Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Reviews from gulag: Vampires suck

It's that time again, when we face the necessity of getting fast and somewhat dirty as we dispose of the detritus of the previous year.  For our first batch of titles, we have a convenient theme in 2023's major vampire films: The Last Voyage of the Demeter, which is the Dracula-on-a-boat adventure it says it is, adapting Chapter 7 of Bram Stoker's novel; El Conde, the new Pablo LarraĆ­n film, of all things, which deploys the curious conceit of wondering what it would be like if Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet had actually been a vampire who never died; and Renfield, which, like Demeter, looks to the beginning of things with Stoker for its inspiration, and wonders what it would be like if Dracula and Renfield survived long enough for Renfield to read self-help books and decide to rebel against his toxic boss, while also giving Universal Pictures an opportunity to do something/anything with its Dracula IP, still good for a few more years.  You would never, ever guess which one of these is not a piece of shit.

Note: I will be spoiling The Last Voyage of the Demeter, a little.  I guess I kind of spoil El Conde, but only if you're unrealistically ignorant of late 20th century history.


Of course, if I warn you that I'm spoiling The Last Voyage of the Demeter, have I not already spoiled The Last Voyage of the Demeter?  But then, if it's even meaningful to ask "guess who survives the Demeter?", the project has already failed in the first place.  Look, The Last Voyage of the Demeter ends not with extinction, but a fucking sequel hook.  This insane unwillingness to fully embrace the fatalistic nihilism that ought to be burned right into this weird sidequel's bones was always going to be its biggest problem; yet, with this treatment, I'm not entirely sure that if it had done so it still could have managed to have clawed its way up to an adequate movieI just wouldn't have totally despised it. I felt a deep sense of pessimism about its chances sweep over me within the first seconds, which outline the basic scenario in its introductory textthe Demeter wrecked on the English coast (this is, uh, not the most faithful adaptation in any respect), the captain's (Liam Cunningham's) log foundand then wrench you right out of the story it's telling, by announcing right in the midst of its text narration that it's "based on the novel Dracula," which is almost correct, in that Dracula offers itself as a curated archive of documents that are real in its universe, but are only a novel in ours.  A few seconds after that, it shows us exactly what it just told us, I suppose so you'd know that superfluousness was going to be a major element of this movie.  I don't think anything in the movie ever gets wonkier than this first minute, at least, but the screenplay does frequently flirt with similar malapropism, notably when a character asks if everyone has been "struck dumb," meaning "stupid," even though "dumb" has never meant "stupid" when you put "struck" in front of it (and it would be exceedingly hip and with-it for this Russian to use "dumb" for "stupid" in his mostly-fluent British English in 1897 anyway, so it's not "character embroidery").  There's also a line where a Romanian claims that Dracula's castle is older than any of them, which, from context, is supposed to be impressive for some reason.

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Hall of egress

aka Natsu e no Tonneru, Sayonara no Deguchi

2022 Japan/2023 USA
Written and directed by Tomohisa Taguchi (based on the novella and comic books by Mei Hachimoku, Kukka, and Koudon)

Spoilers: moderate

Sunday, January 21, 2024

When the oceans drank Atlantis


Directed by James Wan
Written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Thomas Pa'a Sibbett, Jason Momoa, and James Wan

Spoilers: moderate

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Friday, January 12, 2024