Daybreakers (2010): When Blood Reveals

Amazon.com: Daybreakers by Lionsgate: Movies & TV

     After finishing up “Penny Dreadful” I’ve been curious at the potential stories that exist in vampire, werewolf and undead stories. This film was recommended by a friend as I was seeking mystery to the story as well. This was a good example of the kind of story I’m looking for. The Spierig Brothers created a fascinating project here that really would have worked better as an anthology piece as the world is the best part and is clearly the part where most of the passion was, but the story is mostly solid and I hope someday they can return to this universe in comic or film form. Basically I recommend this film to any horror fan.

Peter and Michael Spierig were the writer and director duo behind this story.

The film follows a vampire society that arises out of a plague. The story follows Edward Dalton (Ethan Hawke), scientist seeking to create a form of artificial blood to deal with the blood shortage facing vampire society.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Cinematography – I liked the cinematography in this film. It does a good job of making light and how it is used in harsh desert climates in both freeing and horrifying ways, depending on where and who the vampire is we are dealing with. Ben Nott did a great job showing the world that makes this film real.

The World – The world of film is easily strongest part. We see a society where vampires control nearly all of it but are dealing with a tiny human resistance and with a blood shortage leading them to transform into feral Subsiders, which a vampire becomes when it drinks the blood of another vampire. These Subsiders are a growing group through the film as vampire culture grows more desperate. An out is found though in a cure to vampirism through sunlight purging a vampire and a purged vampire blood being a way to turn other vampires human once more. These are the Daybreakers of the film’s namesake who drive the plot.

Frankie Dalton – Frankie Dalton is a vampire soldier who has the best arc in the film. This is a vampire nationalist who changes when he turns someone against their will and sees them become a Subsider being lead to their death. This breaks him as he joins Edward who is working with the human resistance at this point…he tries to drink from one of the purged vampires, which cures him and in the end he assaults the corporation controlling the military to save his brother leading to his redemption and death. We also learn that he turned his brother Edward to save him.

Edward Dalton – Edward is a better written version of another character of the same name who doesn’t drink human blood. We learn the reason behind this is he wasn’t turned willingly, but his brilliant mind is why the vampire elites like Charles Bromley use him to create blood demand and other sources of sustenance. Ethan Hawke does a good job as this introspective and mostly sad vampire who is saved and escapes with the last human resistance fighter we meet Audrey, at the end. His arc is one of hope for the human race as the Subsiders rice in strength worldwide.

Charles Bromley – Sam Neill is a great actor who deserved a better script. His character is still interesting as he mourns his daughter running away, but he turns her in the end and makes the “blood as bottom line” speech and is turned human due to ego when he tries to drink from a changed Edward. This was a character with potential to be more. He was fun being a baddy but the hints at complexity should have been explored more fully. Who was his partner? How did he form his corporation? Who was he before the plague?

Lionel Cormac – Willem Dafoe is a treasure who owns nearly anything he chooses. This film is no exception. In this he was a mechanic who profited off the plague by making cars safe to drive during the day for vampires after he was turned. In the end his joyriding and near death lead to him being changed back and he is the crazy Obi-Wan figure for Edward the rest of the film. He is so much as his reckless hope is what defines him and I loved that he saves our heroes at the end. His character was always a rebel and that rebellion is defined when he fights for humanity.

The Cons:

The Supporting Cast – The supporting cast is a lot of good ideas that are nothing more than stock character types. We have Audrey and her boyfriend who are only defined as rebels who can see good in vampires, that is never explored deeper. We have senator Wes Anderson, vampire senator who is fighting for peace too. We never get the why, he just kind of exists. These characters like Bromley’s daughter exist in a vacuum when they deserved to be fully realized on screen…which an anthology or show could have done.

Pacing of the Ending – The ending goes full B-Movie and slows down, which for me didn’t work. The ending was fine, I liked our heroes escaping with the chance of hope as Subsiders rise but the lead-up went on way too long. There are scenes of slow motion violence but do nothing but show us what we already know and lead to pointless betrayals. My thoughts would be different if the climax had been cut in half but the gratuitous length turned it into a con.

This is a film that was really enjoyable and was what I was looking for along the same lines as “Penny Dreadful.” Like “Penny Dreadful” a lot of ideas didn’t payoff but some of the characters had some real good arcs and I am interested and care about this horror and goth world the directors created. Like “Penny Dreadful” it could have been great and like “Penny Dreadful” I will recommend checking this out if the pros were as strong for you as they were me. This is a fascinating world that I hope we get to see more of someday and shows the potential of what can be done with vampire stories.

Final Score: 7.8 / 10 It was near good and with just a few more characters fleshed out and better editing at the end, could have been great.

 

“Penny Dreadful” Season 1 – Horror Camp, Problematic and Fun

Season 1 | Penny Dreadful Wiki | Fandom

    “Penny Dreadful,” Season 1 was quite enjoyable. I’ve read all the books it pulls inspiration from “Dracula,” “Frankenstein” and “The Picture of Dorian Gray” to name a few and I like the twist it took on the characters from these stories while creating it’s own lore. The casting for this show is absolutely fantastic. Eva Green could have carried the show on her own but Harry Treadaway, Billie Piper and Timothy Dalton bring so much nuance and depth to the characters they inhabit. There are problematic areas of the show that come out in the time period it takes place in (The Victorian Era of England) and I’ll get into that deeper into the review.

The show was created by John Logan who produced the show along with Sam Mendes.

The story follows Vanessa Ives (Eva Green) and explorer Sir Malcolm (Timothy Dalton) as they recruit others in their quest to save Malcom’s daughter Mina from a mysterious supernatural force.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Mysteries – There are a few mysteries that provide the basis for the show. There is the mystery of who has Mina (we learn it is Vampires), what is the aim of the evil force that inhabits Vanessa, What is Dorian Gray’s endgame? Who is responsible for the brutal murders? (It looks like both vampires and later on we see werewolves as a possible culprit too). These are the mysteries that drive the show and from these mysteries what choices it will prompt our characters to make.

Dorian Gray – Reeve Carney plays Dorian Gray and like Dorian Gray from the book he is a character who is all about new experiences and doesn’t care about people beyond how he can use them. This makes him an antagonist or at least an anti-villain but we don’t know his aim beyond the seeking of new experiences. He ends up sleeping with half of the main cast and each time it is when they are at their most vulnerable and in the case of Vanessa triggers her possession. His very nature is dangerous and Reeve plays him so well as this unaging, intelligent, beautiful and selfish man. I’m curious to see where his story will go in Season 2.

The Team – The Team works largely because of their relationships with each other. You have Sir. Malcolm and Sembene who have history in Africa together and Sembene holds him accountable to having to possibly kill Mina if she can’t be saved. You have Vanessa who was Mina’s friend and is like an adopted daughter to Sir. Malcolm. You have Ethan who is running away from his past in the United States and holds a dark secret but connects and falls in love with Brona a woman dying of tuberculosis. You also have Dr. Frankenstein and the 2 creatures he makes and his history with both of them.

Dr. Frankenstein, Proteus and Caliban – Harry Treadaway does such a fantastic job of making Frankenstein a man disconnected from people and obsessed with creating life of his own. We see him succeed in this when we first meet Proteus who he creates and who he lets name himself and we even see Proteus begin to recall the life he lived before his death. Sadly it is cut short by Frankenstein’s firstborn creation Caliban. Caliban is tortured and was born out of pain and holds nothing but resentment for his creator. This changes when in the end the only person he can turn to is Dr. Frankenstein and they come to an understanding. These two relationships are complicated and illustrate how broken Dr. Frankenstein is as in the end his creations are reflections of him in the actions they do and the actions he does for them.

Ethan and Vanessa Ives – One of the healthiest relationships on the show is that between Vanessa and Ethan. Vanessa is the one who is willing to believe in Ethan and he believes in her in turn. They have a deep friendship and in the end it is Ethan who rescues her for rescuing him when he is able to cast out the possession with a trinket Brona gave him as she was dying. It is a powerful scene and I appreciate how honest their relationship is. He tells Vanessa about Brona and she supports their love. It is touching and really the only healthy relationship on the show.

Ethan and Brona – Ethan and Brona is a sad tale. They become a couple pretty fast but run into trouble when Dorian triggers Brona’s self-doubt as he had slept with her earlier and it is after her lashing out at Ethan that he also sleeps with Ethan. Neither of them know this about one another but they are both running away from their guilt about their pasts. In the end Brona is killed by Dr. Frankenstein who promises he will bring her back in immortality, of course Ethan doesn’t know this and it is her death and his isolation from the team as well as being hunted by men sent by his father that trigger him turning into a werewolf and him slaughtering an inn…leaving him as the possible secondary antagonist next season.

Sir. Malcolm and Vanessa Ives – This is the most toxic relationship on the show that eventually pays off into some sort of balance. Sir. Malcolm uses Vanessa to find Mina but in the end chooses her over Mina who has been lost to the darkness and become a vampire. The arc getting here involves the two of them hurting each other so much as they both reel from how they hurt their family and one another. Vanessa is willing to confront her guilt and Sir. Malcolm truly isn’t until the end. Vanessa is a good character where I’d say Sir. Malcolm is not, at best he’s a protagonist who functions as an anti-villain because of his past and current actions.

The United States Colonialism – Through Ethan we learn about the death of the indigenous people in the Indian Wars in the United States and thankfully it isn’t glorified. Whenever it is talked about it is with shame and guilt and Ethan clearly has PTSD for fighting in the wars. We learn about the children missionaries stole from their tribes and lost generations…I hope we learn more as this is a huge part of Ethan’s identity and I appreciate that the show recognizes the atrocities that it was.

The Cons:

Sir Malcolm’s Colonialism – Sir. Malcolm goes to Africa with his son and we learn that he raped and pillaged his way across the continent. The only time this is called out is when Vanessa is possessed, no character calls out Sir. Malcolm for the evils he committed in Africa has a colonial “explorer.” This is easily the most problematic element of the show and I really hope next season calls him out. I’m also left wondering where Sembene’s story falls into this and I hope we get the story of why he follows Sir. Malcolm.

The Era’s Sexism – Sexism is a fairly common trope in this series and it is largely expressed in how Vanessa is “protected.” The way Brona is used by Dorian Gray and others in her past (her abusive fiance) and Sir. Malcolm’s dismissal of any woman but his willingness to still use  and abuse them. It is disgusting and again, Sir. Malcolm is not called out which I hope happens later…same goes for Dorian Gray.

I enjoyed “Penny Dreadful” a lot. This is my kind of horror trash and the casting perfection and mysteries are largely what make it work. I can’t wait to see where these character arcs go as I care about them. My favorites are Vanessa and Brona but even the other supporting characters have nuance and depth to them even if they are nothing more than awful people. In the end I’d say this show is worth checking out, you should just know the problematic elements going in as it is the biggest problem I have with the show.

Final Score: 7.7 / 10

“Castlevania” Season 3 – An Exploration of Hope Lost

Image result for castlevania season 3 poster

  Season 3 of “Castlevania” is really good filler. There are a lot of pieces moving and characters are developed, but there isn’t the core driving action that was last season. I still highly recommend checking it out though if you are a fan of the show. There are 10 episodes this season and none of them are wasted. Warren Ellis has truly crafted an amazing story and I’m curious to see where the story goes next.

This season was directed by Sam and Adam Deats and written by Warren Ellis.

The story follows Sypha and Trevor uncovering the mystery behind a town, two twins befriending Alucard in his isolation, Carmilla’s plotting of conquest and Isaac as he creates an army in his quest to get revenge against those who betrayed Dracula.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Saint Germain – Saint Germain is a fantastic character. He is Lindenfeld seeking a portal in order to get back to his wife. He find allies in Sypha and Trevor and it is wonderful seeing them interact as he sees himself as above everyone but them. In a depressing season he is such a fun character who brings levity and humor to all that happens this season. He also helps save the day by closing the Portal to Hell when the Priory in Lindenfeld is trying to summon Dracula back from Hell.

The Sisters – Carmilla and her 3 sisters make up a Vampire coven in Styria who is planning conquest. In order to conquer they need troops though and this involves her sister Lenore seducing and tricking Hector into being their slave. I thought it was handled well as she showed a soft power approach and diplomacy compared to how blunt most of her other sisters are. Striga is the warrior who loves battle, Morana is the strategist and Carmilla is the spark and planner. They have a fascinating dynamic and I can’t wait to see Isaac, Sypha and Trevor take them on.

Sypha and Trevor – Sypha and Trevor are such a cute couple. In this we get to see how much they enjoy killing monsters and protecting people. Sypha especially revels in combat. They play off each other really well and it is the first time we really see a more happy Trevor…until the end. At the end they discover the Judge of the town they couldn’t save was a serial killer the entire time. Once happy fighting evil they discover the evil in humanity again and they have each other, but that is it. By the end of this season, they feel alone. They really should go back to Alucard.

Isaac – Isaac has a fascinating arc this season. He is driven by Dracula’s goal to exterminate humanity, though he still is willing to give people a chance. We see him spare those who show kindness and his conversations with a merchant, a captain and another Forgemaster make him realize that he should shape his own destiny. It is powerfully done and I can’t wait for him to take on Carmilla and her sisters.

Alucard – Alucard is alone and going mad until two hunters, Sumi and Taka seek him for training. He believes them at first until they try to kill him. This loneliness and betrayal breaks him and he puts their corpses outside the Dracula’s Castle as a warning, beginning to embrace the practices of his father, who also had lost all hope humans. He really needs Sypha and Trevor to bring him back to balance.

Hopeless Humanity – Isaac is attacked by multiple groups who are destroyed, Sypha and Trevor discover the evil in the town they couldn’t save and Sumi and Taka show that even those who appear good can do evil. This was the theme this season and is meant to explore why Dracula was the way he was. It is really well done and a proper way for filler to be handled.

The Cons:

The Twins – Sumi and Taka were slaves of Cho’s court. Cho was one of Dracula’s generals from Japan and we see how in control she was over the populace, even letting hunters in for fun. From this I can see why they don’t trust vampires but Alucard killed Dracula. Them trying to kill Alucard wasn’t fleshed out enough, they needed more development for the turn the story took.

Feels Like Filler – In the end what does bring it down is that it does feel like filler. It is good filler, but knowing a show could be canceled at anytime I tend to see filler as a waste. This was a good use of filler but the problem of it still happens. This was really good but if the show ended here it wouldn’t be a good end to “Castlevania.”

I really enjoyed this season. It is depressing as hell but the character development is well handled. I also love how big this world is. This season was largely setup for the big events that will no doubt play out and I think it handled it well. The only con was really the twins as I get why they existed (to make Alucard more like his father and lose hope in humanity) but their motivations needed much more development. I hope Alucard catches a break soon, he’s one of my favorite characters on the show and it sucks seeing him go through all this. Can’t wait to see how the upcoming wars go.

Final Score: 8.6 / 10 Boosted slightly by the good character work.

Rick and Morty – Season 2, Episode 7 – “Big Trouble in Little Sanchez” – The Suffering of Little Rick

Big Trouble in Little Sanchez

    “Big Trouble in Little Sanchez” is a wonderful depressing episode as we see both Rick’s selfishness but also the fact that he does care about his grandkids as it is their desire for an adventure is one of the reasons he becomes Little Rick. Elsewhere Beth and Jerry have a great side story too.

    The story involves Rick putting himself in a younger clone to help Summer and Morty hunt a vampire at the school leading Rick to stay Little Rick while elsewhere Jerry and Beth go through couples therapy on an alien world that specializes in it revealing just how dysfunctional they are.

The Pros: Beth and Jerry Side Plot – On the planet there are machines that recreate how they see each other and Jerry is seen as a worm while Beth is a monster. The Beth Monster than uses the Jerry’s the conquer as she slaughters all the people at the retreat and it is only through Jerry being courageous that ideal Jerry is created who when the machine is placed on his head creates the Beth that is a Goddess and stops Monster Beth. Biggest reveal, Jerry and Beth are co-dependent.

Little Rick – Little Rick is popular and everyone loves him since he’s a good singer and dancer but he’s crying for help as the real Rick is stuck in a vat and it comes in through his anxiety. It is only when Summer and Morty fight for him to be back that Little Rick ends and Rick returns to his body. He’s a great character.

Morty – Morty is selfish in this as Little Rick helps him hook up with Jessica and Morty enjoys being popular and being able to have fun with his Grandfather as his Grandfather is actually treating him with respect. Even he eventually sees the real Rick crying for help through Little Rick’s songs though.

Summer – Summer is the first to realize something is wrong and works to get Rick back even though the hunting vampires idea was brought about by her. She loses all her standing at school when Little Rick turns on her but she stands by it and we see just how much she cares about her Grandfather.

Rick – Rick is crazy as we see him destroy his other clones as he didn’t see the Little Rick test as a success. He’s pretty unstable in this but we see that his love for his Grandchildren was one of the motivations for becoming Little Rick in the first place. He does send the Smith’s to therapy too showing that he is all for them resolving things or getting a divorce.

This was another great episode and easily one of the best of the season. The Beth and Jerry side story was hilarious and shows how their dysfunction is really what keeps them together while at the same time we get to see a nice side to Rick when he becomes Little Rick as well as his love for music and dance being a thing no matter what body he’s in.

Final Score: 10 / 10

Star Trek: The Animated Series – Season 1, Episode 4 – “The Lorelei Signal” – Captain Uhura

SpockMcCoyOld

    “The Lorelei Signal” is an episode that would have had a lot more problems had Rodenberry been the writer. Given “A Wolf in the Fold” had a woman posses Kirk because she wanted to be a captain but couldn’t through the sexist Federation (So glad this didn’t carry over to “TNG” for Starfleet Rules) and his general approach on that issue I’m glad that he wasn’t writing the Siren like Taureans who actually get some exploration and are more than just Vampires who suck the energy out of men. There was so much that could have gone wrong in this episode, but instead we got a fun adventure thankfully.

      The episode was directed by Hal Sutherland and written by Margaret Armen.

     The story involves the Enterprise being pulled to the Taurean world by a strange musical signal. When Spock, Kirk and McCoy and Carver beam down they are taken hostage and are used as an energy conduit for the immortal species of women. From here they must plot their escape while Uhura takes control of the ship to go about figuring out to rescue them.

The Pros: Spock – Spock is the one who is able to figure out that they are drawn to men to suck away their energy and gets the information to Uhura before passing out, warning them to bring an all women away team. He is the one analyzing every situation they are in and the least attached even though even he is drawn in and hears Vulcan Wedding Drums from their singing.

Uhura – Uhura suspects something is up from the beginning and gets them away from the planet the moment she sees that the crew is getting worse. She also negotiates a treaty with the Taureans rather than killing them showing just how much of a Starfleet Officer she is and worthy of the Captain’s Chair.

The Taureans Motivation  and Treaty – The new technology they created led to their men dying off so the only way to live was to bring more over to take their energy. They find another way when the crew learns that they can mate with other species so they leave the planet to make a life elsewhere and are glad to give up Immortality and it’s cost.

The Cons: Siren Trope – They pull the men there and hypnotize them because of their beauty. This trope is so overdone and I hate how it defines women so narrowly and gets rid of diversity within a population. This was my issue with the Taurean concept as a species and where I could have seen this being one big “Taming of the Shrew” type episode.

   This episode was enjoyable though it was not able to approach the Female Species only exist to “draw men in due to looks and sex and is only using the men.” This thought process is a huge reason that sexist societies use to justify keeping women out of power, since they are only seen as weak with their bodies and minds as their only ways to get any sort of control and are looked down on that as those with power use these poor reasons to justify the sexist status quos.

Final Score: 7 / 10

Nosferatu (1922): Visually Stunning But Not a Great Adaptation

Nosferatu

     As we get closer to Halloween I’ll be reviewing more films associated with the holiday (or Day of the Dead as well). We start with “Nosferatu” a film that is visually brilliant but not a great adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I’ll go into the reasons why in the assessment.

      The film was directed by F. W. Burnau, produced by Enrico Dieckmann and Albin Grau and written by Henrik Galeen based of course on Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

        The story mirrors Dracula with some characters changed or deleted (No Doctor Van Helsing) but the premise of the hero (in this case Thomas Hutter) is sent by his employer as he is a solicitor to sell the home nearby to Count Orlok. He leaves his wife Ellen behind to make the trip. He travels to Transylvania and people react in fear when he says where he is going. He meets the count and finds himself having nightmares and after the Count signs the contract of ownership over the home he prepares to travel to Wisborg all the while feeding off of Hutter. Hutter is left behind and has to make escape as Orlok heads to his hometown spreading “The Plague” along the way.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The World – The world is lived in, you feel the desperation of the people and the plague feels very real. From bringing plague rats with him, to all the coffins that are in every area…whether Wisborg or Transylvania. You can see how Count Orlok and vampires fit into this world.

The Music – The film is a silent one and the orchestra does an amazing job showing emotions…from Thomas and Ellen’s joy together, to the horror of Orlok. Hans Erdmann did a fantastic job!

Cinematography – The visuals in this film are the best part besides the world and music, which is needed as the characters aren’t all that interesting. There are good uses of shading and shadows, especially when Orlok stalks his prey. This I think is what made Count Orlok such a memorable villain. Fritz Arno Wagner and Gunther Krampf did a good job at creating great visuals.

Count Orlok – Max Schreck plays a very memorable monster, he is both visually scary with his large clawed hands and dark gaunt face and also has a very high body count. He has great power too and gets to Wisborg without needing a crew for the ship as he controls it with magic and Knock is his slave even before he arrives and is the one who is blamed by the townsfolk, keeping Orlok protected from suspicion. It takes a lot to bring him down, which I appreciated.

The Ending – The characters aren’t all that memorable…the couple is young love and you don’t get their motivations, and the Doctors are their simply for exposition and to make comparisons between other predators (venus fly traps, etc.) to Vampires. But in this Ellen saves the day. She lures Count Orlok out and he stays to feed on her leading to his demise as he is up until the dawn and the light kills him. I liked this twist as she was the only character who actually did anything and in Dracula the character she is based off is only there to be rescued.

Okay/Con: The Characters – The best way to describe the characters is one dimensional. They have a single desire and that is it. Knock wants money and later to serve Orlok, Ellen and Hutter want each other, the Doctors just want to study and later just stop the plague and even Orlok just wants blood. The thing is in the end the only active agents are Orlok and Ellen. Ellen figures out how to stop Orlok and Orlok just keeping reeking havoc. This is a pretty big issue as I would have cared more about Ellen’s sacrifice if I’d gotten to know her character more, I would have cared about the townspeople if I’d seen what it was they valued. You don’t really get any of that, which brings the film down.

     This is a classic horror film and it is worth checking out. It is not the best adaptation of Stoker’s Dracula as in the book and some other versions I’ve seen the characters have more than one dimension and I care about what happens to them…not so much for this film. It is worth it though for the music, cinematography and monster design. Count Orlok looks amazing as a monster and I can see why so many shows post this film have called upon his visuals for their monsters.

Final Score: 7 / 10. It was okay.