Tag Archives: vampire

Review: Let Me In

Director(s)Matt Reeves
Principal CastChloe Grace Moretz as Abby
Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen
Richard Jenkins as Thomas
Release Date2010
Running Time 116 minutes

This is a hard movie for me to rate and I’ve struggled with coming up with a number for a long time. I initially saw the movie in 2011 and thought it was amazing. I was completely enamored and couldn’t stop thinking about it. It got me reading the Wikipedia page to find more information ,and I saw that it was a remake of a Swedish movie called Let the Right One In, which itself is based on a novel of the same name. I thought it’d be fun to see the original movie and read the book to see how the Reeves version compared. The process left me in a strange position. While the Reeves version is stellar in composition, it comes off feeling like a replica of the original movie with an English dub. There are slight changes in setting, the starting point the movie leaps off from, and the way the theme of growing up is handled, but it’s not enough to make the movie feel like something wholly unique (like Evil Dead vs The Evil Dead) .

For those of you unacquainted with the book or 2008 movie, the story follows an ostracized young child, Owen, who’s struggling to find his place in life. He’s bullied at school and can’t really relate the adults around him. Eventually a young “girl”, Abby, moves in next door. Unbeknownst to Owen, Abby’s actually a vampire. As the two interact more often, a budding friendship is born, and their lives are radically changed. Given that information, the opening shot of the movie feels completely out of place with audience expectations. It starts in on a disfigured individual who jumps to his death from a hospital building, leaving behind a note that says “I’m sorry Abby.” This initial scene sets the tone for the rest of the movie and tinges the experience with a more sinister sense of mystery. Who’s the person , how did they end up there, and why were they apologizing? It gives the movie a lot of action before the slower paced story kicks in and is one of the unique things Reeves did to spice up his adaptation.

Traditionally, coming-of-age stories are about trying to find your path and footing in the world. The unpredictable chaos of everything combined with hyper-active hormones leads to a sense of confusion and wonder. Trying to determine how characters will progress becomes part of the fun. This movie subverts that expectation and is another original Reeves move. Adults are reduced to mere outlines of human interaction. Owen is rarely shown interacting with them and when he does those moments are often reduced to trite conversations with little weight. Hell, in a move I really like, Reeves never shows Owen’s mom’s face. The absence of any positive adult influence makes the progression of Owens story easy to predict, so if you like trying to guess or interpret those types of the things, you may feel like the movie tells you too much. However, if you accept the conclusion, the movie takes on this cool surreal feeling. It’s almost poetic watching the foregone conclusion slowly play out.

Smit-McPhee and Moretz knock it out of the park and give the movie a real heart and spirit. Their chemistry as friends is genuinely touching to watch and reminded me of a lot of moments in my childhood. You can see them warm up to each other, and because the movie takes its time, the subsequent places they go feel emotionally satisfying. Smit-McPhee really hits the nail on the head of bullied kid who desperately wants to feel like he has agency again. He manages to be creepy but sympathetic. You want him to find a path to happiness, even if he gives you the heebie jeebies with his weird masculine inducing rituals. Moretz absolutely nails child vampire. She’s innocent, but she’s also horrifying. She asks basic questions like “What’s a girlfriend?” but then has to consume other people’s blood to survive. None of these shifts feel out of character and it keeps Abby feeling complex.

Just because this is a romance with cute moments of friendship doesn’t mean it’s sunshine and daisies all the time. People are brutally murdered and their blood canvasses the white snow. The contrast is stunning and makes it clear that violence pervades our everyday existence. It can come from anywhere and doesn’t line up with what we think. The visual effects team does a great job at showing the horrors of vampire life by demonstrating the consequences of breaking vampire rules and by making the kill sequences feel deliberately violent. You can feel the pain respective character’s go through. Out of the two movies, I think this one is more visceral in its scares, so if that’s something you’re looking for you should check this out.

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TLDREven if Let Me In feels a little too derivative of its 2008 Swedish counterpart, its worth giving a watch if you’re looking for a coming-of-age romance with a horror twist. It’s equal parts heartwarming and horrifying and has some of the best child performances I’ve ever seen. I may rag on the movie for feeling like a clone of the original, but that’s not a bad thing. It means it has a great story, memorable characters, poignant and relevant themes, and great horror sequences. Reeves definitely refines and polishes some of these elements and I appreciate him making the movie more accessible to a widespread audience. I just wish that the movie felt more distinct .

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!

Review: What We Do in the Shadows

Director(s)Jemaine Clement
Taika Waititi
Principal CastTaika Waititi as Viago
Jemaine Clement as Vladislav
Jonathan Brugh as Deacon
Ben Fransham as Petyr
Release Date2014
Running Time 85 minutes

This mockumentary about vampires is less a horror movie and more a comedy making it the perfect kind of flick to show to friends who despise anything that’s too scary, while keeping with a horror aesthetic. The “documentary” follows a group of four vampires -Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr – as they go through their day to day activities as creatures of the night who have adapted to modern human society.

Each member of the vampire flat is distinctive and funny in their own way. I love how much I can remember about each of their personalities, which is just an indication of how well they’re written out. Viago is responsible, romantic, and the opposite of assertive. His calm personality completely goes against the idea of what we think a vampire is which makes watching him deal with bloodthirsty matters all the funnier. Petyr is a Nosferatu like vampire who’s completely traditional but hangs out with the “youngsters” as an older respected member. Watching his modern interactions with them is cute and endearing. Deacon is rebellious and feels exactly like a teenager who’s spent a bit too much time watching prank videos on YouTube. Watching his take on human pranks with vampire twists keeps the gags fresh and unique. Finally, Vladislav (my favorite) is like a Bram Stoker kind of Dracula, but with a lot of humorous gimmicks that keep him feeling like a dark absurdity as opposed to something scary. As you would imagine, their personalities lend to a plethora of interesting conversations and watching them convene about affairs and deal with each other is simultaneously reminiscent of the way we talk to our own friends but absurd with how far the vampires take certain things.

Waititi and Clement really have a knack on pop culture understandings of vampires and take great liberty in accentuating those perceptions to make truly memorable comedic moments. Werewolves and other creatures of the night show up throughout the movie and are made to play their own respective comedic beats. The interactions between all of them feels like a love letter to creature features all around. I love how seamless the creature world has been integrated into the human world. For example, vampires have to follow rules about being invited in, so they have certain vampire run locations where a bouncer will greet them in , fulfilling the rule. Moments like these give the movie a genuine novelty. Every interaction between a monster and a human is bound to tickle someone’s funny bone and there’s more than one moment that had me laughing to tears.

At the heart of the movie is a story about judging people , in this case creatures, unfairly. Often times we approach situations with a certain prejudice which colors our interpretation of why they’ve done certain actions or who they “really” are. We can’t begin to understand one another unless we actively reach across the aisle and try and see eye to eye. The movie explores this idea multiple times, never coming as preachy or corny. It’s just an authentic feel good time about trying to see the best in each other.

I only have one big issue with the movie. To some of ya’ll it might come off as a bit nit-picky, but for me it made the grounded realistic feeling of the movie a lot harder to get into. The movie goes along with the idea that vampires can’t be captured in mirrors because they don’t have reflections. There’s even a gag about it confirming that its “cannon”. However, if that’s the case then the documentary crew wouldn’t be able to record the group at all. Given how clever the movie was about everything else, I thought they’d either make a joke about how the mirror thing was an absurd human myth or come up with some roundabout way of circumventing it (ex: mirrors traditionally used silver which was bad for the vampires as evidence by the movie, so the cameras don’t use silver mirrors…etc ). I can forgive it because it’s the only big issue with the documentary style, which otherwise looks spot-on and like a convincing documentation of supernatural phenomena as if it was occurring in real life, but it stands out given how immaculate every other aspect of the movie feels.

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TLDRWhat We Do in the Shadows is a humorous interpretation to the monsters that lurk in our nightmares. The way it humanizes vampires, werewolves, and other creatures of the night while retaining the characteristics that make them memorable to us is genuinely impressive. The characters are engaging and the humor really hits, so feel free to show this movie at events. It’s a real crowd pleaser.
Grade A

Review: Nosferatu

Theatrical Release Poster
Director(s)F. W. Murnau
Principal CastMax Schreck as Count Orlok
Gustav von Wangehnheim as Thomas Hutter
Greta Schroder as Ellen Hutter
Alexander Granach as Knock
Release Date1922
Language(s)Silent Film
Running Time94 minutes

F.W. Murnau’s vampire piece, Nosferatu, is the first silent film I’ve ever seen and left quite an impression on me. The film, an illegal adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, follows the same basic narrative with some changes in an attempt to avoid litigation. We follow Thomas Hutter( Gustav von Wangeheim), a real estate agent, who treks on to Transylvania, to complete a deal with the infamous, Count Orlok (Max Schreck). What follows is an artistic take on the human response to fear and our attempt to deal with those bumps in the night.

Visual design here is impeccable. The Count looks terrifying with his extended fingernails and shocking facial appearance. He radiates an intimidating sense of dread. His reactions and movements are animalistic- unnatural and evocative. When the camera focuses on Shreck’s face, it’s almost as if the Count is staring straight into the depths of our soul. His portrayal throughout the film is haunting and truly represents a terror unbound.

What makes Orlok so mesmerizing is his symbolic representation. Whenever he’s mentioned or shown , it’s in reference to rats and the plague. He is somehow more than just a vampire- he’s fear itself. The silent nature of the movie only amplifies this. Because the film has no dialogue, the characters are almost forced into a sense of helplessness- they can’t speak to the horror so instead the actors/actresses have to convey the feeling of dread through immaculate reactions. In particular, Greta Shroder’s portrayal of Ellen Hutter is heartfelt and disturbing. Seeing her reaction to the Count emphasizes the immensity of what he actually is.

Lighting is also used well, not only to indicate the passage of time, but to reinforce themes. Night is associated with Orlok- emphasizing our instinctive fear of the dark with the realm of the Nosferatu. Light is primarily associated with Ellen, highlighting her strange relation with the Count and serving as a beautiful example of foreshadowing.

The film should be viewed in mind of what was being attempted. No, it’s not scary in a traditional way. You won’t jump away in fright at Orlok and the acting might seem exaggerated, especially compared to films right now. Personally, some moments felt funnier to me. Having to read read highly stylized font also presented a unique set of challenges (pausing and squinting my eyes). But if you can get past those small hurdles and view the movie as a more abstract take on human emotion and our responses to fear and the unknown, you’ll walk away feeling haunted.

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TLDRNosferatu, is a mesmerizing and artistic take on fear and our response to the same. Great set design combined with just the right acting evokes a haunting presence.If you like German Expressionism, want to see an artistic and pure take on Dracula, or enjoy vampire movies check this one out. To anyone who enjoys film as an art form, this is definitely something you would appreciate.

Go to Page 2 for my spoiler-full thoughts!