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The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Two-Disc Special Edition)
The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Kristen Stewart
Offered by Mercury Media Partners
Price: $6.78
219 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Fantasy/Romance/Horror Hybrid, February 11, 2010
The second chapter of the horror/fantasy/romance Twilight saga is every bit as great as the first. The obvious development in the story is that it's no longer exclusively the Bella (Kristen Stewart)/Edward (Robert Pattinson) love story, but the Jacob (Taylor Lautner)/Bella/Edward love triangle. The other major development though, is that it's beginning to move from a localized story centering of a few main characters in a corner of Seattle, to a much larger, globe-spanning tapestry that brings in new characters (Alice, played by Ashley Greene, also gets a larger part, which is welcome) that delves into the larger world of the vampires and the werewolves and their history.

Both of these developments are set in place by the departure of the Cullen family from Seattle early in the movie, a move set in place by Edward, after another incident where Bella's life is put in danger. Feeling that their very prescence is a danger to her, the Cullens leave, and Bella is alone and devastated. She's also unprotected when Victoria and Laurent - two of the vampires from the first Twilight, who, unlike the Cullen clan, feed on human blood - return to the area seeking revenge for the death of one of their compatriots in the first movie. Or at least, it would seem she's unprotected - here's where the wolf legends mentioned briefly in the first Twilight start coming into play.

Bella develops a deeper friendship with Jacob, and begins to come out of the shell she entered into when the Cullens left. It's obvious early on that Jacob wants them to be more than friends, and while Bella seems to have at least some of the same feelings for him, she's torn by her enduring loyalty to the departed Edward. She then realizes that Edward continues to watch over her from afar, appearing to her when she's in danger, which prompts her to seek out increasingly more dangerous situations, making the already threatening status with Victoria and Laurent more deadly. The development of the relationship between Bella and Jacob is never forced or rushed and progresses naturally over time, although Bella still remains reluctant to get too close.

In the later stages of the movie the action increases and the scale of the tapestry does likewise with the introduction of the Volturi, the Italy-based vampire aristocracy that maintains an informal control over the vampire race worldwide, and whose own ruling elite wield incredible powers. The acting is excellent, and Kristen Stewart particularly impresses with an award-worthy performance. She captures Bella's peculiar mix of shy awkwardness and feisty boldness, and her fierce capacity for total love, perfectly.

New Moon is imaginative, visually gorgeous, and emotionally powerful. Touches at least briefly (and in some cases indepth) on a vast array of movie genres - fantasy, romance, horror, mystery, drama, adventure, thriller - and does good credit to each of them. Excellent.


Halloween II (Unrated Director's Cut)
Halloween II (Unrated Director's Cut)
DVD ~ Scout Taylor-Compton
Offered by newtownvideos
Price: $6.22
105 used & new from $1.52

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Different, Darker Kind Of Slasher Movie, February 11, 2010
Continuing on exactly from where 2007's excellent Halloween - Unrated Director's Cut (Widescreen Two-Disc Special Edition) left off, the second chapter of this new incarnation of the Halloween legend takes the story into radically new territory, greatly building on elements hinted at in the 2007 movie or, in some cases, in the original continuity, and creating new facets from scratch. It also brings back in some elements that were mostly missing from the 2007 remake but were dominant in the original series, including edging Michael Myers back in the direction of being something more than a warped psychopath, something inhuman: it's doubtful, for example, that any mortal human could have survived the ending of the previous movie, let alone come back for more. There are other glimmers of elements which may or may not be supernatural. In contrast to these emerging elements, there's a gritty, uncomfortable raw-ness to both the movie and the character that were never present in the earlier entries. Whereas the original Michael Myers was so utterly unhuman and almost otherworldy - it was part of the ongoing subtext that Michael was really a physical incarnation of the 'boogeyman' - that his longtime psychiatrist Dr. Loomis refered to Michael as 'it' rather than 'he'; the Michael Myers in the current movies is, despite his preternatural strength and resistance to physical injury, at times all too human. As in the 2007 movie, the question of whether Michael is twisted and insane or just raw evil is answered: he's both. It's obvious the character's mind is warped, but it's just as obvious that not all the brutality, aggression and sadism of the character can be attributed to a damaged psyche: it's the real Michael.

We see the world through Michael Myers's eyes in certain scenes - where his dead mother is still present and directing his actions, where Michael's younger self is there and interacts with the older version, and where there's frequently the strange appearance of a white horse, which is said in psychological terms to represent vast amounts of inner rage when seen in a dream or vision.

Halloween II brings back almost all of the signifigant surviving characters from Halloween 2007 (and some of the dead ones, through visions and flashbacks), which is a welcome factor. Most of the characters have changed signifigantly in the wake of that movie's events. Among the most striking changes are those in Laurie Strode (Scout Taylor-Compton), who's psychologically disturbed and whose character continues to darken in her own inner rage as the movie progreses. Anyone who saw the 2007 movie or is at all familiar with the Halloween mythos knows that Laurie is really Michael Myers's younger sister, and anyone who saw the movies in the original series (especially Parts 4-6) knows that the idea that there might be something 'wrong' not only with Michael but with other members of his bloodline was an evolving plot thread.

One thing that I found occuring in Halloween II that's occasionally been trotted out in other movies but has Never worked so well as it has here, is the recurring sensation that much of what we're seeing on screen may not be real, but happening in one of the character's heads. That's usually annoying; here it's frightening. The idea that it may not be 'real' but may actually be happening simultaneously in More than one of the character's heads is just plain eerie.

There are other unique factors at work too: it's rare that a movie, including a horror movie, can have so much brutal, gory violence on-screen and yet still leave the door open that there's much Worse happening offscreen. Unsettling. Another rarity to movies in general, although director Rob Zombie tends to work this into his own films on a regular basis: the movie will start off seeming to take place in such a nihilistic, ugly world, populated predominantly by unlikable, totally amoral characters. But then as it progresses, you meet other much more sympathetic characters, or you find yourself warming up to some of the originally unlikable ones (one of the returning characters has changed for the worse, but you find yourself starting to find more redeeming values in him as it goes along). An example of this dichotomy: in the opening of the movie, an ambulance carrying away the bodies of victims from the first movie has its driver and attendant discussing how much they'd like to have sex with the corpse of one of the female victims. From the rather nasty, unpleasant tone this little moment sets, you'd never expect elements to crop in like the 'adoption' of Laurie by Sheriff Brackett (Brad Dourif)'s family or the way they continue to try and help her even as she grows more abusive as her personality darkens. The ties of loyalty and extended family between the survivors are handled with great effect and even tenderness. Even Laurie, even as she's darkening, has those feelings: she doesn't want to be growing increasingly aggressive, but is losing control of herself. The way you get to know the characters makes the fates that befall some of them hit like sledgehammers.

All this talk of the emotional ties and loyalties between characters doesn't mean that this is a tv drama-of-the-week treatment of Halloween. It's a dark (the darkest in the series), psychologically disturbing, relentless horror movie. The thing that so many of horror's detractors (who usually don't seem to have actually watched that many of its movies) fail to get is that being a vicious horror movie doesn't preclude any other elements from also being part of the package.

Halloween II won't sit well with all fans. It's less of an 'awesome, fun horror thrill ride' than many entries in the slasher-type field; its horrendously brutal, coarse, and disturbs on a very emotional level. That said, it's just as great as the other kinds of slashers, just in a very different way. One thing that can inarguably said for the Halloween remakes at this point: they're not just repeating what the original series did so well. They're really forging their own identity, and it's a very dark, ruthless identity.

Killer ending to boot, setting the potential for the next chapter to develop and differentiate itself even further.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2011 9:03 AM PDT


Jennifer's Body
Jennifer's Body
DVD ~ Megan Fox
Price: $4.50
131 used & new from $0.85

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One Of The Few Horror-Comedies That Actually Works Brilliantly, February 11, 2010
This review is from: Jennifer's Body (DVD)
Horror-comedies are one of the hardest hybrid genres to do right - the contrasting elements tend to choke each other out. Now, a lot of horror movies haves touches of humor added in that work well (although I can't think of too many straight-out comedies that add in brief scenes of horror - that probably wouldn't work out at all). But Jennifer's Body is one of the rare exceptions that other hopefuls in the field could take a cue from. With perfect casting, it stars Megan Fox as popular, super-hot head cheerleader Jennifer and Amanda Seyfried as her adorably nerd-ish best friend, nick-named 'Needy'. Interestingly, although a lot of comedies work at making their leads precisely fit their stereotype niches, both the lead characters have more depths and between-the-lines character traits than might be expected.

The title "Jennifer's Body" refers to the possession of, well, Jennifer's body by a demonic entity, but rather than the demon taking over entirely, the result is a being who's a mix of the demon's personality and Jennifer's original personality. For the storyline beyond that, it's difficult to know how much to say. The movie is designed in a way that you don't necessarily 'get' what's really going on until later in, although the trailers and promo material revealed an awfully lot of it well before the movie even opened. In trying to walk a line between giving away too much information and not saying anything at all, I'll say that the plot involves a Satanic sacrifice gone wrong (leaving aside the question of whether there's any such thing as a Satanic sacrifice gone right?) The motivation behind the sacrifice and its exact nature would probably sound quite stupid if I wrote it down (I thought it sounded stupid when I first heard about it before seeing the movie, but it works vastly better on screen than it sounds) but suffice it to say that this angle would never have worked in a more or less 'straight' horror movie, would never hae worked in a comedy, would Only have worked in a movie that expertly balances both those elements and managed to have them complement each other, not cancel each other out. The botched sacrifice generates results that the killers had hoped for - vast personal gain - but also an unexpected result: a town resident walking around with a real, hellspawned beast living inside them.

Again, its horror-comedy nature works to the movie's advantage, allowing it to explore contrasting directions that it otherwise couldn't have. It's funny, bloody, sexy, creepy, surreal and at times unexpectedly touching. One particular scene stands out in my mind as one of the most visually iconic scare moments in a while, and another stands out as one of the most memorably and movingly beautiful images. Very well acted, with an unexpected finale to die for. Definately one of 2009's most under-rated movies.


All Star Superman, Vol. 1
All Star Superman, Vol. 1
by Grant Morrison
Edition: Paperback
39 used & new from $1.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part 1 Of An Excellent Alternate Take On The Superman Mythos, November 7, 2009
Reprints All-Star Superman #s 1-6

DC's All-Star line takes major icons and places them into stand-alone series with no direct connection to the larger continuity. It allows the creative team to build a world for the title character and his supporting characters that draws as much or as little from any era of the character's previous stories, and to mix and reinvent elements without worrying about how it'll impact and interact with other stories and titles past, present and future. I love the deeply inter-connected continuity of modern comics, but even for me it's still great to see stand-alone titles like this pop up where they can go off on their own unlimited tangents.

The vibe creators Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely have chosen for All-Star Superman is, on the surface, a retro one - a timeless look and feel that in many ways harkens back to the Superman tales that took place years (and decades) before Crisis On Infinite Earths, but with a more detailed flair to the art and the more advanced storytelling that's evolved over the years. It's in many ways a more innocent world than utilized in most modern comics, and it's all built on the root elements of the Superman mythos. Superman is the well-nigh invincible champion of all that's good and right in the universe, while his alter ego Clark Kent bumbles and bumps his way through life (in a way that really shows Superman's skill - it can't be easy to save the world in the guise of Clark Kent while still carrying on the facade of looking so inept); Lex Luthor is the omnipresent arch-nemesis determined to bring Superman down at any cost, a scientific genius whose obsession with bringing down the one man who looms larger than him on the world stage is both endless and, to the reader's viewpoint, rather comedic. Lois Lane is the Superman-loving ace reporter who despite all her world-renowned investigative jornalism skills can't see that Superman and Clark Kent are the same person even when he's right in front of her with glasses off insisting that that's indeed the case. In short, it's the modus operandi of the old Superman stories, only played up even more so. It would have been so easy for this to come off campy but it never does; it comes off with a unique charm and freshness all its own. I don't think this take on Superman and the rest of the cast could ever work in the more realistic in-continuity comics of today, nor would the virtually limitless nature of Superman's power (in fact, we've seen that that doesn't work. The in-continuity Superman can and should be immensely powerful, but the stories where they get carried away and make him a little Too universe-shakingly powerful don't work as well as the ones where he actually has to Push himself to, say, level a mountain range or fly out beyond Pluto). However, it all works within the confines of the self-contained All-Star Superman.

Being a more innocent and 'classic' take doesn't mean it's lacking in imagination though: innovative new allies, rivals and villains, genetically engineered giant humanoid spacecraft that probe the reaches of deep space for centuries on end, strange prophecies from the future...no shortage of good ideas here.

The basic premise for the actual story centers on the after-effects of one of Luthor's latest anti-Superman gambits: the Man Of Steel saves a space research station from sabotage masterminded by Luthor, but Lex's real goal is met. Superman soaks up an unfathomable amount of solar energy during the rescue and the battle inside the Sun, and it results in his already nearly limitless power levels spiking even more. The downside of this, as Luthor's calculations predicted, is that he's going to burn out. His increased power levels will eventually kill him, and maybe in the not too distant future. While not believing that this grim scenario is a done deal, the possibility of his own mortality causes Superman to re-evaluate things like his relationship with Lois. Also, a normal person faced with a strong chance of having a very finite amount of time left is going to be faced with the question of what they feel is most important to accomplish in the time they have left. What new dimensions does a question like this take on when the person in question is already an unstoppable force who saves the world - and beyond - on a regular basis? A visitation from the future that seems to bear out that Superman will indeed die soon, but not before accomplishing his greatest feats, adds credence to the possibility of Superman's impending death, and tension to the question of what exactly Superman will take on in his (allegedly) last days.

Excellent on all levels. The coloring is unique and even the lettering is exceptional. (In some comics you have to wonder how do they choose which words in the captions to write out in bold? At random? Not so here, and the highly variable styles of lettering used for certain characters seems to bring their otherworldly voices right to life.)

Writer Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely have each done a lot of memorable work, but this is easily among the best for each of them. Highest recommendation.


Watchmen (Director's Cut)
Watchmen (Director's Cut)
DVD ~ Malin Akerman
Offered by Shopcents
Price: $13.88
88 used & new from $2.90

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, Awesome Superhero Epic, November 7, 2009
This review is from: Watchmen (Director's Cut) (DVD)
One of the darker and most apocalyptic comic book adaptations yet to make it to screen, Watchmen is a super-powered epic in a dystopian world where the lines between right and wrong have been blurred and danger and doom seem to be closing in on all fronts. It's famous for its darkness and its view of a cynical world, but I think it's going too far to call Watchmen a nihilistic movie. For every look at the broken society it tales place in, every moment of human depravity, and every shade of despair, there's also an unexpectedly bright glimmer of hope, a chance at redemption, or a moment of tender beauty. And of course, it all takes place in an action-pached, visually awesome panorama.

Taking place in an alternate version of 1985 America where superheroes and supervillains have existed since the late 30s and have changed the course of world history (including a quick ending to the Vietnam War that saw Vietnam become the 51st state), Watchmen opens in a dark, cynical world where a nuclear showdown between the U.S. and the Soviet Union seems imminent. Superheroes - except for those acting under the auspices of the U.S. government - have been banned for several years now, although some rogue crimefighters still continue on in the shadows, such as the masked, highly violent vigilante Rorschach (played by Jackie Earl Haley). We see through flashbacks how the relationship of superheroes, the general public, and the government had changed over the decades: originally greeted with great enthusiasm, beating back a crime wave in the 30s and 40s and helping to win World War II; the backlash a few years later including the hate crime murder of the openly lesbian superhero Silhouette and her lover, as well as the locking away of various costumed crimefighters into mental hospitals; the superhero rennaissance in the 1950s with the appearance of the first truly superpowered hero, the godlike Dr. Manhattan (played by Billy Crudup); the formation of the Watchmen with sincere hopes of saving the world; and the twilight of the superhero age with conflicting agendas between the heroes and the government, rifts within the superhero community opening up due in part to the increasingly open hyper-violence of characters like the 'superhero' The Comedian, public panic, and finally the banning of costumed crimefighters. (And this is just the backstory to the main tale!) Which brings us into the movie's present, where Dr. Manhattan is one of the only 'legal' superhumans (who would be difficult to ban even if he weren't working alongside the government - his power surpasses that of the combined might of all the world's conventional and nuclear armies) - and the mentally unbalanced Rorschach leads a brutal one-man war against crime, while possessed of a seering hatred of the very world he's supposedly protecting. And most of the former costumed heroes have simply slipped back into the fabric of society and are leading relatively 'normal' lives, their secret identities still mostly unknown.

Yes, it's difficult in the beginning to tell who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, and to some extent even after the movie's conclusion it's up to the viewer to decide who falls under which heading. It's made somewhat clearer as the flashbacks bring in the long-standing motivations of various characters, as well as their often tragic pasts. In my mind, by movie's end, there actually are some characters who deserve to be filed as true heroes, there are definately some true villains, and there are a lot who straddle that blurry line. The lack of the movie clearly identifying in its early chapters who you're 'supposed' to root for and against ends up as a plus rather than a minus and fits in with Watchmen's somewhat non-linear storytelling.

After Rorschach decides that the death of one of the supposedly retired members of the old Watchmen team was actually a murder, he gets it in his head that someone's coming after all past and present superheroes, and attempts to enlist other former Watchmen to form a resistance. He also seems to feel that this ties in to some grand conspiracy that's going to usher in the end of the world. Largely dismissed as paranoid by his former peers - and with understandable reason given his increasingly erratic and hostile behavior in recent years - later events begin to add credence to at least some of Rorschach's theories. But can he put the remaining members of the Watchmen back together, and if so, will that save the world or somehow destroy it? In the overall story that, with flashbacks, covers years, we see heroes unable to stop the chaos in the world from spinning out of control and nearly go insane from it; we see heroes fall from grace and try to crawl their way back up; we see villains recognize at last the horrors of their own atrocities and attempt to go straight - or do they?; and we see the most powerful being on the planet slowly start losing the ability to relate to humans or to perceive existance in the same way mortals do. In many of its instances Watchmen is as it's been touted - heroes struggling in an uphill battle to make a difference, and not always succeeding. In other cases though it's a case of the Villains doing exactly the same thing - trying to make a difference and not always succeeding. Because in the minds of most (not all) of the movie's real bad guys, they Think that what they're doing is for the greater good. And what's even more potent than having them just all be insane with really twisted views of the world, when you see their reasoning and their goals, it often makes a horrifying kind of sense.

There's more subtext to the movie than could be discussed here. A few random observations - the musical score and the use of various songs fits in absolutely perfectly with the onscreen happenings; the sudden return of two supposedly retired Watchmen to save the trapped inhabitants of a burning skyscraper is one of the most dramatic and awesome movie moments I've ever seen; the physical battles are incredible; the constantly changing patterns on Rorscach's mask are freaky cool; and Malin Akerman as Silk Spectre II is possibly the sexiest super-heroine yet seen on screen.

Watchmen succeeds hugely on multiple levels. It should be noted that though this is a superhero movie, this definately isn't something to get in for your seven year-old Spider-Man/Iron Man fan (those movies are great too, but in a different way). A grand, disturbing and enthralling epic.


The Gravedancers (After Dark Horrorfest)
The Gravedancers (After Dark Horrorfest)
DVD ~ Dominic Purcell
Price: $8.45
122 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Intense And Original Horror, November 7, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The Gravedancers is an original and frequently scary horror tale about a group of friends set upon by three vengeful spirits awakened after the friends danced on their graves. Okay, after 'a night of drunken gravedancing', as the back of the DVD case puts it - sounds like it has potential but also sounds pretty campy, right? Well, it turns out there's a bit more to it than that.

The formerly close friends had drifted apart over the last few years, but were drawn back together for the funeral of another member of their old clique. Their reunion brings back all the old feelings - the torches still carried in some cases, and all the memories of their good times together, and all the questions of why they ever let each other drift apart. In the middle of the night, the trio makes its way to the grave of their recently deceased friend with a bottle of wine to toast their friend and the old times. As the night goes on, they reminisce and drink too much and end up wanting to celebrate life and their friend's memory, and that's why they end up dancing, even though they're aware it's a rather bizarre place for a celebration-of-life.

In the days following the midnight celebration, strange and terrible things begin happening, and when the group is desperate enough to seek the help of a team of paranormal investigators, the 'dance in the cemetary' thing comes up, and the researchers are immediately horrified, as this is said to have the potential to anger and awaken old spirits. It gets even worse, though. On a trip back to that graveyard, it's discovered that their friend was buried in a part of the cemetary close to an old, long unused portion of the graveyard that the trio wandered onto in their dances - a section from decades ago that had been reserved for the burial of the worst criminals and psychopaths in the community, ones that nobody wanted buried alongside their own loved ones. And it's these human monsters that have come back, and have to somehow be exorcised quickly, as the longer the full cycle of the moon goes on, the stronger the spirits become.

The movie plays itself seriously and successfully, and the occasional moments of humor work surprisingly well but don't detract from the overall dark tone. Fine acting job all around; the most well-known member of the cast is supermodel Josie Maran who turns out to have a lot of acting talent (it makes me wonder why she's had so few movie roles). Josie plays Kira, one of the three 'gravedancers', the other two are played by Dominic Purcell (Harris) and Marcus Thomas (Sid); Harris's wife Allison (Clare Kramer) also finds herself haunted by one of the specters. The ghosts are abominable, sadistic creatures, and the visual appearance of one in particular are utterly ghastly. The special effects at the climax of the movie, with bigger, bolder supernatural happenings, aren't as strong, but that one ghost - hideously creepy and realistic.

Very intense and frightful, definately recommended for fellow horror fans.


Horsemen
Horsemen
DVD ~ Dennis Quaid
Price: $9.30
109 used & new from $0.35

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 'Come And See' One Of The Year's Most Under-Rated Movies, November 6, 2009
This review is from: Horsemen (DVD)
A psychological horror thriller, Horsemen follows detective Aidan Breslin (Dennis Quaid) and other officers on the Detroit police force as they investigate a series of connected brutal murders in which the victims have been tortured to death and the words 'Come And See' are left at the scenes, both goading investigators on and hinting at something bigger yet to come. Breslin, already dark and distant since the death of his wife several years earlier, is drawn into obsession on the case and further away from his increasingly estranged children at home. It's eventually deciphered that the 'Come And See' warning and certain other clues left at the crime scenes tie in with Biblical references to the coming of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Things get weirder as suspects for the killings start emerging - not the people the police thought would be involved with acts this horrific, and as very disturbing facts about the pasts of some of the victims get called into question. Horsemen takes a different route than Saw - Unrated (Two-Disc Special Edition) and other recent horror movies with a torture theme: most (though not all) of the grisliest acts take place largely offscreen, seen in glimpses or in the still shots of crime scene photos, and in the reactions of the characters who come upon the crime scenes, who view video footage that turns up, etc. It fits in well with the air of mystery the movie builds as to who the real killers are, what the ultimate agenda is, and all the other facets of the film that stay largely in the dark until the end. There are major surprise revelations throughout - not just at the end - and the ultimate revelations at the end are dramatic and jolting. With the secrets Horsemen has set itself up to reveal, there are so many ways this movie could have fallen on its face, but it avoids every one of them. A powerful, frightening and very under-rated movie, superbly acted by the whole cast.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 8, 2009 6:34 AM PST


Blood: The Last Vampire
Blood: The Last Vampire
DVD ~ Gianna Jun
Offered by Sparks DVD Sales
Price: $9.13
77 used & new from $1.27

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Awesome, November 6, 2009
This review is from: Blood: The Last Vampire (DVD)
Actually improving on the excellent 2002 anime, the new live-action Blood: The Last Vampire is a dynamic horror-action rocket ride through an ancient war of demons that still rages in the modern day. Ji-Hyun Jun of 2003's The Uninvited (listed in Blood's credits simply as 'Gianna', allegedly because it was thought anglicizing the names of the film's Asian actors would make it go over better in English-speaking countries, which sounds kind of bizarre...) plays Saya, the vampiric half-human ultimate weapon of The Council, an ancient organization dedicated to preventing a demonic takeover of the world. They've operated in secret over the ages and Saya is their assasin and most skilled combatant, a superhumanly strong, martial-arts trained immortal warrior armed with a sword charged up with 'dark energy' from the legions of demons it's slain. In 1970s Japan, Saya is sent undercover into a high school for the children of military personell on an American army base that the demon shapeshifters have infiltrated. Saya finds an unlikely ally and friend in Alice McKee (Allison Miller), the daughter of the base's commanding officer, and the two find themselves unexpectedly on the scene of a much larger demonic infiltration than The Council expected, and the cusp of a major demon uprising.

Saya has led a solitary life over the centuries, dedicated only to slaying demons, even though - and this is conveyed subtly rather than stated outright - she's inwardly torn. Her vampire half relates to the demons more than to humans. In one of the movie's most telling moments - happening fairly early on and so not a spoiler - Saya cuts herself and feeds her own blood to a demon she's just mortally wounded, apparantly to ease the pain of its death throes and offer some comfort. We see the origins of Saya - her early years in an isolated mountain village following the death of her demon-hunter father, her training at the hands of a kind old warrior, the tragedies that set her on the course of life she's followed for the last few centuries. We don't, however, see the origins of the demon war in any detail (I'd love to see this part delved into in a sequel); hence we don't see if the demons really are just purely malevolent, bloodhungry beasts, or if they have some other motivation for the war, 'their side of the story' so to speak. Questions along this line have occured to Saya as well, as seen in flashbacks. So she's spent ages fighting a war that she has doubts about, and locking those doubts inside. She's also led a friendless existance. The other agents of The Council are her allies, but not her friends. The bond she forms with Alice has an immediate effect. Saya is very quick and violent in her actions, but at least once in the latter parts of the movie she seems to restrain herself because, for the first time in ages, there's actually someone who she cares what they think of her. The duo of Saya and Alice compliment each other very well: although Alice has next to nil fighting skills and has to depend almost exclusively on Saya in physical situations, it's Alice that the emotionally damaged Saya starts to depend on psychologically.

The monsterous, bloody action is tremendous. It walks a line between the enormously stylized and deliberately exaggerated-for-symbolic-effect action of Asian epics like Hero and the more realistic (as in the context of otherworldy creatures or phenomena, not what regular humans could do) vibe that Asian horror movies often strive for, ending up along the general lines of a slightly easternized relative of Underworld (Unrated Extended Cut). Blood: The Last Vampire is the only movie I've seen where things like a sword cutting an enemy straight down the middle and in two actually looked realistic. There are a couple of moments that could be argued to be too over the top, but they worked for me with the overall flow of the movie. The CGI effects on the demons in certain scenes could have been better (and this will probably become a major point of contention for fans accustomed to action movies that can afford a hundred million dollars for the FX budget alone) but, while they weren't the greatest, they certainly weren't the worst - and that includes movies that probably had vastly bigger budgets. And these effects in question only come to play in a couple of scenes. The rest of the time, the special effects (CGI included) are just fine.

The only other real drawback is that you could argue the movie was too short. With the amount of ground they're covering it could have been a full hour longer. I prefer to think that the aspects that got short play in this will just be picked up on in a sequel (I don't know if that's Likely) and expanded there - the origins of the war, more screen time for some of the supporting characters, etc. But the quick pace, in my opinion, didn't hurt things at all. It moved fast, hit hard, and unlike a lot of movies that go this fast most of the time, it didn't lose its emotional punch or the ability to drop hints at a much larger overall saga than the one chapter we're witnessing here. This is one of the year's best and it's a shame it's flown under the radar of much of the moviewatching public. Highest recommendation.


The Haunting in Connecticut (Unrated Special Edition)
The Haunting in Connecticut (Unrated Special Edition)
DVD ~ Kyle Gallner
Offered by SoCalPharmer
Price: $9.99
40 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Quality Entry In The Pantheon Of Ghostly Horror, October 28, 2009
A large old house that used to be a funeral home serves as the setting for The Haunting In Connecticut, where the Campbell family moves to be closer to the hospital where their oldest son, Matt (Kyle Gallner) is receiving treatments for his cancer. The rent for the place is unexpectedly cheap, and it's only after the family moves in that they realize that's because of the history of the place, its status as a former funeral home/mortuary, and the legends that have cropped up surrounding the place. It seems that decades ago, it was used for seances, and the tale is that something went horribly wrong at one of these.

Before the family even moves in, there's trouble, albeit of a more conventional nature. The prognosis for Matt isn't that positive, the treatments he's undergoing are grueling, the family's finances are under severe stress from trying to pay for the treatments and support a household of six, including two younger siblings of Matt's - Billy and Mary - and their cousin Wendy (Amanda Crew from Sex Drive, who's living with the family due to an unspecified trouble in her own family. The tension between the two parents, played by Virginia Madsen (from Candyman (Special Edition)) and Martin Donovan, is present under a thin veil, and begins to surface more as conditions, both conventional and the dawning supernatural elements, mount. Of the two, the mother is the more sympathetic, and while the conflict within the family isn't anything on the level of domestic abuse, the tension it creates folds right into the larger problems. Also, unstated but implied, is the possibility that the forces in the house are 'drawing out' the darker, more volatile aspects in some of their personalities, in an Amityville-like fashion. Ghostly elements within the house begin to manifest, primarily to Matt, and start taking on decidedly malevelont overtones.

Matt establishes a friendship with a fellow cancer patient, a Reverend Popescu (Elias Koteas) , who he turns to as events continue to worsen. The Reverend theorizes that these prescences are being triggered because they're more easily interacted with by someone already close to the other side - someone close to death, such as a cancer patient. As events progress though, the phenomena become discernible to other family members, and more capable of effecting the physical world, often in violent ways. In order to attempt to exorcise the house, the characters have to understand it, and the Reverend, along with Matt and Wendy, delve into the dark history of the house.

Although slower-moving and more subdued than some horror movies, the pace and style doesn't hurt the movie, and indeed helps it to build its own distinct atmosphere of slowly mounting dread and in-the-shadows creepiness. Very well-acted and well-produced, with the special effects, while minimal, being effective. Much in the vein of movies like The Exorcism of Emily Rose - Unrated (Special Edition), The Amityville Horror (as well as its better sequels and the 2005 remake) and Haunted (Full Screen). Although it may take a bit Too much time building up for some tastes, those who don't mind a subtler, more slow-building tone now and then will find this highly rewarding.

A couple of lesser known films you might also want to check out if you like this one are Red Rover / Heritage De Sang and Phone.


Trick 'r Treat (2009)
Trick 'r Treat (2009)
DVD ~ Anna Paquin
Price: $4.53
57 used & new from $1.44

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Halloween Horror - Inventive, Spooky, Sexy And Unpredictable, October 28, 2009
This review is from: Trick 'r Treat (2009) (DVD)
Bringing in eerie pumpkin imagery, old local legends, costume parties in the night forest, ghosts, monsters and all manner of spooky staples, Trick R Treat is one of the best Halloween-themed movies ever made, and one of 2009's best films.

Despite billing to the contrary, Trick R Treat actually is Not an anthology, except in the very broadest sense. There are several different stories in here, but they're not presented as distinct segments. Instead they happen more or less simultaneously, on the same night in the same town, weaving in and out of one another's paths. There's a tale of young kids exploring the site where a school bus full of deformed children allegedly met an untimely end years ago; there's a vampire prowling the Halloween parties in the streets preying on unsuspecting beauties; there's a story of a group of female friends going to a party in the woods where the shyest member (Anna Paquin from the X-Men Trilogy (X-Men/ X2 - X-Men United/ X-Men - The Last Stand)) hopes to at last find her special someone; there's an old house where a cranky, volatile recluse harbors an old secret; and several other concepts running here. The movie switches back and forth between these threads throughout, sometimes bringing two or more together. Oh, and there's the little fellow with the burlap mask pictured on the cover, an awesomely cool creation who could be horror's newest icon. Though not a comedy, there are a number of moments of humor, usually black; there's gore and creatures brought to life with great special effects; there are occasional little wistful moments of tenderness and empathy; and there are genuine surprises in the twisted little plots that don't telegraph themselves. Original, spooky, and sexy, this is a can't miss for horror fans.

Also recommended if you like this one: Night of the Demons and Tales From The Crypt: Bordello of Blood / Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight (Double Feature).


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