Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Dracula 3D: Journey to the Brink of Sanity

(I originally put this up on Horror-Writers, but decided to post it here as well.  I was talking to a couple people that write for the site, and they were talking about how bad Dario Argento’s Dracula was.  So I watched it and wrote this.)

On numerous occasions, Shawn has proclaimed this movie “the worst movie ever made”.  I believe Chassity has backed him up on these claims. 
I took these bold proclamations as a personal challenge.  I sat through Blood Gnome – a movie about knock-off Ghoulies in the world of S&M – in its entirety.  I refused to believe that Dracula 3D could be worse.  It was directed by Dario Argento, for God’s sake.  I’ve never been a huge fan of the man, but at least his films have a visually interesting aspect to them. 
And so, with half a bottle of Scotch at my disposal, I hit play and prepared myself for the onslaught of Dracula 3D in 2D.

May my non-existent children forgive me.

My confusion started early, and set the stage for what was to come.  I swore the music playing over the credits was the same music used in Mars Attacks.  Was I to infer that Dracula was actually an alien?  I assumed the answer was an emphatic “yes”.  Dracula – THE Dracula – had given up pork.  I was left to wonder when (not if) Tom Jones would be showing up.  Dracula turning into a mantis.  It’s not unusual, indeed.

Within the first five minutes, I witnessed a busty young lass take off her clothes and get railed in a barn by a local (married) farmer.  In my experience, there's nothing a woman likes more from her married lover than hurried, dirty sex in a barn.  At least throw on some Marvin Gaye, man.  They had a tiff afterwards (something about him being married, the cross she was wearing, and their differing opinions of the style in which As I Lay Dying was written, I believe), which led to her running through the woods from an owl and becoming Dracula’s newest plaything, while a man with a shotgun smiled and nodded his approval.
At this point, I had come to believe that I had contracted the flu.  Nothing else would explain these images currently being burrowed into my brain.

Not long after that, Jonathan Harker – who looked absolutely nothing like Neo – arrived at Dracula’s castle and noticed the lack of Dracula’s reflection in a mirror.  “Must be a trick of the light,” he said.  “Or proof that your parents haven’t conceived you yet,” I replied, cackling into my glass.  At this point, I went to the nearest mirror and was shocked to find that I also lacked a reflection.  I chalked it up to the Scotch, and not the madness this film was inflicting on me.  While it was still too soon to know for sure, I felt as though I were already past the point of no return.  Soon, I would be pulling off the legs of those closest to me and hearing terrible, disjointed music blared out from the heavens.
Or was that Yellow Brick Road?  At this point, it was impossible to tell.  I ditched the glass and decided to drink straight from the bottle.  The night was getting away from me.  Dracula had already claimed another victim, though I was not ready to admit it to myself just yet.

Naked ladies were everywhere now.  There was one, desperately trying to suck the life of out Jonathan’s bloody hand, stealing pictures of his wife, and engaging in some passionate necking.  There was another, being bathed as part of a sexy bathtime routine by her best friend.  There was another, descending the walls of Dracula’s castle on Rapunzel’s hair.  And still another, being thrown to the ground by Dracula and hissing at him while he bit into Jonathan’s (obviously) delicious neck.
Naked ladies and bad CGI dogmen are the only things that make sense to me anymore.  They are my currency, and I am their master.
At this point, I began to question the decisions of any director who thought it would be completely appropriate to film his daughter getting a sexy naked spongebath.  I may be in no position to judge, but that’s pretty weird.

I watched Renfield running bloody through the streets and wondered if it were him or me.  Had I somehow joined the characters onscreen, like some sort of Brea Grant-less Midnight Movie?  I checked myself, and found no blood.  It couldn’t be me, then.  So why was I howling at the moon?  And how did my clothes end up in tatters?  I looked to my bottle and found it was almost full.  Nothing makes sense anymore.

I watched a sick Lucy Kisslinger in bed and found one way we are similar: we both wear sheer nightgowns in front of our fathers.  Her father seemed more open to it than mine.  Perhaps the Buffalo Bill voice was a bit too much.

“I dreamt a wolf tore a woman to pieces,” a frantic and increasingly helpless Mina Harker proclaimed.  I tipped back the bottle, drank deep and replied, “And I was that wolf.  And I was that woman.  And I was the ground on which it happened.”  I drank again and saw nothing but the wolf.  And he was hungry like he should be.

I recall flashes of activity: of life and death and blood and hope and love and loss.  And all of it washed over me like a waterfall. 
I saw Dracula appear in a cloud of flies and lay waste to the establishment.
I saw wolves running around Mina and wondered aloud how Argento got those wolves to ignore the helpless woman on the ground while filming, and whether the first five Minas were torn to shreds.
I saw three cockroaches that I believe were supposed to be Dracula, but I was never quite sure.
I saw Rutger Hauer.
I saw a giant praying mantis climb a staircase and kill a fat man.  I laughed harder than I should have, which frightened my dog.  She looked at me and asked, “What are you doing with your life that you are here, right now, watching this?” but her lips never moved.

When the end finally came, it was swift and unrelenting.  I wasn’t sure if it was actually the end, or just the end of my already fragile mind.  I opened the DVD player and found that there was nothing in there.  Did any of this ever actually happen? 
I pinched myself.  I was me.  I am me.  I am one.  I am a rock.  I am a leaf on the wind, watch how I soar.
I looked up.  The TV was blank.  I got out of the chair to find that two days had passed. 
I checked the mirror. 
I had a reflection.
I had survived, though I have no idea what kind of life I am capable of anymore.
I left the bottle of Scotch next to my chair and walked outside into the great wide open.  I drank all of it in.  Every single inch.  I saw a bug fly by and smiled knowingly. 
“I’ll see you again, Count.  I'll see you real soon.”

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Innkeepers

Description from Netflix:
In this eerie ghost story, a venerable New England inn closes after a century in business, and the lodge’s two remaining employees are determined to uncover the truth about longtime rumors that the majestic mansion is haunted.

Things I liked:
1. Sara Paxton.  As Claire, she showed endless curiosity, boundless energy, wide-eyed wonder and abject horror.  At times – in her more awkward moments – she reminded me of a long-lost Deschanel, which is never a bad thing.  I had only seen her in a couple movies before this (The Last House on the Left and Shark Night), and she didn’t leave much of an impression on me.  She was great in this, though.  Far-and-away the best part of the movie.

This is exactly how I looked for most of this movie 

2.  The look of the movie.  West is great at making a movie look really good.  It’s almost as if Wes Anderson is directing a horror movie.  I have the same praise of House of the Devil.  He has a great sense of how to use space.  Every shot looks perfect.

Things I didn’t like:
1. The Luke character.  He annoyed me to no end.  It’s quite possible that the actor (Pat Healy) did a really good job.  The reason doesn’t matter too much.  I found him absolutely insufferable.  I hated him, his faux-hawk, his superior attitude, and everything else.  Every time he was on the screen, I was annoyed.

2.  Once you get past the look of the movie, you realize there’s not a lot going on.  The movie itself is pretty boring.  No real tension to speak of for the bulk of the film.  The dialog isn’t good.  It’s not clever.  It’s not deep.  It’s not snappy.  It’s just boring.  There’s a little build during the ending, but the movie had completely lost me by that point.  In the end, I felt like I watched 80 minutes of two people running a hotel, 10 minutes of a slow-moving ghost story, and 10 minutes of messy, unfocused insanity.
The real problem of this film is the complete lack of tension.  Scenes don’t really seem to be building towards anything.  Very few things actually happen, and the build to these events is minimal at best.

3. Random, sloppy jump scares.  As a general rule, “slow-burn” movies don’t do jump scares.  And, if they do, they’re artfully done.  This movie decided to throw that rule out the window.  There were quite a few jump scares, and none of them were very well done.  Lots of random bumps and noises.  Just lazy, out-of-nowhere scares.

4.  Claire’s inhaler.  There were a number of scenes showing her using her inhaler, to the point where they all but telegraphed the ending.  This was the exact opposite of subtle.

5.  Some of the logic at the end of the movie.  They say things like, “We need to get out of this hotel,” then spend a couple minutes milling around the lobby.  I understand that you’re waiting for someone, but you should probably just wait outside.  There were a handful of moments like this at the ending, and they were all maddening.

6.  The ending.  Even leaving out the terrible logic employed, the ending was downright comical.  The ghosts were ridiculous.  If there had been a sense of building terror throughout the movie, the ending could have been very good.  But, since there was none of that, it was just boring.  It was just crazy stuff happening for the sake of having crazy stuff happen, not because there was an actual build-up to it. 

Final thoughts:
West knows how to make a movie look good, but doesn’t know how to make a good movie.  I’m holding out hope that he learns.  He was listed as writer/director/editor of this film.  He needs to scale back a bit.  Work with a co-writer and co-editor.  He seems like he’s very close to making something amazing, but he’s missing a key ingredient somewhere.