more interesting. She tells him “you smell like a woman“, but it’s not the perfume – “It‘s your skin, your blood,” she says. Such a dark yet also beautiful scene. We watch Nick become Liz Taylor in front of our eyes.
What’s most interesting to me here, above everything else, is how the Countess comes across as a helpful woman, someone who cares and loves and wants to be there for other people. Even when Liz is confronted in the hallway by the two men her former male self came to the hotel with, Countess kills them to save any trouble. Either way, Liz never went back to her life as Nick ever again. Neither did The Countess infect her. She and Iris bond over their respective strengths. He advises her to “teach that hipster couple some manners.” Oooh, I love this – delightful mischief! I won’t spoil this bit any longer. Wait and see the brutality for yourself.
Now former detective John Lowe wakes up in his bed, scratches across the chest, next to Hypodermic Sally (Sarah Paulson). He appears to not remember, until a moment later when the foggy memories of the previous night come back. Obviously Lowe went on a nasty bender, which led him up to the room where he surely had unprotected sex with a half-woman/half-ghost. All the while dildo drillbit man shows up in the mirror behind John to spook him out. Wouldn’t that be awful? Hard enough to get one off when you’re drunk, let alone seeing that eerie bastard around your room.
There are more rough nights ahead for John. I dread seeing the sad, tragic events which are bound to follow for him. But I’ll eat those words if certain internet theories come true later in this season.
Even sadder, Alex and Holden have a little moment together where the boy tells her “now you‘re like me.” It’s very touching, in the wrong sort of way. Not fuzzy. It is a dark conversation, especially with The Countess alongside. Slowly I think Alex is starting to comprehend the idea of eternity. All the same, I don’t think she’s fully grasping how long and drawn out that can be, and on top of that her son will grow old. He’ll be frozen as a child forever and she won’t ever watch him become a young adult, then a man.
An amazing episode. One of the best this season so far, I can easily say that. Excited to seem “Room 33”, as well as what “the thing” in there is – remember back in one of the first episodes, Iris made fleeting reference to something being kept in there? We’re going to find out next week.
Stay tuned with me, my fellow horror fanatics!
30 Days of Night. 2007. Directed by David Slade. Screenplay by Stuart Beattie/Brian Nelson/Steve Niles; based on the comic by Steve Niles & Ben Templesmith.
Starring Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston, Ben Foster, Mark Boone Junior, Mark Rendall, Amber Sainsbury, Manu Bennett, Megan Franich, Joel Tobeck, Elizabeth Hawthorne, Nathaniel Lees, and Peter Feeney. Columbia Pictures.
Rated 18A. 113 minutes.
To start, while I don’t like that director David Slade did one of those junk Twilight movies, I’m a big fan of his work on Hard Candy, the episode “Open House” in the 4th season of Breaking Bad, and most of all I love his directorial efforts in the 5 episodes of Hannibal he directed (“Mizumono”, “Ko No Mono”, “Savoureux“, “Potage“, & “Apéritif“); he’s also produced nearly 30 episodes of the show, as well. One of the reasons I think he actually ended up involved with Hannibal might be due to his work here in 30 Days of Night because of the level of blood and how it looks, the visuals. I don’t think this is a spectacular movie, though, one of the things I do enjoy most about it is the overall aesthetic – from the atmosphere and tone to the actual look of the blood and the effects.
I have mixed feelings about 30 Days of Night. On one hand, I think there’s some decent acting along with incredible visuals and plenty of good ole blood and gore. But on the other, I do feel as if the script is pretty flawed in a few places where it ought to be much stronger.
Right off the bat, even though the tone of the movie is awesome and that aspect often takes time to build, I feel as if 30 Days of Night is a tad too long. I mean, I’m a person who loves both atmosphere and character development in horror. Really helps a movie sort of grab hold and not let go if you can fall into it those ways. Yet there’s a point where things go on too long. I think there could’ve been 15-20 minutes cut from and it wouldn’t have damaged the film, but that’s only my opinion; I’m not a director, I’m not a screenwriter. I just think that, while the concept of this movie is awesome, it isn’t particularly tough to grasp. There’s no need for this pushing two hours. And I get it – 30 days – but that’s the funny thing, even in that amount of time I still felt like those 30 days had passed quickly, so I find it all very strange.
That being said, I do really love the story. Funny enough, the comic series started as a film pitch. Ended up as a comic then began a movie; weird how the system works, as soon as it’s viewed as a commodity in the comic world THEN the execs want to use it because it has a base already. Sad, funny, weird.
Unfortunately, I have a few problems. Right off the bat, Barrow can be flown to almost every day of the year – like anywhere else conditions can vary, but it’s not inaccessible and especially not for 30 days at a time. Then, it’s as if Barrow is completely lit up one day then the next day there is complete darkness, stretching on for a month. Totally unrealistic. It’s a slight process until the darkness has sort of spread over the entire town. But, y’know, I guess if we’re talking vampires there’s a slight suspension of disbelief going on in the first place. Still it’s hard to get past blatant and upfront errors like that when the whole plot pretty much hinges on some of these facts. While it originates from the comic, it might’ve been better had the adapted screenplay tried to fix some of these mistakes. I don’t know how that whole adaptation process works, so I’ve no clue how much liberty the screenwriter would’ve had in terms of crafting a slightly fresh story. Either way, I don’t like how parts of the story’s logic works against the film, I don’t care if it went that way in the comic series or not. They would’ve been better off coming up with a fictional Alaskan town instead of using Barrow and so obviously distorting factual stuff.
There are pieces of the film I do truly enjoy.
Love the music. Of course, it turns out Brian Reitzell – another Hannibal alumni – is the composer. Great score, honestly. Lots of strings and some brass, interesting percussion for which he seems to have a fondness.
As I mentioned earlier, I think part of why David Slade ended up on Hannibal himself as both director and producer is because of how he works visually. For all the crappy storytelling and logic in 30 Days of Night, Slade injects a ton of brutal and beautiful imagery. One of my favourite shots – and everyone’s I’m sure of it – is the aerial view as the vampires first really take hold of Barrow; it’s this amazing shot sort of floating above, all the creatures feeding, blood spurted everywhere in the snow. All that white against red, the music, everyone screaming and the vampires making hideous noises. The movie is overall nothing special to me, but I have to say that this particular shot is one of the best shots in a horror movie over the last decade. Too bad the entirety of the film couldn’t hold up to the aesthetic Slade tried to give it. Unfortunately for him, the story’s just not there.
Big thing I did enjoy are the vampires themselves. It’s strange how Slade went from vampires like this to those of the Twilight persuasion; a conversation for another time. Here, though, the vamps are how they ought to be: cruel, Other-ish, savage. I thought the way the production of the film came up with a language for the vampires was interesting because it worked, as well as the fact it sounded pretty damn eerie to hear them communicating. Very mysterious and cool. I liked this aspect of the movie a lot. Naturally, a vampire movie’s main aspect needs to be the vampires – regardless of anything else, the plot, the subplots, the story, it’s all secondary to the vampires. Honestly, if you don’t have good vampires it won’t work no matter how fresh a story ends up.
At the same time, no matter how god damn scary your vampires are, no amount of savagery from them can save the lack of proper story and logic which is so evident in 30 Days of Night.
I don’t care how visually incredible I find this film, I can’t in all good conscience give this movie more than 3 out of 5 stars. To be honest, I want to give it 2.5 instead but I won’t simply because I think there’s a great all around look and feel to 30 Days of Night. There is a good story in there, however, I just cannot bring myself to get past glaring errors. Straight away, the whole inclusion of Barrow is a terrible decision; from the comic to the film, bad idea. Extreme weather would keep flights out maybe a day, possibly two, but there’s no way in hell Barrow would find itself cut off for longer than that. Certainly not for 30 days. Anybody with Google can figure out – from proper sources – all the information they need about Barrow, or any other god damn place on the map for that matter.
Okay, you know what? This gets 2.5 out of 5 stars. There’s too much bullshit nonsense happening for me to ignore and while I love the vampires, plus all the bloody, gory intensity which comes along with them, I can’t ignore enough for that to make this worth it.
30 Days of Night is good enough for the vampires. Come and see them, enjoy their bloodletting. Don’t come and expect to get a story and plot that’s ultimately going to make you think something fresh and innovative happened here. While the idea is great, using Barrow to accomplish it, trying to root this in reality, fails because REALITY WILL NOT LET IT WORK. There was a time I didn’t think too much about the logistics of this movie, I turned my brain off I suppose. I let the movie whisk me away with its aesthetically pleasing blood on snowy landscapes and the dripping gory faces of its vampires.
Now, I see you for what you are, 30 Days of Night: a farce and a letdown. You’re no better a movie than half of the crap getting churned out. This movie works for me only in the way any other mindless, nonsensical movie does, like that type of action or comedy or whatever you don’t need a brain for – switch off, tune out, enjoy. Took me a while to figure this out. If you want David Slade’s best work, go watch some Hannibal, or the excellent Hard Candy.