SHOCKtober 2012 – Day 30: Planet of the Vampires (1965)

Planet of the Vampires is an Italian science fiction horror film where two spaceships respond to a distress call on an unexplored planet. In their attempt to land, both ships become damaged. One loses its meteor deflector and the other takes engine and hull damage.

In their attempts to recover, it is discovered that some of the crews have become possessed by aliens. Those aliens want to hitch a ride off their dying planet and get to a new planet where they can thrive. Several people try to thwart the plans of the aliens, but ultimately the aliens win. However, the ship is still damaged and won’t make the long flight home. So instead, the aliens turn the ship to the nearest inhabited planet: Earth.

Dun dun DUN!!

Man oh man, the 60s!

There is just something about the way the colors look in movies from that era, especially sci-fi, fantasy and horror stuff. So vibrant! And the sets, caught halfway between realism and totally fake. With fog hiding the sound stage floor. And the fashions! Just look at these space outfits!

I want to make one of those, the male version of course, for Dragon*Con. Except, I’d need to figure out how to make it look that good while being made of a material that breathes.

Anyway, movies of this era can’t really be called “good” but they have a quality that makes them a lot of fun to watch.

Be sure to keep an eye on Final Girl and the rest of SHOCKtober.

UPDATE: Check out other participants – Blog @ Rotten Cotton, Life Between Frames, nijomu

SHOCKtober 2012 – Day 5: Nosferatu (1922)

I could be wrong, but Nosferatu may be the first depiction of a vampire on film. And despite whether or not you’ve seen it, you know it from its iconic imagery that echoes through the history of horror films (gallery below). When it was made, F.W. Murnau couldn’t obtain the rights to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, so he simply changed all the names of the characters to try to avoid the copyright. Later, Stoker’s widow would sue and win, with the court ordering all the copies of Nosferatu to be burned.

But vampires are notoriously hard to kill and copies survived. That’s right MPAA, movie piracy saved a piece of history that lawyers would have destroyed! I’m joking… piracy is bad, m’kay? Luckily for us, we no longer care and with this movie being made in 1922 it has passed into the realm of the public domain, which is why, if you want, you can watch the entire movie, for free, on YouTube.

The vast majority of the versions you’ll find today actually credit Bram Stoker and have the names (and all the text cards) altered to reflect Stoker’s original. Still, the story of Nosferatu differs from the book in a few significant ways, which I won’t spoil for you.

The real thing you want to watch out for when picking a copy of the film to watch is the soundtrack. Seeing as it’s a silent film, the music is important, but much of the original score – which was played by live musicians in the theater – has been lost. To that end, a number of versions are floating around, some better than others. It is apparently even a thing in some music circles for composers to craft their own soundtrack for this seminal work. Here are a few you can buy from Amazon. I might have to track down a few in the future once I research which are the ones worth listening to.

Immediately after watching Nosferatu, I felt I needed to watch Shadow of the Vampire, a horror film about the making of Nosferatu that supposes Murnau hired an actual vampire to play the role of Count Orlok in order to attain the level of realism he desired for his film. It is so good.

Be sure to keep an eye on Final Girl and the rest of SHOCKtober.

UPDATE: Check out other participants – Final Girl, Life Between Frames, It’s Dark in the Dark, Money and a Half, Blog @ Rotten Cotton, Creatures of Light and Darkness

SHOCKtober 2012 – Day 2: Let the Right One In (2008)

Let the Right One In is the heartwarming tale about a vampire that teaches a young boy how to deal with bullies.

Okay, not really. But it totally is.

In my experience, there are two major types of horror movies. On one side you have the films that are aiming directly at you. They jump and they scare. They throw things as the camera or they toss the camera into things. People are stabbed and gashed and eaten. Blood spurts in slow motion. Then on the other side there are films that tell you a story, slowing revealing details and most of the time they are trying to lure you in to believing that everything is fine or that maybe the little bits of evil you are seeing are justifiable. And then they pull the rug out and show you the monster standing next to you.

This is the point where I say that you should probably stop reading if you are averse to spoilers, because I am about to spoil the shit out of this movie.

“Forewarned is forearmed.” -Peter Vincent

Oskar is just your average kid being beat up by bullies. Chances are you either were that kid, knew that kid, or you used to beat up that kid. He’s a little sad, and a little pathetic. Eli is a strange little girl who likes to hang out at the playground in the middle of the night and has the windows in her apartment boarded up. They meet, they talk, Oskar shows her his Rubik’s Cube (and that’s not a euphemism), and she tells him he needs to hit back when the bullies pick on him.

Oh, and Eli lives with a dude who isn’t her father, who we see killing a random guy on the street and stringing him up to drain him of blood. She might be a little odd, but he’s totally a secret serial killer or something. Only, it’s her who is upset that he didn’t get the blood.

Anyway, she remains being creepy, but she’s nice to Oskar, and we like Oskar, we root for Oskar, we want him to kick some bully ass! And then she kills a guy. But Oskar is totally becoming a stronger better person, so we’ll overlook that little transgression.

Bit by bit we, the audience, gets pulled along… her protector guy gets caught, pours acid on himself and then leaps out a hospital window after she drinks his blood. But, you know, Oskar! He hits the bully with a stick and he’s started working out to get muscles and confidence. Go Oskar! Eli accidentally turns a woman into a vampire, but she explodes in flames when a nurse opens the window to let the sun in… but before that the woman is attacked by a whole mess of cats in a scene right out of Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers (written directly for the scream screen!). Anyway, Oskar finally finds out that she’s a vampire, they dance to music and then he takes a peek at her naked body while she’s getting changed.

Time out a second here… You see, I saw the remake, Let Me In, first. And it pretty much cloned the original almost shot for shot. Except for this scene, which is not in the remake at all. I’m not a perv, because my wife was totally in the room, but I had to watch that scene twice because I wasn’t sure what I saw. Earlier, in both versions, there is this scene where the vampire girl and the normal boy are hanging out in his bed and he asks her to go steady and she says, “I’m not a little girl”, which I totally took to mean “I’m a vampire” or “I’m a monster” but in this, the original… did I just get Crying Gamed? Is Eli actually a little boy who had his junk cut off? What the hell is going on here? And now I’m recalling the scene where Eli is puking after eating the candy, and she asks if he likes her and he says yeah and she asks “Would you like me if I was a boy?” and he says “Sure.” I totally just got Crying Gamed!

I just Googled it, the movie and the book. Mind. Blown. That’ll teach me to watch remakes!

Anyway… so Eli kills another guy, and this time Oskar watches. Eli leaves, like, for good. Then the bullies trick Oskar into coming back to the fitness program and they are in the process of possibly drowning him when Eli shows up and kills everyone. Cut to train, Oskar looks out the window, we hear a tapping and Oskar smiles. He taps out a reply on the large trunk that accompanies him.

So, back to where I started… two types of horror films, one where the monster leaps right out and one where the monster sneaks up on you. Let the Right One In is definitely the latter, and while I’d classify the movie as a horror film I wouldn’t call it a scary film. It’s practically a romance. Although, knowing what I know now, maybe it’s a bromance.

Peace out… I’m off to write some scorpion/frog slash-fic.

Be sure to keep an eye on Final Girl and the rest of SHOCKtober.

UPDATE: Check out other participants – Final Girl, Life Between Frames, Blog @ Rotten Cotton, Money and a Half, Thrill Me!

The Host

There is a special place reserved in hell for Stephenie Meyer.  Her Twilight series has destroyed vampires.  Only, her vampires aren’t vampires at all.  They drink blood, I think, because I honestly can’t remember any of them drinking blood in the movie.  Maybe they drink blood in the books.  I don’t know.  I’ll never read them.  The wife, who now denies ever saying this, told me that her other book, The Host, was more Sci-Fi and post-apocalyptic and she thought I would enjoy it.

I can’t say I hated the book, but I can say it definitely was not a “can’t put down” read.  I mean, I might instead say it was an “always put down” read.  During the two months it took me to plow through her 600+ page novel, if I was ever presented a choice between reading the book or doing something else I always chose to do something else.

The story of the book is this… aliens come to Earth.  These aliens are a form of parasitic being that can only live in another host body and when they do so they “take over” in that the person who was there is imprisoned deep down inside and never comes back.  These aliens aren’t hostile, in fact they are so peaceful they insist that they decided to annihilate mankind (without actually killing anyone) because humans were flawed and killing each other anyway.  They did it “for our own good”.  We get to follow one soul (what the aliens are called) who is implanted into a woman who was previously resisting the aliens.  Essentially, if a person is aware of the aliens before implantation they are more able to resist being mentally squashed.  So Melanie (the human) remains conscious inside as Wanderer takes over.  There is a lot of touchy feely stuff and eventually Wanderer decides to go out into the desert to see if she can find Jered (Melanie’s boyfriend) and Jamie (Melanie’s brother).  She does find them, and thirty five other people, hiding out there and the two of them (Melanie and Wanderer) try to find a place to fit in among the rebels.

This is definitely a “chick” book.  Most of the action happens between chapters or off screen.  Because Wanderer is our point of view for the entire book, we stay with her while she stays inside and other people run off to steal supplies and fight the bad guys.  There are a lot of emotions and feelings and crying and love and …. and a bunch of stuff that really I found I could not care less about.  Not because I’m some heartless person, but because I had no desire to care about the main character.  You see, the point of view is Wanderer, the alien, and from page one of the book I felt that the aliens were arrogant smug assholes.  At best, our heroine is an ignorant useless waste of space who has never bothered even considering that by taking over other bodies they are, in effect, killing people.  It takes nearly 600 pages for Wanderer to come to the same conclusion that I had drawn in the first chapter, and it was the most tedious and boring journey I’ve ever partaken of.

I’d always flippantly said I wouldn’t read the Twilight books, even though, given time, I probably would have eventually.  Well, thankfully now I don’t have to.  After reading this pile of pages I have absolutely no desire at all to ever read anything written by Mrs. Meyer again.  Ever.  I am sure there are people out there who would enjoy this book, in fact I’ve talked to a few of them, but I could not in good conscience recommend this to anyone.

I Am Legend

Normally, I am not a vampire guy. Except as bad guys. That whole Anne Rice immortally tortured gay blood sucker thing just put me right off. About the only time I have ever liked a vampire as the hero has been the TV show Angel.

Luckily for me, Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend isn’t about do-gooder or tortured vampires.

The story tackles an idea normally reserved for zombie movies, what if the world were overrun by vampires. A virus of some sort has swept the world and slowly the world succumbed. There are two kinds of vampires, dead ones and live ones, but there is only one man left. Robert Neville is the last man on Earth, and with no end in site, with everyone he loved gone, for some reason he just won’t give up. He keeps garlic on his doors and windows by night and goes out for supplies and to kill sleeping vampires by day.

Given the bleak subject matter, its a true testament to Matheson’s writing that the story doesn’t spiral into a morose somber mess. Instead there is an odd sense of hope, and even humor, in Robert Neville’s life. The end left me a little wanting, I understand what Matheson was doing there, but some part of me just felt a little… cheated. But the rest of the book is good enough that I’ll forgive him.

If you don’t care to read the book, it has been made into a movie a number of times in the past, although always under another name (The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price and The Omega Man starring Charlton Heston directly, and I’m sure the story influenced quite a few other films), but this year we’ll see a more direct adaptation in I Am Legend starring Will Smith. I suspect it will deviate from the book much like Mr. Smith’s previous I, Robot did. But I would still recommend reading the book.