Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)

However History Remembers Me Before I Was a President, It Shall Only Remember a Fraction of the Truth…

Today’s movie had only ever gotten so far as to pique my interest.  It seemed like a novel concept, but the movie itself never really seemed like it’d be much more than that.  Still, I had my mind set on seeing the movie, and thought often of catching a show when I was at the theaters, but something better was always a higher priority.  Eventually, the movie had left the mainstream theaters and I figured I would have to just wait for it to be on DVD to check it out.  But recently I was realizing that I haven’t made it to a theater for a little while, so I decided to see what was playing.  Nothing at the mainstream theaters, but this movie had just arrived at the dollar cinema.  I’d always entertained the idea of seeing a movie at a dollar cinema, and decided this was as good a time as any.  And that’s how I came to watch Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, based on a novel by Seth Grahame-Smith, directed by Timur Bekmambetov, and starring Benjamin Walker, Dominic Cooper, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Rufus Sewell, Anthony Mackie, Marton Csokas, Jimmi Simpson, Erin Wasson, and Alan Tudyk.

Before we talk about the movie proper, I think we need to talk about the cinema-going experience.  I should have been able to predict while going to this theater that it would be of a slightly lower quality than a full price theater, but I didn’t quite expect it to be really small and not visible from the main road because it was stationed behind a Dunkin Donuts.  That I can deal with.  What I cannot deal with is the lower quality of people that would typically be found in this theater, namely the six tweens that were seated a row behind me.  What kind of piece of shit feels the need to talk all the way through a movie at full volume and often saying nothing more interesting than verbalizing what’s on the screen?  I’ve been known to talk in a movie, but I also typically try to only say funny things a la Mystery Science Theater, I always speak in whisper, and I generally assume that the people around me can see what’s on the screen.  People don’t need the narration, “OH!  He’s all old now!”  We understand how prosthetics work.  Would it really have been that bad of a thing for me to go over to the tweens and threaten to beat them within an inch of their lives?  Or if I had actually done it?  Or if I then tried to fit their mangled bodies in the trash cans they bring in to clean the theater?  Perhaps I’ve said too much …  Anyways, back to the movie!

As a young man, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) witnesses a plantation owner, and vampire, named Jack Barts (Marton Csokas) bite his mother, killing her.  Nine years later, Lincoln is still focused on getting his revenge on his mother’s murderer, but he underestimates the vampire and gets his ass kicked, until being saved by Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper).  He convinces Sturgess to train him to be a vampire hunter before being sent to Springfield, Illinois, where Sturgess will send him to kill vampires around the town.  He takes a job with Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) and falls in love with Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), both of which go against Sturgess’ orders to not get close to anyone that can be used against him by the vampires.  He also gets reunited with his black childhood friend, William Johnson (Anthony Mackie) who tells Lincoln of a vampire named Adam (Rufus Sewell) who owns a plantation in New Orleans with his sister, Vadoma (Erin Wasson), and frequently use slaves as food, since they don’t count as people and no one will care.  Lincoln then sets his aims on becoming the President of the United States so that he can abolish slavery and stop the vampires at their food source.

This movie didn’t work for me.  I’m not entirely sure if the movie was entirely to blame or the horrible cinema conditions, but I can’t say I was too fond of it.  I give the movie credit for being creative, but it lacks surprise and isn’t very deep.  I don’t think the creativity of the movie begs much for explanation; deciding to write a whole story about one of our presidents as a killer of vampires is not an easy thing to jump to.  It seems like something that someone said as a joke while completely high and later decided to turn into a movie.  But you still have to make the movie interesting, and I didn’t find that much of it all that compelling.  I allow for the possibility that the narrating retards sitting an aisle back may have been a constant and annoying distraction, and my brain spent a bulk of the time thinking about how satisfying it would be to punch them in their faces, but the lack of surprises in the movie is obvious.  That’s probably mainly due to the fact that you pretty much already know exactly how this story will go, so long as you stayed awake through American History class in high school.  Just take the story of Abraham Lincoln’s life and add vampires as his motivations.  That’ll about cover the story.  I also found the dialogue unimpressive in most parts of the story, which was particularly noticeable coming out of the mouth of the guy that gave one of the most memorable speeches in history.  Another thing that occurred to me in this movie is one of the staples of vampire lore, but why is the oldest vampire always the most powerful?  I understand them having experienced the most stuff and thusly possibly being the most intelligent, but shouldn’t age either have detrimental effects on them like it does on us, or at least have no effect on them because they don’t age?  They all come from the same blood, after all.

I had some issues with the look and the action of the movie too, but some of it made me question whether or not it was also tied to the shitty cinema.  Were some of the graphics in the movie sub-par, or were they being projected poorly?  In most instances, I blame the movie.  I first started noticing it in the scene where Lincoln was fighting a vampire in a stampede of horses.  I got the distinct feeling that they chose this location and cause the horses to kick up so much dust to hide the fact that the horses were kind of goofy looking and unconvincing.  It didn’t really work.  They did a similar thing later when they were fighting on top of a train and the smoke plume was obscuring the vision in the scene.  But I can forgive subpar graphics.  What actually hurts the movie is that the action just isn’t that interesting.  I don’t think I ever really had a drive to see Abraham Lincoln fight vampires with an axe, and I certainly would care less if he couldn’t even hold onto that axe very long.  Some of the action scenes were interesting enough, but it didn’t really impress.  I thought the gun that Lincoln had in the bottom of his axe was an interesting idea, and I didn’t really see it coming, but I never got a lot more than that.

The performances in the movie were fine, but I literally have next to nothing to say about them.  I was excited to see both Alan Tudyk and Mary Elizabeth Winstead in this movie.  …That’s literally everything I have.

Basically, I would say that Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter started with a cool and creative idea, but never evolved past the idea.  The story was an interesting idea, but filled with dialogue that lacked a quality anywhere near the likes of the person they based their movie on.  The graphics were not fantastic and it often seemed like they were trying to obscure it with particulates, but the action was decent enough, though not impressive.  And the performances were okay.  Add that all up and I’d say you’d be okay skipping this movie.  It was probably worth the dollar I paid to see it, but not worth the annoyance of the people in the theater.  It was enough to make me want to shoot them and jump up on stage yelling, “Sic semper tyrannis!”  Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter gets “History prefers legends to men” out of “There is darkness EVERYWHERE!”

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The Thing (2011)

So, I’m Gonna Die Because I Floss?

Today’s RedBox movie is another remake, but this time of a movie that I’ve actually seen.  The 1982 film is a classic Sci-Fi Horror movie that I was always pretty fond of.  Today’s movie calls itself a prequel, but the trailers made it look like it was pretty much the same movie.  That wouldn’t really be a bad thing though, as the original was a pretty cool movie.  There was only one way to find out, so I picked it up at the RedBox and started watching the prequel to the movie of the same name, The Thing, written by Ronald D. Moore and Eric Heisserer, directed by Matthijs van Heijningen, and starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ulrich Thomsen, Eric Christian Olsen, Joel Edgerton, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Trond Espen Seim, Kristoffer Hivju, Stig Henrik Hoff, Jorgen Langhelle, Paul Braunstein, and Kim Bubbs.

Paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is recruited by Dr. Sander Halvorson (Ulrich Thomsen) and his assistant Adam Finch (Eric Christian Olsen) to investigate the discovery of a spacecraft found under the ice in Antarctica.  She is shuttled to the base by helicopter pilot Carter (Joel Edgerton), and his copilots Derek (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and Griggs (Paul Braunstein) to join Halvorson’s crew.  They find a creature encased in ice and take a tissue sample to find out if it’s Brendan Fraser.  Instead, it’s an alien creature that breaks free of the ice and goes missing, later surfacing and killing their dog.  They set it on fire, but it kills one of the researchers.  An autopsy reveals that the alien was copying the researcher’s cells and trying to imitate him.  The helicopter attempts to take one of the injured researchers away from the facility, but Kate finds some blood and discarded tooth fillings.  Figuring out that the alien has infected one of the people on the helicopter, she tries to flag it down, only to see the alien attack from inside and the helicopter crash miles away.  When she returns to the bathroom, the blood has been cleaned up.  Now the crew must figure out who amongst them is also an alien in disguise and try to stop the creature from reaching the mainland and infecting us all.

Even while watching the movie, I had a hard time figuring out if this was supposed to be a prequel or a remake.  If it was supposed to be a prequel, then history really repeats itself in the original because it starts off very similar.  The alien even decides that the dog should be the first to go, which is just a dick move on it’s part.  By the end of the movie, they tied it together, but only insomuch as they threw in the scene that opens the original movie over the credits of this movie, as if it was an afterthought.  It seemed like they were going to try to remake it, added a little stuff at the end, and then just decided to make it a prequel.  That being the case, this movie is inferior to the original.  Standing on it’s own, it would be a fine movie, but when you compare it to the original classic, it loses.  It’ll make me sound pretty hipster, but the story of this movie was good, but the original was better.  Being basically the same story, the first movie just told it better.  It’s one of the things I’ve noticed about movies from the 80’s in comparison to movies today.  See, back in the 80’s, technology and economy made it so these horror movies were unable to show their creature that much, either because it didn’t look that good or they just couldn’t afford it.  When I think back to the original Thing movie – as well as Jaws and Alien – what benefited them was their inability to show the creature.  The Thing showed their creature much more than the other two, but also didn’t have their creature running down the hall in broad daylight.  It made it much more psychologically intense for the audience.  In the original movie, we didn’t know any better than the people in the movie who was infected, but in this movie they don’t have to rely on that very much and they just have the guy say “No I’m not” and then have his face split in half.  The creature looks really good in this movie (in it’s various incarnations), but it’s not scary unless you consider gruesome scary.  What the original (as well as Jaws and Alien) did so much better was focusing on the characters and the atmosphere and having the creature affect everyone without actually being seen.  I didn’t care about anybody in this movie, so I could’ve given two shits when they got killed.  The movie’s just taking the basic premise of the original and filling it with gruesome money shots of what the writers always thought the alien could’ve done.  With all the tension and psychology covered up by lots of money and special effects, this movie is just barely better than any average slasher picture.  Much as in the first movie, they try to devise a test to find out who’s infected, but it gets sabotaged.  They then resort to looking into people’s mouths to see if they have fillings (as the creature can’t replicate inorganic material) and then just waiting for one of those guys to kill something so they can burn it (as it dies quickly in fire).  It occurred to me that, though it would be painful, having everyone hold their hand over a candle would’ve been a much more elegant solution to their problem.  If it just hurt, you’re okay.  If you split in half and killed everyone, I raise the possibility of you being infected to 20% sure.  To further ruin the original with money, they even go to the alien spaceship for the finale of the movie, which further takes me out of it.  I can’t relate to being chased down the halls of an alien spaceship.  The last time I was in one, I was strapped to a gurney and … I don’t wanna talk about it.  It just turns the movie into more of a sci-fi movie than a psychological horror.  The alien wasn’t the issue in the original; it was the infection.  It could’ve been just a regular disease in that movie and it wouldn’t have changed anything.  Also, the ending of this movie was kind of easy, quick, and lackluster.

The performances were all quality in this movie.  I can’t say I have any particular praises or criticisms for them.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead was good.  The Wikipedia page claimed that her character was supposed to have many traits in common with Lt. Ellen Ripley from Alien, and I can kind of see that.  She was a stronger character than most women are portrayed in movies as, and probably spent about as much time cowering in fear as any of the men, but she would also get behind the business end of a flamethrower when the moment called for it.  Plus, she was in Scott Pilgrim, so I already liked her.  Eric Christian Olsen, on the other hand, had to win me over.  He was in that awful prequel called Dumb and Dumberer, so I has a bad taste in my mouth for this guy.  But his performance in the movie was very real and I liked him.  I’ll forgive you for Dumb and Dumberer for now, but I’m keeping my eye on you!

I feel like, even though I didn’t really care for this movie, I can actually recommend it to you.  If you’re a fan of the original (as I am) then this movie might let you down by making a dumber version of what we already liked and calling it a prequel, when it was only barely a prequel.  If you’ve never seen the original, then you can go into this movie fresh and will probably enjoy yourself.  It’s a decent enough movie that’s hindered by it’s failure to succeed on it’s 30 year old successor.  And so the remake … I mean prequel … to the Thing gets “We found a fucking alien!” out of “You think they’re gonna pay a bonus for bringing home an alien instead of core samples?”

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The Ring Two (2005)

I’m Not Your Fucking Mommy

“Alright people, we have a good concept and a good idea, let’s throw lots of money at it.”  “But what about the story?”  “WHO CARES?!  You’re fired!”  The next movie in my October Horror-thon started like this.  Well that’s probably not true, but it’s what I imagine.  This movie is the sequel to the Ring, called cleverly the Ring Two, starring Naomi Watts, David Dorfman, Daveigh Chase, and Simon Baker, with small appearances by Gary Cole, Sissy Spacek, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead.  Let’s dive into this well!

Right here I spoil the end of The Ring.  At the end of that, we find that Samara’s (Daveigh Chase’s) adopted mother suffocated her and pushed her into a well where she stayed for 7 days before dying and becoming an evil, hateful spirit.  And a VHS tape.  To try to save the life of her and her son, Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) opens the well to free Samara, only to have her son Aidan (David Dorfman) tell her that doing so freed her of her prison and she was now able to kill more freely.  Rachel figures out that she lived because she made a copy of the tape and showed it to someone else, so they do that with reckless disregard for the poor fuck they show their tape to.  6 months after the first movie, a very special episode of Dawson’s Creek starts in Seattle and we spend about 10 minutes watching 2 teens flirt.  But, with an ulterior motive beyond getting some vagina.  This boy is trying to save his life and talk a girl into watching a tape, even though she seems ready to go (if you know what I’m saying).  Turns out he’s watched the cursed tape and needs to show it to someone else to save his life.  Unfortunately, the girl doesn’t watch and he gets killed.  Coincidentally, Rachel and Aidan have moved to Seattle and Rachel is now working for Max Rourke (Simon Baker) at a local newspaper.  She hears about this death and investigates, catching a vision of Samara saying “I found you.”  So now Rachel must REinvestigate Samara to find out how to stop her from taking over the body of her son.  To do so, she finds Samara’s birth mother, Evelyn (Mary Elizabeth Winstead when in flashback, Sissy Spacek now).  Evelyn tells Rachel that the only way to stop Samara is to kill Aidan, which I’m cool with ’cause that boy is creepy.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.  The Ring Two takes all the suspense and creepiness out of the original and turns it into a very typical ghost movie, complete with possessions, poltergeist activity, and full body apparitions.  They completely forget about the tape that made the movie famous in the first 20 minutes of the movie, and then they jump back into a rehashed treasure finding movie and bad ghost movie.  The first movie seemed as if it went to good writing and suspense because they had a low budget, but when it made bank, they threw a lot of money at the sequel and boosted the special effects at the expense of the suspense.  They lost the blue tint to the first movie and replaced it with water raising out of a bathtub and turning into Samara.  Instead of Gore Verbinski, they went with a fan service by attaching director of Ring (the Japanese basis for The Ring), Hideo Nakata.  But the movie loses a quality of visuals that is either because of him or the director of photography.  The movie looks grainy in parts like an early episode of Scrubs, and others just have odd camera angles.  This could also just be a bad DVD transfer, I suppose, but I like blaming people.  And the ending, where Rachel ties up the problem in a nice little bow by closing the top of the well, they actually have the nerve to give her a classic action/slasher line to yell at the monster.  Samara had been inhabiting Aidan and calling Rachel mommy (even though Aidan calls her Rachel) and Samara was climbing up the side of the well to stop Rachel from closing it and she called out to Rachel with “Mommy!”  And Rachel comes back with “I’m not your fucking mommy!”  Fer reals?  That’s just the nail in the coffin for me.  I liken that line to lines like “Smile you son of a bitch” from Jaws or “Get the Hell off my plane” from Air Force One.  They work in those movies, and would work in a typical cliche ghost movie, but we go in there expecting suspense like the first and get this.

Not all is bad here.  Naomi Watts still turns on the acting.  I have a lot of respect for her as an actress, but it’s nice to see that she tries hard at every roll and not just the good ones.  One of the big performance problems of this movie was that Aidan got a lot more screen time in this one and didn’t really seem up to the task.  He was still creepy for most of it, but it was just overexposure.  And when Samara took over, he got REALLY creepy, no longer the morose kid that sees things but now a creepy, overly loving kid that smiles all the time.  You ain’t cute, you’re creepy.  Stick with what works for you.  The creepy, corpse walking thing that Samara does in this one is pretty damn creepy though, so kudos to that person.  I also felt myself wishing that Sissy Spacek had been the adopted mother and got to be in the good Ring movie, and then you could put the person I’ve never seen in a movie again in the crappy one.

So that’s that.  They ruined a good horror movie by taking all the art and suspense out of it.  Hopefully they won’t do it again.  I give this movie a “Cy…onara!” out of “I’ll be back!”  …No seriously, they are actually bringing it back.  And it’s gonna be The Ring 3D.  I hate it already.

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