Blade II

Genre: Action
Year: 2002
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Luke Goss, Leonor Varela, Norman Reedus
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Producer: Avi Arad
Writer: Marv Wolfman, Gene Colan
Music: Marco Beltrami

Blade is back, and he reluctantly joined an alliance with vampires to take out Nomak, the carrier of a genetic mutation of vampirism that when transmitted through saliva, turns vampires into Reapers.

Donnie Yen Choreographed Gold
Right off the bat, I noticed the choreography of the fights was different in this movie. It was more martial arts than the first Blade, and it was no surprise when I found out Donnie Yen was behind it all. Master martial artist Donnie Yen also starred in this movie as Snowman.

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I recognized the difference in the first major fight. The fighting was more physical, more detailed and it hit right with martial arts techniques I was familiar with from other like movies. It
had less of an American brawn feel and more of a controlled, artistic touch. Say the difference between Jason Statham and Jet Li.

Speaking of that first fight, when Blade stabbed the last guy in that sequence, the way he stabbed him right up close. Loved that personal kill.

When Nyssa and Blade fought, their sword fighting was so engaging and their skill almost even. It was a nail-biting fight. Flawlessly executed (except the CGI parts which were obvious and unnecessary). Don’t know about you, but seeing how well the masked vampire fought against our strapping hybrid, I was shocked and applauding that she was a woman. So was Blade.

Nyssa
A king’s daughter to the end. Strong and beautiful, just how I like a female warrior. Nyssa proved that a female lead can be gorgeous without compromising her character. Of course,
Leonor Varela is a naturally alluring woman with an irresistible accent, but she wore her hair up almost the entire film, was fully clothed, and was still the sexiest woman in the Blade franchise because of it.

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Not to mention, she pulled off being a king’s daughter flawlessly. A little bit spoiled with an attitude that bites, and the honor of a queen. She was tough on Blade, tough enough to lead a pack of soldiers, and still delicate enough emotionally to become romantically attached to Blade.

Come on, Blade and Nyssa made the ideal couple. Both have hard shells and soft centers, both were betrayed by their parents, both are vampires. Not once did they kiss in this
film, but they didn’t have to. It was love, and we called it when Whistler did.

The Reaper Strain is Realistic
If you’ve noticed, realism is one of my favorite features of creative work. So when they pitched the reason behind Nomak’s existence, I was jaw-dropped and fully satisfied by a film.

When Blade meets Overload Eli Damaskinos, he opens by explaining that once bitten by a vampire, the vampiric virus spreads within the human bloodstream in the course of 72 hours.

Blade: “Like cancer.”

Damaskinos: “Cancer…with purpose.”

Kounen: “Unfortunately, viruses evolve too. We’ve encountered a new one. We’ve dubbed it the ‘Reaper Strain’. And like any good pathogen, it appears to have found a carrier.”

Reapers feed off vampires, but the vampires don’t die, they turn into carriers of the Reaper virus. Reapers require hourly feeding, and thus within a short period of time would transmit the virus to thousands of vampires.

Blade: “Looks like he was doing me a favor.”

Damaskinos later: “When they are finished with us, who do you think they’ll turn on next? Your precious humans. Not one of them will be left.”

Like Blade could resist protecting us mortal folk.

The Bloodpack

Rarely in film do you love all the characters of a group. In the Bloodpack, I found every character to be unique and memorable. Even Priest who wasn’t as vital as the others.
Lighthammer, Fur Elaine, Priest, Reinhardt, Snowman and Chupa. The whole pack was a phenomenal gang of characters assembled for no purpose less than hunting their immortal
enemy: Blade.

I think every actor fulfilled their roles as these characters. Let me say that Donnie Yen (as Asians usually do in American movies) got the short end of screen time. He was the coolest!
Armed with a sword, he kicked ass and looked killer doing it!
All of the Bloodpack fought for their cause: to carry on their species. Which meant they loathed and opposed Blade the whole movie. I admire the characters staying loyal to that. Even
though their hatred of Blade made us despise them all the more.

The Bloodpack had the best slow motion swagger! Played with the sick intro from the song “I Against I” and you have the badass assembly every actor playing a comic book character dreams of.

Nomak
I don’t know about you, but I was rooting for this guy from the start. His demeanor from the beginning of the film was that of a broken heart, of someone betrayed by a loved one. His
character stayed consistent in this whole film. But what attached us to Nomak wasn’t sympathy, it was his shared vision with our protagonist:

Nomak had a rage that expressed itself in his fights, all the way up to Blade. Nomak wasn’t the antagonist in my book, but I think he considered himself a bad guy. What happened to him was unfortunate and unfair. What he fought for was honorable.

I found myself silently cheering for Nomak throughout the entire film. When he came running into Damaskinos’ lair, it was a small victory to me. Seeing him running in on the security camera, knowing he made it where he was needed most, knowing he came to take down the same guys Blade was after. It was all perpetually pleasing.

I’ll tell you, I never mourned a villain’s end except Nomak’s.

Nomak: “Isn’t it strange? It hurts…It hurts no more.”

His heartache, he meant, because that’s where Blade stabbed him.

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I will say, though, that Nomak and Blade fighting was thrilling to watch. The beginning of their fight is just them, two super beasts, running toward each other and then crashing. For a
minute, the camera work is sloppy when it seems like there’s a bunch of grabbing and handwork. But then we get body slams and fancy footwork and it all captivates you seeing alpha go against alpha. One of my favorite fight scenes in all of Blade.

M.O.
I talked about it last review in Blade how the movie functions in a pattern: Blade is drained of his blood, refuels with the help of a secondary character, kicks the asses of thirty goons, and then takes out the head bad guy. This movie followed that structure to a tee. Blade was drained to give life to more refined reapers like Nomak. Whistler was the secondary character who dropped Blade into the vat of blood. Now let’s talk about taking out thirty goons.

When we go into this scene, Crystal Method’s “Name of the Game” hyping us up, Blade warming up with some neck roles, we’re ready for this to go down. Bring out your best. Blade
can take ’em all. Even without his sword, Blade wiped the board clean! And as he neared Reinhardt, the bald vampire started to panic in fear of Blade. Hell, I would too if I wronged the Daywalker.

My favorite part was when Blade picked up a guard straight WWE style and leveled him on some glass. I held my breath and internally applauded the move.

Same M.O. Different delivery. All entertaining.

Tunnel Climax
I for sure thought they weren’t going to make it. Rarely does a movie ever have me on the edge of my seat like that. One of the best parts about Blade movies is that the predictable is disguised as unpredictable, and vice versa. So when Blade and our remaining protagonists are surrounded by Reapers, it’s down to the nail. They’re swarmed, drowning in them, bound to get bitten. And it doesn’t turn out how I thought it would. Great tension and action.

No Compromises
Making a film where your characters are affected by specific variants (sunlight, for instance) leaves plenty of room for goofs. There were dozens of times when this movie could have skimped out on the CGI or taken shortcuts but chose not to.

When Reinhardt was running through the tunnels, for instance, streams of daylight were leaking through manhole covers above him. Ron Perlman easily could have ignored the burning sensation he should have felt as a vampire when crossing that light, but didn’t. It was only two seconds of the movie, what did it matter? But it was such commitment to his character that it made him realistic.

Also, during the House of Pain shootout when Chupa is spraying bullets all over the place, they didn’t just have the vampires get shot and fall out of frame. Crew members made sure those vampires turned to CGI ash. That created an entirely realistic atmosphere to the audience that I—at least—appreciated.

Blade Got Cocky
I spoke last review of Blade’s expression being mostly in his voice. In this film, Blade was entitled to being cocky. My favorite scenes being when Reinhardt targeted Blade in the
club, and Chupa pointed out that Blade had Reinhardt marked in return. That smile Blade flashes was so cheeky and satisfying.

It happens again when Blade stands next to a loose end vampire from the beginning of the movie who happens to be at the club where the Reapers are. The bald vampire jumps when
he sees Blade and flees in grateful panic. Blade’s smirk at the fear his mere presence induces was deserved.

Blade’s One Liner
While Blade didn’t get to deliver this one to Nomak himself, it went like this: “Nomak’s the carrier. It all started with him; it’ll end with him.”

Whistler also had some pretty good lines this one: “Some of us can’t see in the dark, you fucking nipplehead. What am I supposed to do?”

Opening weekend in March 2002, Blade II brought in over $32 million dollars. Worldwide, this film grossed over $155 million. Impressive, isn’t it? When the second film in a franchise outdoes the first?

Blade

Genre: Action
Released: 1998
Cast: Wesley Snipes, Kris Kristofferson, Stephen Dorff
Producer: Avi Arad, Joseph Calamari
Director: Stephen Norrington
Music: Mark Isham

A half-vampire, half-human hybrid hunts his own species, and faces the reign of La Magra, the blood god.

Let’s open this review with some honesty: Blade is the best vampire. He has all of their strengths, none of their weaknesses except the thirst. Regeneration, heightened senses, daylight immunity, immortality. Aside from being a vampire, Blade is also a martial arts expert and is geared up with some of the most sick weapons to aid in his vampire hunts.

Wesley Snipes
To give credit where it’s deserved, Wesley Snipes as Blade was a flawless performance. One of the hardest things I’ve heard actors mention is playing a character with low humanity. When an actor spends hours in makeup and wardrobe on a movie set, they want to fulfill that character by expression. But to play Blade is to really do less. Blade expresses himself in fighting the cause. But to act as Blade means to speak very little, use virtually no facial expression. With Blade, tone and mood was in his voice. In this Blade, there were lots of scenes without sunglasses, so Wesley got to use his face to express mood. For the remainder of the franchise, that becomes quite seldom.

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All of Wesley Snipes suited Blade. From the physical strength to the soft eyes, the depth of his voice. You know an actor satisfies as their character when two things happen: 1) the audience cannot picture someone else in their role; 2) when you refer to that actor AS that character outside of the movie. I still do it when I see Wesley Snipes. To me, he will always be Blade. And to this day, I can’t fathom anyone else playing the Daywalker.

Martial Arts
Wesley Snipes has been practicing martial arts since he was twelve years old, and his skills showed impressively in this film. The fight scenes were so well-choreographed, so well executed that they left no reason to disengage from them. You wanted to be there for every move, for every take down, for every time Blade took on a dozen guys and turned them all to ash.

The opening fight gave us one of the most entertaining introductions to a character in all of cinema. Indirectly, we learned so much about our main character from this fight. Just to name a few: how the vampires fear him, and the expertise that earned him that fear, his control of the fight, his self-confidence walking into a nest of adversaries. Most importantly, Blade’s purpose for fighting his own kind: his love of humans.

Best Fight Parts
When Blade and Frost clash at the end, Blade flips off the stone edge and his sword meets Frost’s. That crisp shing, that entrance will always give me goosebumps. What a way to address a challenge.

The funny part is that it took Frost to upgrade to the blood god for him to be equal to Blade’s strength and skill. Which is realistic considering without the possession of La Magra, Frost is nothing more than a rebellious boy with authority issues.

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No Cape Necessary, Just Give Him a Sword and Sunglasses
Blade’s coat, sword, and sunglasses are his staples. In the opening fight scene, the way he throws the coat behind him the way wind throws a cape, that was artistically appealing for Blade’s character. Such a cocky move, such a powerful expression. When he moves that coat aside, exposes his weapons, we know it’s about to go down.

When he removes his sword, though, it’s all over for the enemy. They might as well drop their guns and run. Blade is a marksman with that thing. He and his sword are bonded. He knows its limits and strengths, he’s aware of his limits with it. He uses the sword to the maximum of its and his capability.

Blade’s sword is unique, and it remains identical across the franchise. His sword has a handle that springs open and slices the hand of anyone not meant to hold it. Quinn discovers this first in this movie, and that feature of Blade’s sword remains the same throughout all three films.

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Smirks
Like I mentioned before, playing a role like Blade requires actors to do less expression. Suiting this film, however, Blade smirked at his victories and sassed where it was due. In the opening fight, the way he smiled presented more his knowledge of his environment, of his enemy, and less of his boasting about his own skill. When he faced off with Quinn for the first time and smirked, it almost said, “Remember this?” as he threw his double-bladed wing. Quinn did, of course, and ducked before Blade launched it and killed all the guards.

Blade later smirks out of conceit because damn, Blade’s just that good, y’all, and he deserved that. This is the Blade that ripped one man’s throat out and threw it at another man as a distraction. The Blade who’s always one step ahead of his enemy. The Blade that scoffed at a blood god and dissed Dracula. Needless to say, Blade’s a badass and he knows it.

M.O.
The Blade franchise follows a pattern. The film opens with Blade killing a nest of vampires. And it ends with Blade being drained of his blood, revived by one of his secondary characters, after which he goes and slays a small army of goons and then takes out the main villain. The first and second movie follow this pattern almost to a tee.

The best part is that, even though this is Blade’s modus operandi, the films disguise the obvious. You’d think we get to these predictable parts and we’re like, “Ope, here we go. Blade’s been drained of his power, now he’s going to be revived and kick the asses of twenty guards.” But when you’re watching the movie, it goes more like this, “Aw, yeah. Blade’s about to be revived, and when he wakes, you motherfu* better run ‘cuz all y’all gonna taste the end of his sword.”

Every time Blade is anywhere in the movie, it’s for a reason. So when the film opens with him killing a nest of vampires, it’s because there’s a bigger purpose than just turning them all to
ash. In the first film, he’s rescuing that human. In the second movie, it’s because he’s after information. When he’s drained of his power in both movies, it’s because they needed it for the same reason (his blood is better than theirs), but the predictable is overlooked for sheer entertainment. The baddies get bigger in each film, and we so highly anticipate Blade taking them on, we await that climatic action so eagerly we don’t even care it’s the same plotline in both movies.

Blade’s One Liners
When he faces the bad guys, Blade always threatens them with a one-liner. To Frost, “Frost, you’re nothing to me but another dead vampire.”

Costume Design
Tactical and visually stimulating. Blade’s vest, coat, gloves, glasses, his weapons all strapped to him, his sword at the back, the combat boots. The whole tactical look was never out of place in this unrealistic in his settings. Out of place in a crowd of ordinary citizens, sure, he’s geared for war, but in the warzone, he fit right in. Versus a costume like Shazam’s, which obviously attracts that comic book character feel.

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Whistler
A grandpa with a shotgun, Whistler is just as vital to the vampire-hunting game as Blade. Whistler makes all of Blade’s weapons and tracks the nests, decodes the vampire’s plans. Whistler is the brains, Blade is the muscle, but neither could function without the other.

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Whistler, though, is such a great character. He’s equally as sassy as Blade because he’s simply “too damn old for this shit”. Whistler’s tough enough to be in this fight with Blade, and he makes one hell of a sidekick.

Whistler is also our comic relief.

  • “Someone get me a ***damned wheelchair!”
  • “Catch you fuckers at a bad time?”

They could have put anyone in this position for any reason. But Whistler was created a father figure to Blade, and his purpose was served realistically. Whistler wasn’t put in there for show. He was put at Blade’s side for meaning, and that sense of heart is something you rarely see in cinema these days. A sidekick that’s essential to the main character. Not someone put there for sex appeal or for the credit’s sake or to serve a political message or to root for a socioeconomic class, or race, or weight class. But someone put there because the character needs them there.

Karen
I love that Karen and Blade didn’t fall in love. That would have been the obvious relationship to create between them, but not a realistic one.

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Karen proved herself to be a bad bitch. Instead of becoming a victim to vampirism, she took her medical degree and created a cure for herself. Instead of becoming a victim in the end, she dug herself out of that tomb and blasted the bad guys away with that double barrel. She picked herself up every time like a grown woman should, and she became one of my favorite female characters in action.

Blade’s Mother, Vanessa
Blade’s heart was yanked at so many ways in this film. Between Whistler and reuniting with his mother who Blade thought was dead. His mother, the beautiful Sanaa Lathan, did not turn out to be the maternal figure I anticipated. As a mother myself, her role was confusing to watch, but it was well-written and I wouldn’t have wanted her any other way.

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She made one hell of a hot vampire. Much the way Aaliyah turned us all onto the seduction of vampires in Queen of the Damned, Sanaa Lathan brought the sex appeal to vampires that the action film needed.

The only lesson she ever taught Blade was one that he carried with him the whole franchise: “Sooner or later, the thirst always wins.”


What a successful vampire movie! A thrill to watch, a story worth retelling over and over, a character so bad ass my six-year-old son plays Blade for pretend.

On opening weekend alone, it brought in 17 billion. Worldwide, this movie grossed over 131 million dollars. I’d say that was a hit.

Hellraiser

Released: 1987
Cast: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence
Director: Clive Barker
Writer: Clive Barker
Music: Christopher Young

Frank Cotton’s insatiable appetite for pleasure led him to Lemarchand’s box, a device that once solved, unleashes four demons. Upon Frank’s disappearance, Larry Cotton (Robinson) and his wife Julia Cotton (Higgins) move in, and Julia discovers a bloody way to bring Frank back. But as sensational writer, Clive Barker, said himself, “There is a happy ending, but not for everybody.”

I remember watching bits of Hellraiser as a teenager, but vowed never to watch the film in its entirety because I couldn’t stomach the gore. When I read the novel, I uncovered the
erverse nature that led to the conjuring of the Cenobites, which gave them and their gory nature purpose. The novel inspired me to at least try the film, and honestly, it was a waste of my time. Let’s just say, I’m extremely biased toward the book.

What didn’t work for the movie:

Unnecessary Monsters
What I remember most encouraging my distaste for the film was the scorpion creature and the dragon at the end. In my opinion, according to the original written work (the novel), the
Cenobites were perceived as the antagonists. (Actually the Cenobites weren’t the antagonists. The cheating murderer Julia and the sexually sadistic zombie Frank Cotton were the monsters.) But to identify monsters, the Cenobites were the worst.

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As their introduction into cinema, the Cenobites deserved all of the fear of the audience and were overshadowed by this grotesque, unnatural scorpion creature. I hated it. It wasn’t scary, it wasn’t in the book, and it wasn’t necessary. It scared Kirsty in the hospital for like, sixty seconds for no reason whatsoever. Then it reappeared in the climax to fight Kirsty for the puzzle box for an incredibly annoying amount of time.

The dragon monster also ticked me off. He was supposed to embody the character from the book called the Engineer, but him bursting into a dragon and flying away with the box was a
less satisfying ending than what the end of the novel was.

Ashley Laurence as Kirsty
I stopped loving her over dramatic reactions by her second scene, I believe. Beautiful girl with thick, curly chocolate hair and those powerful eyes. But her crying, “Daddy” as a grown
woman annoyed me. Her overdone emotional panic annoyed me. Her screaming was great. Definitely flawless for an ’80’s horror film. But everything else she did on screen was painful to watch. She acted like a baby to her daddy and was a pathetic victim. I cannot handle female roles like this. She tainted Kirsty’s character entirely. For what? A beautiful face?

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If Barker had written his original character into Kirsty’s place, the film would have struck gold for me. Kirsty in the novel is envious of Julia for being married to “Larry”, and while Kirsty is a victim the entire novel for her love for “Larry”, the way the book ends makes her character development feel like a personal win for the audience. I loved that Kirsty much better than the whiny daughter Kirsty.

The Storytelling
In the book, the storytelling was smoothly written and lathered with delicious imagery. The moods were tangible and the family drama was realistic. But in the movie, the scenes felt
brief, which left a lot of the moods undeveloped. I mean, look at the introduction of what happened to Frank.

When Frank solves Lemarchand’s box in the movie, we see him get caught up in the chains and then the scene cuts to the house, so we anticipate the story is shifting to the present time. But what they’re really doing is time looping to the near future right after Frank is ripped apart. It shifts from the house right back to the Cenobites and their room of grim death. Blood all over the floor, chains and hooks dangling as the Cenobite gathers scraps of Frank’s flesh to reconfigure his face.

And then it cuts again to the house, and it’s really present time now. Talk about a dramatic cut to tension and fear. Like being interrupted during intercourse and having to start the mood all over again, that’s how disappointed I was in that introduction to our villains.

Read the book’s first chapter, and you’ll realize it could have gone a lot smoother than that.

Subtle Changes that Made a Big Impact

  • Larry’s name in the book is Rory. Why change the name?
  • Kirsty in the book was a woman Larry’s age, and was envious of Julia’s relationship with him. Why change this for the film? The motives for Kirsty’s involvement, the victory we felt when she escaped the house and the Cenobites. All of it was well-stitched together. Was the change in character solely for the credits? To introduce a young actress (Ashley Laurence) for views? What corruption.
  • How the film made it seem like Frank enjoyed the torture of the Cenobites when in the book, it says, “He wanted pleasure, until we gave it to him. Then he squirmed…” (page 136)
  • There were no bells to signify the arrival of the Cenobites. They used chains to simulate the sound of bells, but I think tension would have been more successfully involved had the bells notified us of their arrival like in the book.
  • The Cenobites came for Kirsty—despite their deal in the hospital to trade Frank for her—which robbed us of our sense of personal justice. Through Kirsty, we delivered the real monster to his “maker”. Instead, the film had to have Kirsty in a dramatic climax running around the house, screaming, fighting the Cenobites and the infamous scorpion-thing with the puzzle box.

What Did Work For the Film:

Make Up

Pinhead was a six-hour transformation in the first film. Imagine spending six hours in a chair and then having to spend an entire day dressed up as Pinhead. What incredible makeup.

Pinhead and the chomper were the best Cenobites. The fat one with the stitched eyes was the least impressive. At least the female Cenobite had her voice. She wasn’t visually scary, but her voice was unnerving. The calmness of it versus the grotesque nature of what she spoke of, brilliant.

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The resurrection of Frank with Larry’s blood was interesting. Gooey and slimy, and appalling. The boards shook way too long, but when half of Frank was structured and he sat up
to release that roar, I was impressed.

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Now, when Frank came crawling out at Julia, I would have screamed bloody murder in the theater. I cowered back in my seat, hiked my legs up off the floor. It was a great jump scare,
and the makeup was intensely petrifying.

After the first kill, when Frank walks to Julia and we hear his wet footstep squelch on the wood. That was an invigorating auditory engagement. I felt that just how I felt his wet, slimy
hand touch the back of her clean white blouse.

Frank’s makeup after the first kill was fantastic for ’87. It was disgusting and vile, exposed and realistic. Down to the bones on his cheeks and the rippling nerves.

Uh, no.

Anyone notice the generic straw-sucking sound when Frank drains the man with the blue tie?

True to the End
Compared to the book, the ending of the film remained nearly identical. The movie didn’t reveal that Frank had drained his brother, Larry, before Kirsty got there. We learned that as Kirsty did. Frank reveals himself, beckoning to Kirsty, “Come to Daddy.” Frank stabbing Julia instead of Kirsty. Down to the word in some scenes, the movie and book were parallel.

My intentions weren’t to create a book comparison to the film. Though I’m a writer and I enjoy reading, I’m really more of a film-fanatic. I’m a visual learner, I enjoy visual stimulation
best. But not on this one.

I did not expect the film to be identical to the book. Did the changes to the story and characters work for the film? Yes. Was it a success? Obviously.

As a writer myself, I understand second chances. A year later than the Hellraiser book was written did Clive Barker have the opportunity to film the movie version. So maybe he had to alter things from the book to fit filming. Maybe he changed things he felt he disliked about the novel. To me, it’ll always be a cheat. He wrote the book how he envisioned the story. He should have made the movie the same way, or waited until he could.

Annabelle Comes Home

Released: 2019
Cast: Mckenna Grace, Madison Iseman, Katie Sarife
Writer: James Wan (story); Gary Dauberman (screenplay)
Director: Gary Dauberman
Music: Joseph Bishara

If you didn’t already know, the movie that started it all, The Conjuring, spawned an entire universe of movies branching off that first story. The Conjuring Universe includes the Annabelle
franchise. Annabelle Comes Home is the third movie in the Annabelle storyline.

Having seen the first two Annabelle movies, I wasn’t particularly thrilled about seeing this one. I was anticipating a botched storyline, bizarre paranormal activity, and a dissatisfying ending. But to my surprise, this film ended up being the haunted house movie I’ve waited for all my life.

Summary: When the Warrens add the famous Annabelle doll to their paranormal collection, a frivolous teen unknowingly unleashes its evil while the Warrens are away. The evil of Annabelle, and everything else locked in the Warren’s artifact room, attacks the Warrens’ daughter, the babysitter, and the frivolous teen. With the intelligence of her demonologist parents and the strength of God Almighty, young Judy Warren must contain the evil of Annabelle to end the haunting.


What Worked For This Film:

Acting:
I was pretty shocked to see Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga starring in an Annabelle movie considering the history of that side of the Conjuring Universe. They were included in the plotline simply for namesake on the credits, but their characters played a vital role in the plotline. The movie couldn’t have worked without them.

Mckenna Grace was an amazing Judy Warren. She’s an adorable little girl who played distressed very well, and who served “fear” to us in the true light of her character. Typical little girls in movies—especially seeing monsters as terrifying as the ones Mckenna had to face in this movie—go screaming and terror is imminent in their faces the whole movie. But Mckenna’s character as the daughter of demonologists showed strength in the face of evil, and Mckenna flawlessly fulfilled her character.

McKenna Grace

Madison Iseman played the responsible babysitter and flustered teen with a crush so well. Her character, Mary Ellen, was completely dismissive when the paranormal activity started. Even up to the milk glass falling off the counter, she was confused by it but still unafraid. And when she was afraid, she performed so realistically that it resonated on a personal level with me. During the scene where she’s pursuing the coins to the ferryman, the way she clutched that flashlight close to her chest to make herself as less vulnerable as possible…I felt that in my gut.

Madison Iseman

Katie Sarife as Daniela played a great bad influence friend with a sob backstory unlike one we were expecting. I think her character was so psychologically realistic. I loved Daniela’s trauma and how it affected her character to perceive the supernatural.

Katie Sarife

Michael Cimino as our comic relief, Bob, was amazing. Both as a shy teenage boy with a crush and as a terrified, werewolf-battling hero.

Michael Cimino

False Jump Scares
I remember being in the theater, clutching the armrest, riddled with tension from the suspense, waiting for the first jump scare when Lorraine opens that map against the car window. We all knew something was going to be on the other side to startle her, but she ripped that map down and…voilà. Nothing was there. That pleased me more than anything in the world. I fully prepared myself to not appear scared in the movie theater only for the movie crew to say, “Gotcha”. I loved it!

Near the end of the movie when the Feeley Meeley game presents the card with the key’s picture for Mary Ellen to retrieve it and she sits before the box mentally preparing herself to reach into the unknown, we are all suspended in anticipation, knowing something was about to leap out of the box or hurt her the instant her hand went into that box. Then Judy dives her hand in, grabs the key and holds it up without any interference from the paranormal whatsoever. Another set up of suspense for nothing. I laughed out loud at that one.

I will give props to the coin trick with the ferryman’s materialization. I’m all for that false visualization. When Mary Ellen lifted that flashlight up to where those coins were floating and we saw no body attached to what we knew to be a head with eyes, and then she shined on the coins and they fell. That was artwork to me.

Same thing in Annabelle: Creation when that little girl threw the bedsheet on Annabelle and then Annabelle stood up wearing it. AS the demon approached the little girl, it gradually stepped on the sheet and pulled it off itself to reveal nothing. I was breathless and enthused because that’s how ghosts really work sometimes. A lot of bravado and then nothing.

Certain Scares
The phone call Mary Ellen made to Lorraine when the activity started happening came to mind first. Mary Ellen was speaking to Lorraine, or so it sounded like, until Lorraine responded with, “Can I speak to Annabelle?” Lorraine’s voice morphed into an eerie old woman’s voice, instructing Mary Ellen to give Annabelle a soul. “She wants a soul, dear.” The call created hopelessness in the situation, just how the demonic like their victims.

https://i.dailymail.co.uk/1s/2019/05/28/19/14066560-7079467-image-m-86_1559068004074.jpg

The running footsteps in this movie got me every time. The first time it happened with the evil bride, I curled up in my seat and clutched my heart, ready to die from terror. The second time it happened after Annabelle was thrown from the closet, all you hear is fast, thumping footsteps coming up right behind us! My entire body seized up on that one. Anything evil running at you immediately induces panic, and that scare tactic was executed flawlessly in this movie.

The psychic TV was a brilliant idea. When Daniela saw herself in the TV in the Warren’s paranormal room, she saw not a reflection of herself in current time, but a prediction of herself in the minutes to come. What worked best about the TV wasn’t the oracle aspect, but that Daniela was seeing the supernatural occurrences that were about to happen to her before they did. At the end of the TV’s feature in the film, it projected Daniela with a bloody face, disfigured and terrified. Good thing she didn’t answer that phone, huh?

https://youtu.be/fNT9DHDCIzQ

Tying the Story Together

In Judy’s room when the lamp fell to the floor, with each color of the spinning wheel, Annabelle shed its manifestations until it exposed itself as the demon oppressing the doll. It showed the shape of the doll, the form of Bee from Annabelle Creation, Annabelle Higgins from Annabelle, and then the demon. Way to weave storylines together!

The Cross Became a Weapon
For the first time in a horror film, the Cross was used as a weapon against demonic evil. Movies such as The Rite and Deliver Us From Evil have used the Cross as a device to thwart evil, but those movies were usually founded on religious practices anyway. This movie, however, is a horror film with only suggested religious undertones from the Warrens’ beliefs. Annabelle Comes Home wasn’t about God versus the Devil until the Cross defended the girls. To see the Cross finally utilized properly made my little Christian heart flutter.

https://youtu.be/PV4zeTp5fqk

Anytime Mary Ellen or Daniela were afflicted by spirits, they ran. When Judy was facing evil, she reached for her Cross and was delivered from fear. The Cross is a symbol of strength and power to Christians, and when Judy held that Cross up to the bride, admonishing the spirit, and when she pressed the Crucifix to the demon’s forehead, when she kept the spirits at bay in the artifact room, all that gave me a sense of triumph as a Christian.

What Didn’t Work For This Film:

Repeated Activity From Previous Movies:
According to the timeline from The Conjuring, the case of Annabelle being taken from the nurses occurred before the Perron farmhouse haunting case. So to see activity from The Conjuring appear in Annabelle Comes Home made no sense. In fact, it felt like repeated cinema. I hate seeing the same jump scares in different movies.

When Judy is sleeping, her foot gets yanked to the end of the bed. Since the first Conjuring, we’ve established that that sort of paranormal activity is associated with Beth-Sheba, so to reproduce it in this movie was more confusing than scary. Mostly because instead of seeing Beth-Sheba under the sheet, we see Annabelle.

Also, the chords Daniela plays on the piano in the artifact room being played back to her note for note resembled Beth-Sheba activity from The Conjuring.

Having the evil bride do a full 360 walk around Judy copied what the nun did to Lorraine in The Conjuring 2 and in The Nun. The bride passed outside the windows, through mirrors, all while the room experienced an earthquake reaction to her spirit. I understand if the writers meant to do a demonic similarity in copying the experiences from The Conjuring 2, but it wasn’t effective because the bride wasn’t the nun or Annabelle. The cursed wedding dress was a completely separate story.

https://youtu.be/CBfsD-XEY-0


Sloppy Scare Tactics
The scares in the movie were pieced together at random. While there were backstories to each of the ghosts and Annabelle was essentially the main antagonist, the rest of the activity surrounding the doll was scattered. This is true of actual hauntings. When you’ve got multiple spirits in a location, you’re not going to get a full story from all the activity you experience. You’ll get bits and pieces of each ghost trying to tell their story, so that realism in this film paid off.

However, a lot of the scares in the movie were like all the writers had a good idea of something scary they wanted to happen, and to play fair, they included everyone’s idea in one scene or another. A few of those jump scares that could have been cut were the hands springing out of the board game box to grab Judy’s ankle at the end, Ed almost getting run over by the diesel in the beginning (it seemed too staged), and the suit of armor could have been replaced by a more active villain. All this thing did was turn its head and make Mary Ellen hallucinate a vicious slaying (that we didn’t get to see, by the way). Without knowing the history of that suit of armor, we had very little to imagine as far as fear goes. And compared to
everything else going on in the movie, the armor turning its head proved very low on the scare scale.

The one that ticked me off the most was the camera work when Judy pursues the evil bride upstairs. Lured by the sound of creaking wood, Judy pushes open the door to a bedroom and finds Annabelle in the rocking chair. The door slowly shuts on Judy, and she pushes it open again. Now, we know something’s going to happen when that door opens again, but unfortunately, the camera shifts and we see Judy’s reaction to what happens instead of experiencing it for ourselves. That would have been more effective if we could have seen the chair empty. Then we would have been paralyzed with the question: Where the hell did Annabelle go?

Weak Villains
The werewolf in his introductory scene was too CGI to scare me. Compared to the other ghosts who were obviously real people in costumes, the werewolf was obviously fake. When the werewolf was on top of the car, though, that was real. But when we first lay eyes on the werewolf, Van Helsing (2004) and Underworld came to mind.

https://youtu.be/PV4zeTp5fqk

When we see the ferryman in his domain during the kitchen attack scene, he looks like just a man in a mask to me. Nothing to be afraid of whatsoever. If the disfigurement of the mask looked more like skin instead of a Halloween mask under a cloak and hood, I would have crapped myself. But of all the spirits of demons in the house, he was the second least impressive.

Annabelle being in bed with Judy made me uncomfortable. Instead of doing the scares under the sheets, which were too intimate and personal for my comfort, they could have done a side-by-side scare. Have Judy cuddle with Annabelle, only to realize it’s the sinister doll. But having the monster under the bed sheet with an innocent little girl seemed inappropriate to me from a mother’s perspective.

When the demon popped out beside Judy, it was obvious that it was a scare tactic. His goal was to scare Judy, not kill her which isn’t true of demonic nature.

I’m sure this had something to do with impressionable thirteen-year-old Mckenna Grace, but if you know you’re creating the ultimate villain but will have to do it at the expense of its power, don’t do it. Annabelle has been the most feared doll in cinema for four straight movies now. To finally see the demon itself manifest was a huge deal, and they diluted the demon to a growling monster. I mean, for crying out loud, the bride had more malice than the demon in this movie did. The bride possessed one of the girls and tried to kill the other two, hell she even stabbed one. But the demon? He growled a lot. Do you see the uneven power distribution?

The movie ranked low on my scare scale, but high on my entertained scale. I was entertained watching it, moreso in the theater than at home. Entertained by the false jump scares, but mostly by the haunted house essence of the movie. The girls were trapped inside this rustic house that also happens to be the honin source for evil, and they unleash the demons. All sorts of random paranormal events start to occur, and I feel like I’m in my childhood home again. I thought the nostalgia I felt was related to anemoia (feeling nostalgic for a time you never knew) considering the movie was set in the ’70’s, but reflecting now, I know that I felt nostalgic because I grew up in a house just like that one. I felt like I was watching my entire childhood summed up in 106 minutes.

Compared to the other Annabelle movies, I feel as though this one was the scariest. The first Annabelle had only one scary part I remember: when the elevator got stuck in the basement, and we see the demon for the first time. That was scary, the rest of the movie was hard to digest.

Annabelle Creation bored me. None of what happened was scary to me, and the jump scares were obvious.

In this Annabelle, the bride terrified me, the running footsteps, the whispering of the ghost in the car with Lorraine, the little girl whispering at the front door asking for Annabelle. I loved the subtle details of this movie, but I feel as though a lot of it was repeated. Overall, it was more than I expected for an Annabelle movie, but ranks less than The Conjuring and The Conjuring 2. Annabelle Comes Home is still a good film to watch on Halloween to get into the mood.


In case you were wondering, here is the timeline for the Conjuring Universe, according to their IG:

Devil

Released: 2010
Cast: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green
Written by: Brian Nelson (screenplay), M. Night Shyamalan (story)
Directed by: John Erick Dowdle
Music: Fernando Velázquez

Music Comes to Mind

A memorable music score comes to mind the instant I hear this movie title. I hear that vicious “duh-duh-duh-duh” melody, ripped right off an orchestral string. Pizzicato strumming away an ominous theme. The wind instruments blasting deep chords of danger. Staccato replaces the plucking, then longer bow strides and tremolo create tension. All melodies that introduce themselves individually blend together in the climatic opening credits.

At 1:53 in the video link below, mystery unravels in music. A strong drum followed by short staccato notes then this smooth, unsettling violin. At 3:08, we get this evil wind chord and then the orchestra turns their bows on their backs to pound out this teethy sequence. The string instruments pick up a quick rhythm to swing us back into a thrilling mood. A fermata on the downbeat and we’ve struck another momentary climax.

The “Rescue” track is brilliant. It’s only 51 seconds of emotionally invigorating justice haunted by the supernatural occurrences that took place in that elevator. This crescendoing track peaked at just the right note. Transfer the song to the scene, and the emotion invoked by this intensifying 51 seconds moved me to surrender to fear. Because justice was not served to the devil.

Probably one of my favorite soundtracks of all time. Here’s a composer who knows his way around an orchestra, and utilizes every instrument’s strength to create this treacherous, unforgettable score. Velázquez composed a soundtrack with so many well-executed orchestral techniques in horror. Masterful eeriness fused with dramatic flare. A score an M. Night movie deserves.

Chilling Bedtime Story

The story of Devil opens with narration, which is usually a turn off. Narration is often the lazy way of telling what can be shown. In this movie, the narration is a story given in pieces at precisely the right time. It’s a chilling opening: “When I was a child, my mother would tell me a story about how the Devil roams the Earth. Sometimes, she said, he would take human form so he could punish the damned on Earth before claiming their souls. The ones he chose would be gathered together and tortured as he hid amongst them, pretending to be one of them. I always believed my mother was telling me an old wives’ tale.” Cue Velázquez’s “Devil” track, and you’ve got one hell of a hook.

The narration continues throughout the movie as told by the guard Ramirez (above). Bits of this bedtime story his mother would tell him acting as little cliffhangers in the plotline. It sets the film in an unsettling mood the way a ghost story would; and honestly, I don’t know if the movie would have been complete without it.

Setting

A common fear amongst many is being stuck in an elevator that could potentially plunge us to our death. Not only are our five characters trapped in an elevator, suspended twenty floors up, but one by one they’re being murdered. The best part about this situation is the paradox that within this controlled
environment, the characters have absolutely no control whatsoever. The lights begin to flicker, and after the first attack, they know what it means, but they still have no way to prevent the inevitable when the lights go out. Without knowing who the killer is, without being able to see to fight, they’re defenseless.

And though our characters are stuck in an elevator, we as the audience are carried throughout the building through the perspectives of the detective, the security guards, and the maintenance guy, Dwight. We travel with Detective Bowden up to see where the suicide victim in the opening scene jumped, thus by religious standings inviting the devil into the building. We see Dwight in the elevator shaft. We watch the security guards observe the stalled elevator. The multiple points of view create a wholesome environment.

Real Terror

My favorite part of the movie is how realistic it is. Everyone knows realism amplifies our connection to stories. The closer it is to being real, the more likely it is to happen, the more we relate to it. Horror can be one of those genres that disconnect the audience from their fear if the antagonist or the setting or other details are too far-fetched. Religious horror is one of those genres especially because you’re suggesting ethereal beings still unverified by the majority. But Devil features only hints at the villain being the devil, and for only about two minutes of the entire film are we convinced by Ramirez’s religious teachings. The rest of the movie we’re following Bowden’s non-religious leads, and because of Bowden’s confidence, we’re certain for an hour that the killer is human with criminal motive.

The characters themselves are realistic as well. They’re people you would bump into on the street. Writing them as everyday anybodies develops a connection between us as ordinary people, which translates in our subconscious to: that could be us in that elevator. Chosen just as they were.

Chris Messina’s character (Bowden) impressed me the most. Detective Bowden’s composure and control of the crime scene is realistic. From this detective branches practical solutions to what’s occurring in the elevator. And despite Ramirez’s ranting about the devil being the suspect, Bowden remains sensible
in assuming it’s a flaw in humanity that’s killing the victims. Exactly what a real-world detective would do, and the complete opposite reaction of a Hollywood detective.

Back to setting, the building in which the elevator is stuck is an every day business building that people work and frequent. The elevator itself is relatable. Everyone has been in an elevator, so we can all connect to how claustrophobic the characters feel, and we can imagine their terror when being picked off one by one with no escape.

To be a little Christian here, what Ramirez preached about the devil was true too. The devil hides in his surroundings, often disguising himself as innocent. He also wants you to “doubt everything”, which is what Bowden does after his leads fall through. Realistic again, Mr. Shyamalan.

Twists

M. Night Shyamalan has a way about blindsiding us with twists, and this whole full circle with sin plot did just that. No spoilers, but Ramirez had it right telling Detective Bowden, “There’s a reason we’re the audience.”

I loved how quickly my sympathy for the characters diminished when Bowden uncovered their rapsheets. All of a sudden, I lost pity for the deceased, and I felt no fear for the next victim. Even though I’m a Christian who offers and seeks forgiveness often, M. Night’s writing subconsciously convinced me his characters deserved to meet the devil. All I felt was anticipation to find out who was next and how it would end. M. Night wrote that manipulation into my heart.

Scare Tactic

Blacking out a movie screen is a cheap shot in horror, in my opinion. Usually it feels like Hollywood’s pathetic way of scaring us with the dark, skipping out on cosmetic expenses and creativity.

But in this movie, the lights flickering out engaged our auditory sense. Hearing the glass breaking, skin squelching, blood gushing, feet banging against the elevator wall. It was terrifying.

The suspense of those few blacked out seconds was emotionally arousing. The most memorable of the deaths was the hanged victim. When the lights came back up after that one, Bowden and the guards recoiled in shock same as I did. It was a universal response of surprise, and I loved it.

Devil, Signs, and The Sixth Sense are still to this day my favorite M. Night Shyamalan movies. In that order.

Halloween

Released: 2018
Cast: Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak
Writer: John Carpenter, Debra Hill
Director: David Gordon Green
Music: Cody Carpenter, John Carpenter, Daniel A. Davis

Always been a huge fan of Michael Myers, so when this came out, of course I was in the theater highly anticipating a good horror film. Let me tell you, you don’t need to be a Michael Myers fan to enjoy this movie. If you’re into nail-biting, blanket-hugging tension and can stomach bloody violence, this movie will blow your mind!

The story itself exists as the sequel to the first Halloween in ’78, just forty years later. All the in-between versions (Curse of Michael Myers, Resurrection, the horrible Rob Zombie ones) don’t exist in this storyline. According to the 2018 movie, Michael only killed five people on Halloween in 1978, and has since been confined and studied at a penitentiary where the 2018 movie begins.


Hollywood horror has been fairly predictable, and never once have I been genuinely afraid during a slasher movie. Takes a lot to scare me, but scenes in this Halloween had me clutching my teenage niece for security. First scene that comes to mind is the penitentiary scene where all the patients riled upon the appearance of Michael’s mask. What an adrenaline-hyping scene. That volcanic tension of the dogs barking and the patients raving gave me goosebumps I’ll never forget.

From there, I sat wide-eyed and breathless in two specific scenes. The first being the backyard scene where the motion sensor light illuminated Michael standing ominously behind a tree. The light flashes off, Michael’s no longer by the tree but is closer, by the light itself. Just looming there. Silently stalking his unsuspecting victim, Oscar.

Right then, seeing Michael standing not but five feet away, that immediate spike in adrenaline kicked me into survival mode, and my heart raced in panic for Oscar. Such a classic horror film technique executed flawlessly, inducing all the right emotions of terror and danger.


The second time that happened in the movie was when Michael was put in the back of the squad car with Allyson, our protagonist. The whole time the doctor is dragging Michael to the car, I kept repeating, “No, no, no, no, no.” I knew Michael was going into that backseat with her, and that they’d be locked together. When it happened, I stopped breathing altogether because if you don’t breathe, Michael won’t know you’re there. I felt that as the audience. Imagine how Allyson felt!

Allyson rode down the street next to the infamous Michael Myers with his mask resting on the seat between them. Suddenly you hear that raspy breathing from behind Michael’s mask, Allyson realizes the mask is missing, and in its place Michael’s hand slides away from her. He’s now awake and ready to kill, and the raging maniac has been caged in the backseat of a patrol car.

That panic I felt when his hand moved where I expected the mask, seeing him sitting face-to-face with her, awake…that is what every villain should be made of. That fear of their existence. What an incredibly tense moment in cinema.


The final moment of that gritty tension was in the house when Laurie was hunting Michael. What a reverse of roles, by the way. Laurie was chasing the blood trail up the stairs, scanning rooms with her shotgun, sealing rooms once she guaranteed they were clear. The blood led to the last hall. The only room left. He’s in there, she knows he’s in there, we know he’s in there. That moment of hesitation when she’s in the hall debating whether to fall into his trap and then she proceeds…I felt right then like I had committed suicide. Stepping into that room, I knew I was no match for Michael. Laurie, though, that bad ass marched right in there. She scanned the room, followed the blood to the closet. Jump scare number one backfired, and therein I experienced that horrified panic of, “If he’s not there, where the hell is he then?”

The best part about these thrilling scenes was that they progressed to the climax. Lots of times a movie will open with an intense or thrilling scene to hook the audience, but then that thrill is difficult to top throughout the rest of the movie. Each kill scene in Halloween successfully added a layer onto the power of Michael’s rage in order to amplify our fear of him during the climax.

And when that climax finally arrived, we were fully prepared for Michael and Laurie to face off. We had an hour’s worth of film validating Michael’s merciless brutality. And here he is in the same room as his target. It comes down not to who’s the better shot, but who wants who dead more.

What an incredible scene, by the way. The hand-to-hand combat between Michael who has been driven for four decades to kill Laurie, and Laurie striking back at the shadow from her past that she can’t shed. The Halloween climax we’ve all been waiting for.


The reversal of Laurie’s and Michael’s roles was a cinematic win for this film. Those classic horror techniques of their history Laurie began to use. Laurie falling out a window and disappearing when Michael looked away and looked back; Laurie lurking across the street when the protagonist looks out the window in class; Laurie fighting with a knife; Laurie searching the bedroom closet for Michael. Nice touch.


All right, now that I’ve gotten all the excitement off my chest, let’s get nitty gritty.

The music in this film stayed true to the classic Halloween theme, but manipulated the theme to suit the scene. For instance, in the backyard scene when Allyson comes to the gate and Michael steps out, she sees him for the first time and an electric guitar wildly rips at that classic Michael Myers introduction.

It was the perfect execution of the song for that moment in the movie. The pounding piano theme wouldn’t have suited that sort of climax the way that shredding guitar did.

In the opening kill scene, the music was stripped leaving us with the raw sound of their deaths. The grunting and splashing of blood. Also the sprinkling sound of the teeth hitting the floor as Michael releases them from his palm. Fine details of sensory perception that create a very tangible moment for the audience.

The deaths in the movie were rather grizzly and difficult to watch. But we needed to be made uncomfortable with Michael’s methods. We needed the bashing of a man’s head, pools of blood, a strangled kid, a skull squished under his boot. We needed those deaths to be so dramatically stomach-churning firstly because it’s a trademark of Halloween and all 70’s horror film. Without it, the deaths would have been too “neat”. We also needed it for the final fight. For us to fully grasp Michael’s blood-thirsty desire to kill, and then his death-defying drive to specifically kill Laurie Strode.


Twists! Expect twists and lots of ’em. From small twists to surprising situations, this movie is packed with sharp curves. Just when you thought you had the characters pinned or when the plotline was becoming predictable…BAM! You’re wrong and you’re jaw is hanging between your feet.

https://static3.srcdn.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Halloween-Dr-Sartain-Dana-and-Aaron.jpg
“I wanna know what pleasure he gets from killing.” -Dr. Sartian (from the Hit and Run scene)
https://youtu.be/Je3Vjos0TlQ
“It’s not a cage, baby. It’s a trap.” -Karen

Those two specifically come to mind when I think twists in this movie. I won’t say more and spoil it for ya.


The reason I love Michael Myers so much is the reality behind his story. This could really happen. Serial killers are known to exhibit superhuman capabilities related to their desire to kill specific prey, and until that desire is fulfilled, their adrenaline to satisfy that fantasy causes an immunity to pain. Hence why Michael is able to be shot and stabbed and lit on fire. His purpose to kill Laurie conquers death.

This movie appealed to the realism in his character and his story. Even to the fine details. How did Michael get his mask when he escaped? Because it was brought by investigative journalists who thought the presence of the mask would provoke a psychological or emotional response in Michael. The mask was on scene for a reason other than cinematic convenience.

How did Michael get out of his white hospital suit and into the classic blue overalls? His first killing was at a gas-n-go with a mechanic on site. He took the suit from the mechanic, got his mask and became the Michael Myers we all fear. Realism is the scariest feature of a story, and it’s obvious in the successful execution of that device that the writers and directors wanted reality as a main ingredient in this film.

Michael’s mask took an upgrade, too. The wear on it made it appear aged in a way a human face would after four decades. It still looked like Michael Myers, but the state of the mask itself translated well to the age of the movie.

Even Laurie’s turn from victim into bad ass was realistic. As Dr. Sartian said, trauma can be handled in a variety of ways. Many convert their trauma into strength. Laurie built a fortress, got some gun training, drank her pain numb and conquered her fears to battle her forty year enemy, Michael Myers. And she handled herself very well during that fight scene. Compliments to Jamie Lee Curtis for looking ruggedly gorgeous the entire film. Absolutely beautiful woman who proves age really is just a number.

Directing-wise, there were some beautiful shots. In the “Halloween Homicide” scene where Michael kills his second victim in Haddonfield, the camera focuses in a front room window at a woman on a telephone. The camera remains motionless for two minutes while Michael enters the house. Practical environmental tools are used to capture Michael’s every move from the front porch to the back door where he sneaks in without the camera moving whatsoever.

In the first frame, we catch Michael’s chilling reflection in the window glass.

Then we watch Michael walk up the side of the house thanks to an outdoor light, and see his grandeur shadow cast up onto the side of the garage.

The victim approaches the camera, and we see past her where Michael enters the house and kills her. Such impressive directing and angling on that one!

My only tick is how fast Michael walked in the movie. Though I wasn’t expecting him to be so slow, I definitely didn’t anticipate him speed-walking after his victims. Especially not since according to chronology, Michael should be 61 years old in this movie. The fast-walking deviated from character and felt more like a lazy overlook than an increase in Michael’s fear factor.

As far as classics go, this movie exceeded the expectation for staying true. From the song to the costume to the character himself, John Carpenter preserved Michael Myers. By far,my favorite thriller movie. This one will be hard to top.

Halloween Kills is set to release October 16th, 2020. And Halloween is said to “end” on October 15th, 2021.

Special thanks to Fandango (Youtube) for the video clips from the movie!

John Wick 3: Parabellum

Released: 2019
Writer: Derek Kolstad (story and screenplay), Shay Hatten (screenplay), Chris Collins (screenplay)
Director: Chad Stahelski
Music: Tyler Bates, Joel J. Richard

The plot of this movie was not solely structured around the $14 million bounty on John Wick’s head. In the opening of the movie, we count down to the contract’s opening, all while John Wick races the clock to get his matters in order for his survival. Then the contract opens, and the thrill of anticipating John Wick fighting for his life is jumpstarted. Winston said it best: “And away we go”.

But to my surprise, the whole “on the run for his life” synopsis wasn’t the main plotline. Rather, an adjudicator (someone who studies and settles disputes) is sent from the High Table to assess the Continental, Winston, and John Wick for having broken the rules in John Wick 2.


Before we go anywhere with this movie, let’s start with the man who gave the character life: Mr. Keanu Reeves. This man has the sensational ability to step into a character and fulfill it beyond any writer’s dreams because Keanu doesn’t just play John Wick. No, no. A man who dedicates years out of his life to arms training, dieting, and relentless tactical training doesn’t just walk out onto set wearing a suit, holding a gun and calling himself John Wick. No. Keanu Reeves swaggers out onto that damn set with an AR-15 draped over his shoulder and a tactically-lined suit, and he owns his character. Keanu Reeves is John Wick.

If it weren’t for Keanu Reeves’ absolute dedication to exceeding the expectation for his roles in movies, we would have been delivered a half-assed assassin. But no. We were given the Baba Yaga of all badasses in cinema. All thanks to Mr. Keanu Reeves.

By the way, if you don’t already know (because I didn’t until I did my John Wick research when I fell in love with the first film), Keanu Reeves is an absolute gift to humanity. He is a humble gentleman, never too big of a movie star to clean up sets or help a stranger in need. Keanu Reeves is one of those people we feel unworthy of being around not because he’s famous, but because despite who he is praised for being in Hollywood, he still considers himself as average. So, if you don’t already love the man (bros and gals alike, man everybody loves Keanu), watch a couple videos of the guy outside of work. It’ll make you love John Wick even more, oddly.


My overall review of this movie goes like this: it took me all night to wind down from being throttled by the non-stop action and new editions to this movie. In fact, I was so amped up that I went back to work on our craziest night of the week to channel my energy into something constructive. And I bragged all night about the movie. My co-workers probably hated me!

Rarely does a sequel to a movie satisfy the way the original did. John Wick 2 conquered that cliché, and then we were delivered John Wick 3 which accomplished the impossible: not only satisfying its audience, but making us crave more.

As far as I can recall, if I ever wanted a movie to come after the second or third in an installment, it’s because I was hoping the 4th movie would correct all the wrongs or fulfill all that was neglected in the first three. John Wick isn’t like that. I’m eagerly awaiting John Wick Chapter 4 not because of any lack of entertainment or any flaw in the first three movies; I’m anticipating the fourth movie because I’m hyped to see what Wick comes at them with next.


John Wick 3 introduces some new faces, and some of Wick’s old acquaintances.

The Adjudicator, played by Asia Kate Dillon, identifies herself as the protagonist without saying a word or firing a shot. In her introductory scene, when she slides that coin across the counter to Charon at the Continental, we hear our conscience whisper, “Here comes trouble”. What a powerful character introduction. With that cock walk, those pursed lips and that authoritative demeanor, the Adjudicator is checking in for business.

After establishing herself as the enemy, the adjudicator hires the leader of a clan of assassins that act like ninjas (minus the outfits). Zero (Mark Decascos) is eager to take out John Wick, and later reveals comically that he’s a huge fan of Mr. Wick’s, as are members of his clan. In a film filled to the brim with action, Zero is our well-received comic relief.

John Wick isn’t alone, of course. He picks up help along the way from legendary beauty Halle Berry who plays Sofia, a member of management in Casablanca.

Let me say that I was reluctant to welcome a female lead on board the movie at the stage it was entering with Parabellum. My apprehension had nothing to do with Halle Berry and everything to do with Hollywood cinema. Often in movies that feature an attractive female lead, their character is sacrificed for the actress’ good looks. A film as tough and gritty and fast-paced as John Wick deserved a hot female ally who could keep up with him while maintaining the best qualities of the franchise.

Halle Berry did not disappoint. In fact, Halle Berry went hardcore in what’s called “John Wick” level training. Adapting to a new diet, dedicating almost an entire year of her life to tactical choreography, canine training, and arms training, Halle transformed herself into the badass Sofia, former-assassin and current manager of a hotel in Casablanca.

Let me just list all the things I loved about Sofia:

  • Sofia’s costume did not sexualize her. To play into her John Wick styled character, she needed a wardrobe that represented the “tactical” theme of the movie. I was impressed to see the focus withdrawn from her physicality and target her skill because, damn she deserved the credit for sacrificing almost an entire year of her life to training for Sofia.
  • Realistically, a female character that leads with looks alone would not be able to survive the world in which John Wick works. But when we lay eyes on Sofia, especially entering the “Escaping Casablanca” fight scene, we’re given the impression that she’s just as qualified as John for the blood and pain of the assassin business.

Halle Berry carried a presence of power with her as Sofia. A woman fueled by merciless loathing with a backstory begging for sympathy. Her character was a great addition.

While we’re here, let’s talk about Sofia’s fight in the “Escaping Casablanca” scene. I loved how realistic the choreography was. Sofia took down gunmen in the movie the same way a trained woman could in real life. None of it was strings and props. It was real stunts, real action, and Halle nailed it.

The dogs were something quite extraordinary. Just to hear them in the background barking and growling induced subconscious fear in us. That somewhere, these attack dogs were prowling for the enemy. Then Sofia would get into a situation, call out for the dogs, and here they come snarling and tackling gunmen, gnawing and neutralizing the threat.

The whole scene with Sofia being on John Wick’s level would have been badass as a stand alone. But add the attack dogs and you’ve created an almighty fight scene that set new standards.

On to the score…

Music in movies is as essential as casting and directing. I pay very close attention to the way I’m emotionally manipulated by music during a movie.

Executing a film score is in knowing what to play and when to play it. The choice to leave the fight scenes silent in this film amplified the action. Hearing the grunts, the shing of the swords, the throttle of the bikes, the thunks of knives, the satisfying sound of glass shattering when a body is thrown through it. All of those raw sounds brought us into the fight whereas music can often create a boundary that makes us realize we’re viewing instead of experiencing. Because our sensory was triggered in the silence of these fight scenes, we were there for every squelch and punch and gunshot. We lived John Wick 3.


The only fight scene that had music, I believe, was the “Final Battle” scene at the Continental. The music wasn’t House/Electro which suited the setting of John Wick 2, it was classical which suited the elegance of the hotel itself. Again, another perfect music selection.

We had some music entering the bridge scene, but when the fighting started, the music cut so we could experience those sounds.

So, my expectations of the film were exceeded. The film expanded beyond just John Wick. It allowed us an in-depth exploration of his past, and presented many opportunities for spin-offs in the future.

My only critiques would have to be the minor, minor details like John slapping the helmets or killing Ernest with a book. The fights in the movie are so realistic that these details seemed out of place to me. To place a book against a man’s face and slap it, and for that impact to actually hurt Ernest didn’t seem to fit the realistic style of other fights. And in the “Final Battle” scene, if their armor was bulletproof, why did they react like being punched in the helmet actually hurt? Overlooking those minor flaws because they’re basically irrelevant, John Wick 3: Parabellum is a must-see, must-own, must-watch-on-repeat film.

Fun facts:

  • “Parabellum” means “prepare for war”.
  • This film brought in over $326 million in worldwide box office rollouts, ranking number 24 on the 2019 Box Office hits.
  • Mention of a spinoff called “Ballerina”, directed by Len Wiseman, will feature the story of a female assassin seeking revenge on those who killed her family
  • The Continental, the television show, started filming this year (2019), and will appear on the Starz network soon, featuring eight episodes its first season.

John Wick Chapter 4 has an announced release date of May 21, 2021…I know where I’ll be. Will you join me?

Elektra

Released: 2005
Writer: Mark Steven Johnson
Director: Rob Bowman
Music: Christophe Beck

We’re going way back because this film is worth talking about, even approaching 2020.

Jennifer Garner is effortlessly sexy in all red as the assassin-turned-guardian, Elektra.


https://newmovieposters.blogspot.com/2012/05/jennifer-garner-elektra-movie-stills.html

Bad ass and beautiful is something Hollywood has emphasized in strong female leads since the beginning of time. But often the female character leads more with looks or tries too hard to be tough, and it leaves me unbalanced as a viewer. Jennifer Garner satisfied this craving of mine both with graceful strength and simplistic, flawless beauty. The confidence that danced in her eyes was unforgettable, and intimidating. Her introduction scene was a silent assassination of a dozen or so guards as she worked her way to her target. Only a true bad ass can induce outright fear with stealth.

https://youtu.be/A3WWrwBRH_w

In my opinion, the more powerful the villain, the greater the hero. Elektra faced the Hand, a collection of comic book antagonists with unique powers. Tattoo, a man whose ink comes alive; Stone, an indestructible giant; Typhoid, a poisonous goddess; Kinkou, a knife marksmen; all lead by Kirigi, a ghost.

Kinkou, Typhoid, Kirigi, Stone, Tattoo.

A successful line-up of villains perfectly suiting the “legend” of Elektra’s character, and the supernatural essence of the entire storyline.


My favorite part about the villains was the music. Christophe Beck nailed the score for this movie! Still my favorite music score of all time.

In Elektra’s introduction, a soft, mysterious theme to match her stealth drummed out to a solid, deep chord to empower her hitting her mark. Incredible mastery with music.

“DeMarco’s End”

You might not know how much music affects your interpretation of a character or a scene, or even the finest detail of a film, but it does subconsciously. More than anything I’ve resented in film is when a score doesn’t make villains sound villainous. I’m a writer, and I can’t imagine my demons walking on screen and hearing no sinister music to match the evil I’ve created. Christophe Beck does the antagonists justice with Elektra’s score.

“The Hand”

A perfectly dark and simple, tribal even, theme dominates the screen as we’re introduced to the Hand. One by one they flow into the room, and with Beck’s deep bass and trickling synthe, the characters are evolved from “bad guys” to evil incarnate. Because of Beck’s music, we’re informed immediately that these are the guys you don’t want to mess with. We knew nothing about their powers, we weren’t even informed they were antagonists until “The Hand” theme played. It was an instinctive, subconscious reaction of fear. That’s the power of music composed effectively.


A chill-inducing moment of the movie was when Abby’s power was revealed.

No spoilers here, but that girl packs a bad ass temper and utilized it with discipline. Her reveal was executed at the perfect moment of the movie, sending chills up my spine and flushing my skin with goosebumps.

https://www.hotflick.net/pictures/big/005ELK_Kirsten_Prout_013.html


I have to criticize the movie is the lack of action scenes. When Elektra stays at the lakehouse, we’re set up for like fifteen minutes of standstill. My kids almost quit the film on me during this. If I weren’t a writer invested in stories, I might have dipped out too. But the lakehouse was imperative to Elektra’s character development (which is an essential part to
every written work).

When you set up killer villains against a legendary hero like Elektra, I expect to see a lot of one-on-one combat. I think it’s only fair, if you include a band of villains each with a particular power that you grant them the screen time to use that power against the heroine in a dramatic fight. This movie did just that, but it left me a little dissatisfied in their quick endings. Granted, a quick ending to an antagonist means a skilled protagonist, but still.


Practically-minded folk who critique film for physics errors and minor details can find many in this one. If you’re anything like me, however, you don’t watch movies to correlate directly with the world you know. You watch as an escape from reality into a world where (like in this movie), a hot superhero chick with sai knives can save us from bad guys whose tattoos come alive and whose mere presence can kill. The best part of movie-making is the theatrical dramatization of characters and events. Elektra’s hair whipping around when we first lay eyes on her. The floating sheets in Kirigi’s fight near the end of the movie. Those moments take what is so ordinary to us and amplify our emotions about them, creating an unrealistic (duh) but memorable moment in the movie. If movies applied physics, the sword fights would all be the same. What’s to separate this one from the one that happened in the Matrix? Well, the ghostly sheets of course.

The only details that bugged me were:

  • In Elektra’s opening scene how the knife’s size expanded when killing DeMarco, but then the knife is less than a foot long the rest of the movie.
  • The details of McCabe’s introduction: why did he arm himself when approaching Elektra who’s not a foe? And why does a supernatural assassin like Elektra care about scrubbing for DNA when her hair was free the whole fight? Seemed like an unnecessary error that could have been avoided had Elektra met up with McCabe under other circumstances.
  • The movie is set at Christmastime which is revealed about twenty minutes in, and has no affect on the story whatsoever; it seemed out of place.
  • Stone’s character: Being indestructible and strong seems like a cheat when it comes to creativity, especially when compared to Tattoo or Typhoid.
  • Flashbacks: Two of them would have been sufficient in establishing Elektra’s mother’s death and the killer.

Despite these minor details, the movie was a must-buy for me this year. I couldn’t live without the supernatural enemies, and the bad ass visual representation of my only favored female superhero.