♦ complete viewing ♠ partial viewing ≈ television series
♦ Let Me In: A relatively faithful American adaptation of the Swedish vampire film Let The right One In. So faithful—at times seemingly shot-for-shot—it begs a series of questions:
- Why bother to set it in America?
- Given change in location, why keep it set in 1983?
- If you’re going to be so faithful about certain aesthetic aspects, why jettison the element that made the original so intriguing ambiguity?
Though it’s laudable Hollywood didn’t Hollywoodize the film, it’s ultimately a kind of pointless exercise. Rather than bringing this story to a wider English-speaking North American audience, they still ended up making the kind of film that would generally appeal to people who aren’t turned off by reading subtitles. Only this time they did it with two leads who, though really pretty good, are just a few ticks less interesting than their Swedish counterparts. At best, anyone who sees this version first will probably want to see the mesmerizing original but will have had the experience spoiled for them slightly.
I had the unexpected sensation of actually wishing they’d bastardized Let The Right One In into some kind of Near Dark meets Twilight mess because then at least I’d be able to say, “Well, I guess they really did have to dumb it down for American audiences,” and then just enjoy it for whatever piece of crap it is.
Of course, if they had gone that route, I’d probably actually have been pissing blood on it, calling their version a travesty. So…
♦ Cargo: This is a Swiss mash-up of Alien and The Matrix. Yeah, that second reference is a spoiler but they telegraph it so far in advance you’re spending half the film clawing at the screen willing the characters to figure out the obvious. Definite pacing issues. Also, the horror/suspense “hunted by something unknown in dark corridors” element should have been cut in favour of the main sci-fi story. It felt entirely shoe-horned in like they thought you simply can’t have a space voyage movie without it. Since it was ultimately inconsequential to the over-arching story, it wasn’t even thrilling. Otherwise, Cargo is not a the worst twist on the something-goes-terribly-wrong-on-a-long-space-voyage trope—but the bar is set pretty low.
♦ Pandorum: This is another something-goes-terribly-wrong-on-a-long-space-voyage film, of course recommended to me after watching Cargo. Reading the synopsis, I wondered if it was actually a Hollywood remake of Cargo so I gave in to my curiosity. It’s not a remake, but it’s another film in this sci-fi sub-genre that probably could have done without the “hunted by something unknown in dark corridors” element and been stronger.
Of course, then it’d be more Silent Running meets Event Horizon and less Aliens meets Event Horizon. Maybe that wouldn’t have been significantly better. Still, as with Cargo, it felt like they were making two different movies and sandwiching them together. The titular space madness “pandorum” didn’t add much to the sort of Noah’s Ark gone Planet of the Apes story, only distracted from it.
♦ The Covenant: This coming of age wizard boy tale was nowhere near as bad as I expected it to be. That said, the mythology they spin is absurd. They boys get their first powers at 13 and then “ascend” into their full power on their 18th birthday. Why? Why exactly those years? Why don’t some of them “ascend” at 17 and a half and some not until they’re 20? It makes for a tidy narrative but feels just a little too convenient.
The film also, naturally, sets itself up as a trite explanation for the Salem witch trials. But since it’s an entirely magical lineage they don’t explain why so many women were burned as witches. Not that any of it’s that important to the story, it’s just a little background decoration I found distracting.
Anyway, there’s a bigger issue with how they try to make a mystery of the identity of the baddie since it’s obvious who it is from the first scene and the hamfisted “whodunit” element gets tiresome. A little more sinister foreshadowing of his intentions would have been more interesting than the smelly red herrings. On the plus side, his motivations are more believable than Voldemort’s genocidal thirst for vengeance.
♦ Predators: A nice twist on this established franchise sequel (reboot?) is making it an “arena games” film. Unfortunately, they don’t do as much with the concept as they could have.
By the time the Predator aliens show up, they feel kind of sutured onto the script and interrupt the ensemble character dynamics that were just beginning to develop. It feels like they ran out of time to do anything with the stock characters they populated the story with so each character ends up being a two-dimensional cliché instead of an interesting twist on an archetype. Not that the actors’ performances aren’t all pretty solid, but I kept feeling like “Oh he’s that prerequisite character. And she’s that kind of character” instead of getting getting sucked into their story.
There’s also an infuriatingly telegraphed character twist which they didn’t even try to disguise, yet seem to expect the audience to be shocked by the big reveal in the finale. Anyway, if the elements of this film were arrows, they mostly hit about two rings away from the bulls-eye. Which is actually more frustrating to watch than if they missed the target completely.
♦ Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter: This actually made me want to watch Spielberg’s Lincoln, which I’d previously had zero interest in. Or, rather, it made me wish I’d watched it first so I could be in on all clearly very clever dove-tailing of historical events with the vampire story. As I’m not as up on the mythology of Lincoln as much as was required, I mostly found myself wishing it was a straight-up Civil War era vampire film. Though maybe without the irreverent treatment of history, the film wouldn’t have been as fun and just kind of ridiculous. There’s a truly absurd action sequence involving a stampede of horses which was unlike anything I’d ever seen. So there’s that.
♠ Pumpkinhead: There’s probably no point in writing/reading a review of a 1988 monster/slasher. You know what to expect and what you expect is what you get. Except, perhaps, Lance Henriksen is little bit younger and less grizzly than you usually see him. And perhaps it’s disappointing “Pumpkinhead” doesn’t actually have a pumpkin for a head. Disapointing enough that I paused it midway to get a drink and forgot to watch the rest.