Box Office: Vampires have their day

30 DAYS OF NIGHT topped an anemic frame, coming out #1 at the box office with $15.95-million dollars. Making its debut in 2,855 theatres, the vampire flick managed to put the bite on the previous b.o. winner WHY DID I GET MARRIED. With those opening numbers, 30 DAYS will be lucky to pass $40-million at the U.S. box office, but when foreign sales and home video are eventually added in, the film should be a small profit-maker.
The only other genre title to generate much box office heat was TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. The 3D re-release of the 1993 film (shot in 2D) earned $5.33-million, good enough for 8th place – impressive numbers for an old film screening in only 564 theatres.
RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION dropped out of the Top Ten this weekend. The zombie flick saw itself decay to #17 (down from #9 last week), where it earned a tad over $1-million. After five weekends, the film’s U.S. release has netted $49.96-million.
Read the entire Top Ten here.

30 Days of Night – Horror Film Review

With its exciting premise (a vampire siege upon an isolated town in Alaska, where the sun sets for thirty days), 30 DAYS OF NIGHT promises to deliver plenty of chills and thrills, but the promise too often goes unfulfilled. Although slick and entertaining, this eagerly anticipated film, based on the graphic novel of the same title, is a bit too typically modern in its use of rapid-fire editing and gory comic-book violence. In other words, it’s more action movie than horror. It’s cool, but seldom scary. Read More

Near Dark director negotiation

The vampire gang from the orignal NEAR DARK.Hollywood Reporter warns us that the NEAR DARK remake is taking a step closer to reality, with negotiations underway to sign music video director Sam Bayer to helm the project. Christopher Landon (DISTURBIA) is writing the script, based on the 1987 film about a young man who falls in with a dangerous gang of vampires travelling the roads by night.
The first NEAR DARK is quite a gem, but it is hard to see the potential for a remake, especially when the company behind the project, Michael Bay’s Platinum Dunes, is the one responsible for this year’s lifeless re-do of THE HITCHER.
My theory about remakes is pretty simple: You can always remake Dracula, Superman, or Hamlet, because audiences will always want to know who will play Dracula, Superman, or Hamlet. I don’t think too many rabid fans are sitting in their parents’ basements wondering who will fill in for Lance Henriksen in a new version of NEAR DARK.

Moonlight: "No Such Thing as Vampires" – TV Review

Alex O'Loughlin as Mick St. John, vampire private eye.The debut of MOONLIGHT – a formulaic conflation of vampire and film noir motifs – is prosaic and static, never building any suspense and only slowly developing the action. The lead character is too busy striking a series of poses for the camera, which glides gracefully -and slowly – around him, in order to provide enough time for the narration to spell out details we would rather see dramatized. The result resembles less an episode of a TV show than an episode-length promo for a TV show – that, or a men’s cologne commercial. The hour running time (minus commercials) is front-loaded with exposition, but none of it is new or exciting; it simply bogs down the plot development, which takes a back seat to laying the ground work for the series to follow. The most perplexing mystery is the one regarding why the producers felt the need to famliarize their audience with an already overly familiar concept.
Stop me if you have heard this one: The lead character is a vampire, but he uses his supernatural powers for good. He’s a private investigator in Los Angeles, and he is not troubled by crucifixes, holy water, or even wooden stakes (although he does admit that fire and decapitation could be hazardous to his undead lifespan). Really, he’s just a guy trying to do the best he can while living on a very special diet (obtained from his “dealer,” a morgue attendant), while others of his kind chide him for resisting the blood-thirst, insisting he will eventually give up the bottled beverage and give in to the desire to bite into a nice juicy throat. Oh, and get this: the vampires talk about blood the way connoisseurs discus vintage wines.

The set-up borrows freely from shows like ANGEL and FOREVER KNIGHT (if you really want to stretch a point, the good-guy reluctant vampire thing goes back at least to the soap opera DARK SHADOWS). Non-traditional vampires have, ironically, become the new tradition, ad moribund and cliched as their old-fashioned counterparts, but as familiar as the material is, the producers seem to labor under the delusion that they are offering up something so new and radical that it must be explained – and explained again – to the audience, so that their poor, tiny minds can grasp the grand complexity of what they are seeing.
The very first scene of the very first episode consists of Mick St. John (Alex O’Loughlin) imagining himself giving an interview in which he lays out the rules of vampirism. This daydream is immediately followed by voiceover in which he explains even more, and the voiceover explanations continue throughout – apparently on the theory that no private eye show should be without its world-weary, hard-boiled narration. Unfortunately, the writing falls far short of the standard established by Raymond Chandler; instead of the poetry of back alleys, dames, and gumshoes, you get a dull running commentary telling you what you would probably figure out yourself if the guy would just shut up long enough to let you think for a moment.
The story has Mick meet up with Beth (Sophia Myles), a reporter for an online news site who thinks she is doing hard news when her outlet is really interested in sensationalism. When she picks up the case of a woman apparently murdered by a vampire, Mick reveals himself to her, and in surprisingly short time this supposed ace reporter is sharing information and treating Mick like a partner, totally unconcerned that her exclusive might be scooped if Mick talks to someone else.
Mick of course is interested in the case for his own reason: he and his kind want to keep vampirism a secret, and a high-profile case will draw unwanted attention if not solved soon. Mick realizes that the murderer is not a vampire but an imposter, and suspicion shifts on an anthropology  professor teaching a course in the occult, who has been using a vampirism shtick to seduce female pupils.  Along the way, we learn in flashback that Mick has known Beth since she was a child – when he rescued her from the clutches of his undead wife Coraline (Shannyn Sossamon).
The mystery about the murders never kicks into high-gear, even when Beth goes undercover, posing as a new student in order to dig up dirt on the professor. There is an obligatory last-minute twist regarding the murderer’s identity, but we hardly care, as the story is a mere excuse to introduce us to Mick and Beth, neither of whom does much to draw us into their world. Beth is too immediately trusting of Mick (even if we take into account that she sort, kinda recognizes the man who saved her all those years ago). Mick is just good-looking guy with a permanent five-o’clock shadow: typical for tales of vampirism, there is little attempt to create a character who is believably immortal, with all that implies. His dialogue and mannerism do not reflect a mentality that has left the human world behind, no longer concerned with death and disease and the passage of time.
The same could be said for Mick’s vampire friends, who come across as people with a peculiar craving and a penchant for cracking predictable vampire jokes (no one has said, “It’s your funeral yet,” but we’re sure it won’t be long).

Shannyn Sossamon as Carline, who turned Mick into a vampire.

Judging from the previews, future episodes will focus on the relationship between Mick and Beth (which, in an odd way, recalls the one between Woody Allen and Soon-yi Previn), with Mick looking out for her while trying to hide the truth about himself. The potential here seems severely limited. Reducing the mythic elements of vampirism down to the level of a vaguely troublesome addiction leaves little of interest; it’s just another excuse to feature a hero with super powers.  We can only hope that the series at least puts its murky film noir ambitions on hold long enough to rev up the action and excitement. As it stand now, the debut episode invites all the obvious jokes: it’s like a walking anemic corpse that needs an infusion of fresh blood to give it some life.

Goyer taps the vampire vein again

David Goyer, who scripted the three BLADE feature films and directed the third, has signed on to  helm yet another vampire film, an adaptation of Baltimore, or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire. The graphic novel, Mike Mignola (Hellboy) and Christopher Golden (The Myth Hunters), tells the tale of Lord Henry Baltimore, bitten on the battlefield by a vampire bat during WWI. To fight the vampire curse, Baltimore assembles a team to confront the Red King, who is evil incarnate. Mignola and Golden will write the screenplay.
Goyer’s other credits include directing THE INVISIBLE and co-scripting both DARK CITY and BATMAN BEGINS. The film will be produced at New Regency, which is also developing another vampire-themed graphic novel to the screen, Virulents, which will be directed by John Moore from a script by John Cox.

Underworld (2003) – Film & DVD Review

This mostly mediocre movie is a painless enough time-waster, thanks to slick production values and some impressive stunt work, but it never lives up to the potential of its premise about a centuries-old war between rival clans of vampires and werewolves. The idea seems to have been to create a “Romeo-and-Juliet” narrative, with a couple (one from each clan) falling in love; instead, director Len Wiseman uses the film as an excuse to stage lots and lots of MATRIX-inspired shoot-outs that muddle the story. Fortunately, things pick up in the last twenty minutes, when the film finally gets around to revealing the essential details of what’s been happening – and why. Read More

Sense of Wonder: Depp to cast Dark Shadows on the big screen

Johnny Depp as Ichabod Crane in SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999).DARK SHADOWS fans – at least the ones I know – are rejoicing at the news (announced in Daily Variety and at a recent ShadowCon) that Johnny Depp has signed a deal to co-produce a feature film version of the 1960s Gothic soap opera.

Warner Bros. is teaming with Depp’s Infinitum-Nihil and Graham King’s GK Films to develop a feature based on the ’60s daytime supernatural sudser…
Depp has said in interviews that he has always been obsessed with “Dark Shadows” and had, as a child, wanted to be Barnabas Collins, the vampire patriarch of the series. The role was originated by Jonathan Frid.

I find my own enthusiasm considerably more muted, although I am willing to be pleasantly surprised. I suspect that, as a property, DARK SHADOWS truly is a relic of its era, and I’m not sure it can be updated without losing its appeal. Not for nothing have forty years of vampire cinema passed since the original show was an afternoon hit, and history provides a couple of reasons to suspect that turning DARK SHADOWS into a feature film and/or updating its story are far from surefire hit ideas. Read More

Obituary: William Tuttle

William Tuttle, one of the pioneering greats in the history of movie monster makeup, has passed away. Tuttle spent most of his long career at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, a studio more known for glossy musicals than misshapen monsters, but when the opportunity arose he truly excelled at his work.

William Tuttle transformed Carol Borland and Bela Lugosi into vampires for MARK OF THE VAMPIRE (1935).

One of his earliest jobs was on the 1935 film MARK OF THE VAMPIRE, director Tod Browning’s unofficial follow-up to his earlier hits LONDON AFTER MIDNIGHT (1927) and DRACULA (1931). In it, Bela Lugosi played not Dracula but Count Mora, with a bullet hole in his head to indicate that he had died from suicide. Read More