Review Roundup - HALLOWEEN 2014

BLOODSUCKER FEST - 1st-31st October


Time to go even further forward in time. Fright Night is a nice return to the '80s after a few older school viewings. Despite some weird vampire seduction moments (how old are these school kids?) and a story about creepy neighbours that has been done many times already, it's about as entertaining as you can expect from the era of suburban teen horror.

There's nothing exceptional here but I like the period over acting, especially from Roddy McDowell (most films from Planet of the Apes). You get a few splatter moments and some fun practical effects for your money, including wolf transformations and dissolving vampires. A standard but decent electronic score from Brad Fiedel (The Terminator) helps.

This third and final segment will be a bit of everything, so I have to add Salem's Lot. Like the evil clown film 'It' this is a two part TV movie based on the works Stephen King. Unfortunately this isn't really as good as a whole. There are some good elements here; but while the vampires are pretty damn creepy the whole thing is a bloated mess with too many plot holes, or what I have to assume are unexplained book elements.

The vampire genre always has a lot of rules to explain, and when they choose some but don't keep to them it makes things hard to follow. It's also a problem that it's full of rambling Stephen King tangents that don't serve enough of a purpose. I'd like to see this re-edited but even then there's too much material that doesn't work. Does it really need a lengthy section about a guy catching his unfaithful wife if neither of them is a main character? While James Mason adds a touch of class and the main vampire is great, most of it is just a head scratcher.

Keeping with the theme of mixing things up, I have to add a foreign language release, and one that is by far the most successful entry to this viewing session; Let The Right One In. It's deeply unnerving but also deeply character driven. The story is dark and weird but has a strong bond of friendship at the centre... even if it's one that will being ruining the lives of every day people - an idea which it doesn't shy away from exploring. The vampire is more than just a monster and its victims are more than just faceless goons to increase the body count.

It asks questions about the nature of innocence as troubled boy Oskar meets the vampire Eli - he may have a sadistic streak waiting to surface and Eli may have a lost childhood under the cold immortal exterior. Looking at the amount of bloodsuckers on this list the kind of depth here is nearly unheard of. Even if some of the even darker elements of the original story are glossed over, this is an adaptation that really works.

The same can't quite be said for Interview With The Vampire. I get the feeling a whole lot of this has been either chopped down or removed to fit the running time, or at least it's told in a way that gives it that vibe. While what's left is interesting enough, Brad Pitt feels miscast in a role that isn't energetic enough for him. Antonio Banderas arrives later but it doesn't help as he spouts a bunch of pseudo philosophy just leads nowhere.

Lestat (Tom Cruise) is total unlikeable but at least he's got a personality you can hate, and I thought he could have been given more to do here. It's bloody when required with few great Stan Winston effects, and it really picks up when scenes of action and revenge come into play. But as a horror story it lacks any real chills. It has a lot of period drama style I guess, so if intricate costumes and sets are your thing it won't disappoint. In the end that issue on the story feeling cut short means that it lacks depth and closure, which is problem when a whole life story is being told.

I'll bring this all to a close this with a newer entry in the genre, Only Lovers Left Alive. It does what the title suggests at least, but whether the melancholy romance elements and that sombre idea of living forever works against more quirky elements is questionable. I really like Tilda Swinton's performance as a wise and immortal figure but I didn't think it worked so well with other parts like John Hurt has a vampiric Christopher Marlowe or some of the more out-there concepts like human blood being toxic because of 21st century living.

It works a lot better when these characters are simply drawn as artists, writers or musicians. Adam (the suicidal rock guitarist) and Eve (the considerate naturalist) make a good pair but others like her sister Eva (the immature monster) seem a bit too much when most of the story is more thoughtful and low key. But it's all nicely filmed and has enough thought provoking stuff along the way, so it's a good note to go out on.

(Part one) (Part two)