Friday, October 2, 2009

Review: Hellraiser: Bloodline


Starring: Bruce Ramsay, Valentina Vargas, Doug Bradley. Directed by Alan Smithee (Kevin Yagher.)

Here we have the biggest, most muddled mess of the Hellraiser series. The first two films are two of the greatest horror films in existence, and the third was a very good continuation of the mythology. But Bloodline is an anomaly, given that it is written by the same man that wrote 2 and 3 (Peter Atkins). This is a very ambitious film, and has many good ideas, but none of them play out exactly as they should. Essentially, Bloodline is a perfect example of how a perfectly good script (and it is, the original script for this movie is remarkable) can be utterly ruined by the studio.

The story spans three generations. First and most exciting, we get to see the complete origin of the nefarious box, The Lament Configuration. Turns out it was done out of ignorance by toymaker Philip LeMerchand. He was commissioned to make the box for a wealthy baron who uses it as a gateway to Hell, from which he pulls the demoness Angelique. LeMerchand, horrified at what he has created, tries to design an idea for a puzzle that will destroy demons, to mirror his design that summons them.

Cut to the present, where architect Jack Merchant is being plagued by dreams (of Angelique, who survived the centuries) as he works on his latest design, which has an ever-eerie resemblance to the box. Angelique knows that he is a descendant of LeMerchand and goes to America to find him. Carnage ensues, leading to the summoning of Pinhead, who graces a little more screen time than is usual for these films.

Our wrap-around segment, where we see our narrator, is in the 22nd century on the space station Minos. Yes, that's right. Pinhead in space. See Jason X, Leprechaun 4 and Critters 4 for info on how well that usually works. Anyway, here LeMerchand's last descendant has finally figured out the Elysium Configuration, the box that will destroy the gateway to Hell and uses it to destroy Pinhead (who's never really been the all-out villain in the series before, he's more of a shadow character, so this feels a little contrived).

Like I said, a lot of good ideas. But the end result is a mess. The film, just from the synopsis should (and deserves to be) 2 hours long. The film itself is 81 minutes. Yeah. There's a story on that though. See, the first cut of the film was indeed over 2 hours. Unfortunately, the studio decided that's no length for a horror movie, so they cut out enough footage to be considered another feature film. Also, Angelique was dubbed over with an American actress to remove her French accent. Wonderful thought process in the makings of this one. What we're left with is a mess of a movie. It's unfortunate, it really is, because there was a lot of potential here, and a lot of charisma in the early days of its making. Clive Barker, upon seeing the final product sued (and failed) to have his name removed, and Kevin Yagher (outstanding special effects guy who did the make-up for Freddy Krueger and designed the Chucky doll, as well as the Crypt Keeper) got his first shot of directing with this film, and became so ashamed he removed his name from it. Doug Bradley has more screen time, which may be out of character, but as he was one of the few things that really made this worth watching, I don't mind it.

So, while it's not all the movie's fault, what we got is what we got. And what we got ain't great. This was the last Hellraiser film to go to theaters and one can't really wonder why. It was all straight-to-DVD from here, and all those sequels, in my humble opinion, actually surpassed this. Still, Doug Bradley always brings a firm sophistication to Pinhead.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Review: Martin


Starring: John Amplas, Lincoln Maazel, Christine Forest. Written and Directed by George A. Romero.

So, here we have one of the most innovative and influential takes on the vampire genre ever made. George A. Romero created the zombie film in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead. Here, he works a similar effect on the vampire move, taking the idea and completely spinning it on its head. The story deals with a young man who may or may not be a vampire. He goes to live with his uncle, who believes he is such beyond any doubt, but Martin throws the superstitions in his face, insisting that "there's no real magic. There's no real magic ever."

Yet still he has vampiric tendencies that are clear from the first scene of the film, in which we see him drug a woman on a train and extract some of her blood, as he has no fangs. He cannot change into a bat, he possesses no supernatural gifts or, for that matter, limitations. Yet still he believes what his uncle tells him, an idea that has been forced upon him, that he is indeed an 84 year-old vampire. In the end, the choice is ours to make, though we can more easily side with the obvious, that Martin is a poor, disturbed young man who has a need for blood.

The one thing abundantly clear throughout the whole film is that Martin does not want to do what he does. But he has to, or he believes he has to. Either way, the idea of stopping it is completely beyond his control. Overall, this is a near-masterpiece of film. One of Romero's best, saying a lot coming from the director of Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and Creepshow. The plot and themes are superb, the acting and story are chilling, and the overall film is essential. It is a genre-bending, thought-provoking horror film.