Tag: horror

Movie Review: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

What better way to celebrate Halloween than by watching the main Robert Rodriguez film I haven’t yet seen? OK! In this heist/kidnapping/action/vampire movie penned by Rodriguez pal Quentin Tarantino, a lot of unlikely things happen. I’m not talking about the whole “hundreds of vampire creatures attacking a bar” thing. I’m talking about a bullet going through a hand and using duct tape to bind it, sexy exotic dancer Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) allowing sleazeball Richard Gecko (Tarantino) to suck beer off her foot (hmm I wonder what fetishist wrote this screenplay?), and oh yeah: George Clooney and that aforementioned sleazeball are cast as brothers?! In what universe could the same person have spawned such a smooth-voiced, classically handsome gentleman along with a greasy, pinched-faced, perpetually whining barely-fully-formed human? Ugh. Rodriguez, please, stop letting your friendship with this asshole get in the way of your movies. You are so much better than that.

Anyway, From Dusk Till Dawn starts out as a straight up action movie with brothers Richard and Seth Gecko on the run with a bunch of stolen money, who ultimately take the Fuller family (Harvey Keitel, Ernest Liu, and Juliette Lewis) and their camper hostage until they can make it to Mexico to hand over their spoils to their boss. We realize early on that Richard is prone to angry outbreaks and needless murders, and is generally unstable. Seth is more sensible and seeks to kill as few people as possible, yet still remains loyal to his brother. They make it to the bar where the meeting will take place, after which the Fullers will be free to go. After waiting a little while they realize that the dancers and bar employees are all vampires who feast on customers when night falls. So the Fullers and the Geckos team up with bar patrons Sex Machine (Tom Savini) and Frost (Fred Williamson) to stave off the growing tide of hungry creatures.

There are great action and gore sequences, as in any Rodriguez film. Clooney feels out of place in reference to other roles I’ve seen him in, but he does a good job with the part. Fun cameo appearances besides Salma Hayek include Danny Trejo, Cheech Marin, and John Hawkes. The screenplay is tell-tale Tarantino but with less pop-culture references and long conversations, due to the quick-moving plot. I like that halfway through it was suddenly a vampire movie, forcing kidnapped and kidnappers to work together and forget all about the initial central plot points- the money and the escape from cops. The improvised weaponry was also a fun A-Team-like time. But it didn’t all fit together as well as I’d hoped. Maybe things happened too fast, or he was trying to put too much into one movie, or it wasn’t scary enough, but something about the whole thing just didn’t feel right. I have loved almost every other Rodriguez flick I’ve seen (even Spy Kids) but this didn’t seem to live up to their smart, well-paced, action-packed but still heartfelt standards. It was still enjoyable but it’s not the kind of movie I feel like rewatching. If you’re a Rodriguez or Tarantino fan it’s still a must-see, but could probably be passed otherwise. I’d recommend watching it with a group of people who are prone to commentating, as it lends itself well to Tarantino jokes and general “Question Mark?” moments.


Movie Review: Neco z Alenky (Alice) (1988)

Neco z AlenkyAfter being both fascinated and freaked out by Czech director Jan Svankmajer‘s Otes├ínek, I sought out his other forays into the creepy, absurdist world of experimental stop-motion animation blended with live-action and landed upon Neco z Alenky. This re-imagining of Lewis Carroll’s classic story Alice in Wonderland is both beautiful and disturbing. The action of the story has been moved to a decaying, empty house; Alice is played by a real live girl, with every other character embodied by some sort of taxidermied animal or anthropomorphic item. She navigates the house through doors of various sizes and mysterious drawers, desperately following the White Rabbit as he hops around leaking sawdust. The Caterpillar plays host to myriad slithering socks, while the wooden string puppet Mad Hatter periodically demands to switch seats. Shadowy duels are fought for the cut-paper King and Queen before our heroine is put on trial. Alice’s size changes multiple times, turning her into a doll when she is miniaturized. There is very little dialogue, except sparse narration from Alice herself, and no music, giving the entire film an eerie stillness. There is noticeable attention to sound effects. It appears there is only a dubbed version for the American DVD, as a side note to future renters.

As this is a reinterpretation, a lot of the story is adjusted or simplified. What’s important is the visual imagery of Alice’s plight. The use of stop-motion animation for all of the other characters is remarkable and refined. Seeing it next to a living person has an unsettling effect that I can compare to nothing else. The sheer unnaturalness of their movements is extremely heightened when related to Alice. It adds a refreshing level of creepiness to the whole tale. Overall it’s an incredibly interesting, visually arresting film, with an imaginative take on a familiar subject. It’s hard to describe in words so below are some clips.


The White Rabbit is introduced.

The Caterpillar scene.

Swordfight, Queen of Hearts

Packaged with the DVD was one of Svankmajer’s short films, Tma/Svetlo/Tma (Darkness/Light/Darkness), in which a clay body assembles itself in a small empty room. Another gorgeous piece of animation from a truly innovative artist. Watch it in its entirety below.