Tag Archives: Dracula

Halloween Movies 2, 3 and 4

Over the weekend the husband and I watched three October-appropriate films – An eighties slasher flick Happy Birthday to Me, an eighties horror-comedy House II: The Second Story and the more recent The Batman Vs. Dracula animated direct-to-video movie.

Let’s start with the animated movie:

Movie 2:  Saturday October 2, 2009
Film Title: The Batman Vs. Dracula (2005)
Starring (voice actors): Rino Romano as The Batman/Bruce Wayne, Alastair Duncan as Alfred Pennyworth, Peter Stormare as Count Dracula/Alucard, Tom Kenny as The Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot, Kevin Michael Richardson as The Joker and Tara Strong as Vicky Vale
Written by: Dave Capizzi
Directed by: Michael Goguen

This movie is part of The Batman animated series that was on the WB for a while not too long ago. My husband and I are huge Batman fans but never had much interest in this version. After watching this movie I’m glad that we never wasted our time.

The movie isn’t terrible, but it certainly isn’t something I would recommend anyone seek out.

For some unknown reason (even to the story writer, apparently) Dracula’s coffin was removed from Transylvania post-heart-piercing and dumped into a Gotham city underground crypt. After breaking out of Arkham Asylum The Penguin (who sounds and acts more like the animated Beetlejuice than any incarnation of The Penguin I’ve ever seen or read) stumbles across this crypt looking for buried treasure. Mr. Cobblepot escapes the fangs of Dracula but falls prey to Drac’s hypno-gaze and becomes The Count’s new Renfield.

Meanwhile, Vicky Vale is interviewing (and hitting on) a young Bruce Wayne but he’s too distracted by the new rash of strange disappearances and she’s pretty much out of luck.

But so is The Batman. Due to witnesses seeing a ‘batlike’ creature when these Lost Ones disappear, the city starts hunting down The Batman believing he is the one kidnapping all the missing persons.

The Batman figures out who Dracula is – but really, it’s not that hard. Drac even gives his name as Alucard to Bruce Wayne at a party. This has become so common it’s positivily cliche. What’s really sad is that ol’ Brucey had to write out the letters and hold them up to a mirror to figure it out. I know, I know – that was more to let the audience in on the joke, but really – it just made Bruce look stupid.

By the time the story ends, the Joker’s been turned into a vampire, cured by The Batman, and Vicky Vale has been kidnapped and nearly turned into Drac’s vampire queen. Fortunately, Batsy is able to defeat The Count with Wayne Industries’ newest technological feat.

There are many problems with this movie, the biggest being that it’s just plain dull. I did not like the character designs, Alfred Pennyworth seemed quite out of character (he did a spit take for goodness’ sake) and the voice actor they cast for Batman – ick. He sounded like almost all Hollywood men today – boyish and boring. Batman needs a deep, commanding voice. How can you strike fear into the hearts of men when you sound like a teenage boy?

I will say this for it though – The Joker as a vampire is pretty damn creepy. What’s even creepier is that while a vampire and as The Batman’s prisoner, he dined on Bruce Wayne’s blood nightly.

Okay, so moving right along. Don’t worry – I actually liked the other two movies we watched this past weekend.

Rating: Three Screaming Pumpkins out of ten

Purchase The Batman Vs. Dracula from Amazon

Movie 3: Saturday October 2, 2009
Move Title: House II: The Second Story (1987)
Starring: Arye Gross as Jessie, Jonathan Stark as Charlie, Royal Dano as Gramps and John Ratzenberger as Bill
Written by: Ethan Wiley
Directed by: Ethan Wiley

The first House movie is a lot of fun and sometimes genuinely scary. The sequel – which has nothing to do with the first movie aside from the fact that it centers around a haunted house – is just fun.

When Jessie moves into the house his parents – who he never knew – left him, he starts exploring and finds that the strange mantlepiece on his fireplace is missing something rare and valuable – a crystal skull. After even more research he deduces that this skull might just be buried with his great great grandfather, with whom he shares his name.

He convinces his best friend Charlie to help him dig up the old codger and lo and behold – there’s the skull – and along with the skull is ol’ gramps. He’s decayed and very, very old but still kicking.

Jessie and Charlie take Gramps and the skull back to the house but is is almost immediately stolen – by a barbarian from a prehistoric alternate universe that anyone can get to just by going into the upstairs study.

And that’s how this movie goes up until the end. Jessie and Charlie visit three alternate universes trying to keep their hands on the skull and therefore keeping Gramps alive. In the end, Gramps’ old friend-turned-enemy shows up demanding the skull but Jessie shoots it out with him until only one of them is left.

Along the way Bill Maher shows up as a smarmy record producer and a few non-descript women look pretty on the screen for a few minutes but are never developed past a two-dimensional shell. However, a cute little pterodactyl and dogerpillar make up for lack of female character development.

Rating: Five Screaming Pumpkins out of ten

Purchase House II The Second Story from Amazon

Saving the Best for last :

Movie 4: Sunday October 4, 2009
Title: Happy Birthday To Me (1981)
Starring: Melissa Sue Andersen as Virginia Wainwright, Glenn Ford as Doctor David Faraday, Tracey Bregman as Ann Thomerson and various other Canadian youths
Written by: John C.W. Saxton, Peter Jobin & Timothy Bond
Directed by: J. Lee Thompson

Although a slasher flick, this movie is very short on gore. The kills are quick and the camera never lingers on the aftermath.

However, the interesting story that keeps you guessing right up until the end makes up for it.

Virginia is a popular girl in her (high school? College? – it’s very unclear) and is even in what the locals call ‘The Top Ten’ – meaning the top ten most popular people in the school.

However, all is not perfect in pretty little Virginia’s world. Three years prior she had been in an accident that left her in a coma. After experimental brain surgery, she recovered but with very little memory of the accident itself or what led up to it.

In the meantime, members of the Top Ten slowly disappear. The viewer knows they are dead – we see each kill although we never see the killer – but the townspeople don’t know if they’re dead or alive. None of the bodies turn up.

By the end of the movie we find out exactly where those bodies went along with how and why.

As with most slasher movies, this film has a female lead performed adequately by Melissa Sue Andersen of Little House on the Prairie fame. A few other familiar character actors from early eighties films pop up along with Glenn Ford.

Rating: Seven Screaming Pumpkins out of 10

Purchase Happy Birthday to Me from Amazon

More Bloodsuckers

Back in 1990 there was one-season television series titled simply ‘Dracula – The Series.’ I had never even heard of it until just a few years ago when my husband happened across a DVD in a bargain bin. He had seen a few episodes on television and was curious to see it again.

It’s a weird mix of Dracula (of course), The Monster Squad and your typical family sit-com.

Shot completely in Luxembourg, this show is about two boys, Max (Jacob Tierney) and Chris (Joe Roncetti), whose mother moves them out to Europe to live with their uncle Gustav Helsing (Bernard Behrens) and his attractive young ward, Sophie (Mia Kirshner). If moving halfway across the world wasn’t a big enough adjustment, they quickly learn that Dracula – THE Dracula – is a town resident and that Uncle Gustav is the descendant of the famous Van Helsing line.

This Dracula character is closer to the novel than most modern-day vampire characters. He can go out in the day – sunlight does not kill him – but he does not have ‘vampire powers’ until nightfall. However, he is not the type to sleep in during the day. He can’t – he runs a multi-million international business under the name of Alexander Lucard.

As with many early 90’s syndicated shows – and one aimed at families – the dialogue can often be silly and the plots a little ludicrous. Fortunately, this show does not take itself too seriously and it’s obvious that the actors and writers had fun with it without camping it up too much.

The stand-out performer of the program is Geordie Johnson, who plays the title character. I’ve never seen a blond Dracula before and I wouldn’t think it would be an appropriate look for him but Johnson plays it so well that it seems right for this portrayal. He has a nice, square jaw (all the better for making those fangs look even more menacing) and resembles Kyle MacLachlan, which is never a bad thing in my book.

Dracula can get a little campy – silly one-liners, over-dramatic entrances and exits – but he is played seriously enough that the line is never crossed into all-out camp. Even when Drac is popping off those groan-inspiring jokes, you never stop believing he’s a dangerous monster. Johnson plays the villain just right in that we don’t want him to win, but we don’t want him to die either.

The entire show was released on two DVDs, out of order, but this hardly matters because there isn’t much of an over-arcing story to this program like most modern-day shows. The prints are acceptable but not all that great. The show was shot on 16 millimeter film so the graininess should be expected.

If you do happen to pick these up, make sure you’re in a frame of mind to watch something fun, but not too deep but not too fluffy either.

Purchase Dracula: The Series (2-DVD Pack)

This show is also available to rent through Netflix.

To learn more about this show, visit Lucard’s Home Page, an in-depth fan site covering all aspects of the show.

The Second Round

So, I’ve made it two days in a row. Wonder how long I’ll be able to keep this up.

Tonight, another five horror flicks that I’ve enjoyed and that I think you might enjoy too.

Ringu (1998)

No, not the American remake, the original Japanese film directed by Hideo Nakata and written by Hiroshi Takahashi. This was my first foray into the world of Japanese horror – before I knew about the fear of long black hair and young girls prevalent in the genre.

The general premise, for those three of you who don’t know, is that after viewing a certain video tape, the viewer will die in seven days. This film follows the investigation of these deaths and the video itself by a young mother who’s son has watched the video.

This is one of those few movies that I mentioned a few posts ago about making me almost crawl over the back of the couch when ‘the scene’ happened.

If you’ve seen the American version and enjoyed it at all I urge you to see the original. It’s much scarier and doesn’t feel the need to spoon feed you the answer to every single, freaking piece of imagery in the cursed video tape. Also, the fact that the only special effect to make the ‘ghost’ move strangely was running the film backward makes it much scarier than the over-produced, computer-enhanced effects of the American film.

When will they ever get it? The more real a supernatural occurrence looks, the scarier it’s going to be? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Purchase Ringu

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The Black Cat (1934)

A rather subversive and sometimes perverse film, this movie stars both Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Boris takes on the role of the bad guy in this film and has the widow’s peak to prove it. Both actors give it their all in this movie and it’s interesting to see Lugosi play the hero of the film. I haven’t seen all of Lugosi’s films, but this is the only one I’ve seen in which he plays this role. Most of the films I’ve seen of his he’s either trying to drain hapless victims or conduct experiments on…hapless victims. Oh, and bully Tor Johnson.

Purchase The Black Cat, part of The Bela Lugosi Collection

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The Evil Dead (1981), The Evil Dead II (1987) , Army of Darkness (1992)

(Yes, this is three movies, but I’m counting it as one for the purposes of this post.)

Poor Ashley. All he wanted was a quiet weekend in the woods with his friends, have some fun with his best girl, maybe get a little drunk. Instead, he got a sister molested by the local foliage, talking deer heads, possessed friends, medieval knights and he really lost control of that hand.

Now considered classics of the genre, The Evil Dead trilogy launched Bruce Campbell’s and Sam Raimi’s careers and gave us three of the most enjoyable gore-fests ever made. Often scary, sometimes funny and at times just downright silly, these movies show an ingenuity and wittiness on a shoe-string budget (Army of Darkness being the exception – it had an actual budget) that most horror movies can’t pull off even with millions being thrown at them.

Purchase The Evil Dead/Evil Dead 2 – Book Of The Dead Collection

Purchase Bruce Campbell vs. Army Of Darkness – The Director’s Cut (Official Bootleg Edition)

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A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

This is another of those movies that scared the poop out of me. Strange that I never had trouble sleeping afterward and I’ve only had three Freddy Krueger dreams in my life and that wasn’t until years later.

This movie just hit all the right notes to scare me – a monster that had the perfect hiding place where only his intended victims could see him, the fact that this monster was inside the mind and had access to those things that really scare you (although he didn’t really start doing that until the third movie in the series) and the scariest fact – there was no escaping him. Everyone has to sleep eventually.

I think if New Nightmare had come out shortly after the first movie, it would have damaged my psyche.

Purchase A Nightmare on Elm Street (Infinifilm Edition)

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Love at First Bite (1979)

This movie is probably the first vampire movie I ever saw. Therefore, I grew up thinking that to become a vampire, you had to be bitten three times. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. The first time I saw anything with different rules I was taken aback. It just didn’t seem right.

Love at First Bite is a very silly movie. Dracula, tired of being alone, decides to visit the United States to find a new bride. He chooses the height of the ‘me’ decade, 1979, and falls for an extremely self-involved model who finally finds herself after receiving that fatal third bite.

I think what makes this movie work is how George Hamilton plays the part. He certainly plays it for laughs, but he never makes fun of his own character. Dracula is still ‘the man’ and never does he take a pratfall or make himself look like a fool (I’m looking at you, Mr. Nielsen). Even though he’s been dropped into the absurdity of the modern world, he never lets it ruffle his wing hair.

And damn! He’s the finest looking vampire I’ve ever seen.

Purchase Love at First Bite