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Entries in vampires (60)


Women's Pictures - Ana Lily Amirpour's A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

Let's be honest: as of 2014, the vampire sucked. Over its 150+ year history, the vampire has evolved from the exotic, erotic monster of Le Fanu's Carmilla and Stoker's Dracula, to Lugosi's low budget lothario, to the dangerously sexy rebels of The Lost Boys, to the brooding romantics of Anne Rice and Joss Whedon, to the defanged teenage fantasies of American preteen girls.While I don't begrudge girls their sexual fantasies, the fact remains that the vampire, in its current glittery form, is a far cry from the symbol of sexuality and otherness that it had been at its inception. With notable exceptions like Thirst and Let the Right One In, vampires have spent the last 30 years getting weaker, whiter, more often male, and very American. With A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, Iranian American writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour is here to change all that.

It's difficult to define A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night as just one movie: it's a vampire flick, a spaghetti western, a love story, a feminist fantasy, and an allegory about Iran. The plot is fairly simple to describe: a young man named Arash (Arash Marandi) living in a corrupt city in Iran (known only as Bad City) falls in love with The Girl (Sheila Vand), a streetwalking vampire who preys on drugdealers and beggars. But don't dismiss this as a weak narrative film.


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Q&A: Sexy Vampires & Dolled-Up Monsters

For this week's Q&A we asked for questions that would get us in the Halloween spirit. So let's talk sexual vampires, scary monsters, queer horror, and unsettling auteurs.

Let's jump right in to nine creepy spooky occasionally queer questions, shall we? 

Ryan T: What are your favorite vampire performances onscreen, film and TV?

The glut of bad vampire movies over the past couple of decades may have killed my former passion for bloodsuckers but nothing can kill the love of great acting so this must be answered. With due respect to the Lugosis, Schrecks and Lees who pioneered, let's fast forward to contemporary-ish cinema and television after the jump...

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Women's Pictures: Kathryn Bigelow's Near Dark

Welcome, guys and ghouls, to our special October edition of Anne Marie's "Women's Pictures!"

 This month, rather than focusing on 5 films by 1 female director, we will be watching 5 films by 5 female directors with 1 thing in common: horror. Because what's the one thing scarier than working in a boy's club industry? I reached out on social media to ask the internet what it wanted to see, and got an overwhelming response for these five films. Going chronologically, the first film on our list is a vampire flick by beloved Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow.

In true 80s Bigelow fashion, Near Dark is a grim action thriller; part Western, part gang movie, part family drama, with enough explosions and gruesome special effects that you might miss the moralistic AIDS allegory underneath. Whenever the mainstream heaps praise on Kathryn Bigelow, their focus is usually on the fact that Bigelow does not work in "women's genres," which is to say films with "feminine" themes or plot lines. However, beneath the edgy synth soundtrack, the sex, violence, and hair gel, Near Dark is a surprisingly conservative film about the redemptive power of family. More...

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Women's Pictures - Amy Heckerling's Vamps

How does it feel to be a relic in the new millenium? No shade intended towards Amy Heckerling. Her most recent film was obsessed with just that question. In Vamps, Heckerling attempted to take a bite (sorry) out of youth culture using 2012's movie monster of the moment, the vampire. But in her latest foray into social satire, the genre-defining writer/director who gave a voice to two generations of teens seemed drained (sorry) of the empathy that had made her previous work enjoyable. To put it bluntly: Vamps sucks.*

*If you dislike puns, don't B negative. They only get worse from here.

For a film about youth, Vamps has a surprising number of well-preserved throwbacks. Alicia Silverstone stars as Goody, a 300 year old vampire. She's joined by a colorful-though-pale cast including Sigourney Weaver, Wallace Shawn, Malcolm MacDowell, Richard Lewis, Marilu Henner and Krysten Ritter, who plays Goody's sister vampire, Stacy. Goody's hundreds of years of un-life as a 20-something have given her pesrpective on the fashions and follies of humanity, though she thinks the latest generation's slang and smartphones are a pain in the neck (sorry). Stacy, who was turned in the 1980s, acts as Goody's ambassador to modern youth culture, at least until Stacy falls for a human (Dan Stevens) in her night film class at NYU. Stacy's relationship, and the return of a past beau, suddenly makes Goody's world a bloody (sorry) mess. More...

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A.I. 'Buffybot'

Some say it's better than the real thing.”

With those words we are introduced to Buffybot, a robotic replica of everyone’s favorite Pointy-wielding, banter-spewing blond vampire slayer... 

Manuel continuing our Artificial Intelligence theme week.

Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer remains one of the best examples of how to use superpowers, monsters and villains as generative metaphors for such varied things as puberty, high school, sexual assault and the systemic misogyny that pervades our contemporary world. This latter issue is at the center of “Intervention” the 18th episode of Buffy’s fifth (and I’d argue best!) season. [more]

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Screener Adventures from American Snipers to British Painters (Pt. 2)

Previously... I shared brief thoughts about rewatches of Big Hero, Grand Budapest, Babadook well as The Homesman and Skeleton Twins.

What came next in the home-screening adventures, you ask? Here I am to answer. I haven't had as much time as I'd hope (aint that always the case) but I've been trying to cram movies in. Here are a handful of notes on movies from the screener stack.

Credit where credit is due: For once a Clint Eastwood movie is not filmed like its sinking into an inky black void where color is a total affront to sober intent. It turns out Tom Stern can make movies that take place in reasonably well lit places. Okay, okay, let's not get carried away. It's still largely colorless but this time there is daylight though the subject matter remains brutal. I'm not sure what to make of its dead-eyed killings which aren't filmed with any rah-rah glee that you'd think would accompany the movie's conservative America is #1 conservatism. Even its one note patriotism is presented rather than, I think, fully endorsed: Chris Kyle, very well played by Bradley Cooper though there isn't much in the way of an arc, memorably refuses to engage with any criticism and is all "God, Family, & Country" in each scene. But something about its very matter-of-fact presentation and inarticulate hero wore me down after awhile despite gripping action sequences. I have no idea how Oscar might respond but my hunch is it's either full hog or both sound nominations only a la Lone Survivor

Meryl's Insane Bankability Continues! Well done, diva.INTO THE WOODS
Reviewed by ranking its musical numbers here. It was the second time I'd seen it having watched it on a big screen originally. Weirdly I think the cinematography, which often looked too muddy and dark on the screen works a little better on a TV. But anyway...  let's hear it for Disney for a great opening weekend. It's important that musicals do well so that we get more of them! Into the Woods won not only the biggest opening weekend ever for a Broadway adaptation but the biggest of Meryl Streep's career, as well. I imagine we'll continue to talk about Into the Woods for a while --  multiple Oscar nominations coming -- so I'll let this be all for this post.

I already peed on that here but it keeps haunting me like bad trip flashbacks. Especially the dye job on Vera Farmiga who deserves better Hollywood, come on. Also that scene where RDJ is like superhero-lawyer and stops a bar fight with the power of his wily words!

A love letter from Tangiers & Detroit to all of you who recommended this movie throughout the year. Though I was once the type who would rush to anything vampiric, I'll readily admit that Hollywood's overuse of the bloodsuckers finally wore me out; I've been avoiding all such movies for years now. But I should have trusted Jim Jarmusch to come at it from an entirely different angle and I don't know how I missed that it was shot by Yorick Le Saux who won my silver medal for cinematography in 2010 for I Am Love. Detroit has never looked so beautifully haunted, Tilda and Tom couldn't have been a more exotically languid well-cultured pair, its slow moods weren't trying but contemplative, and the ending was pitch-perfect delayed gratification.

Excusez moi

A surprise. If you only listen to this movie as opposed to watching it (which is what I sometimes do when The Boyfriend is watching TV) it sounds rather like a horror movie. I'm not kidding. There are a lot of scary animalistic noises supposedly emanating from human people (not just Spall's famed grunt speak) and the score by Gary Yershon might be the creepiest outside of Under the Skin this year.  

P.S. Speaking of The Boyfriend...
This time of year chez moi he watches a ton of screeners since he doesn't go to many critics screenings with me. I usually don't watch carefully (having already seen them) and drift in and out as I'm working. He is unpredictable about movies. He loved Pride and Ida (as most sane people do), thought Mr Turner was "good. well made" but clearly had no passion for it. Cried huge apartment-flooding puddles during Still Alice and Wild, and inexplicably H-A-T-E-D both Force Majeure and A Most Violent Year (what the what??? x 2). Finally, he was paying so little attention to Love is Strange that I had to make him shut it off. That wonderful movie from Ira Sachs is too delicate for half-watching. It requires your full attention or that glorious final 15 minutes just won't resonate. 

Have you ever learned something new about a movie you loved by catching only pieces of it or hearing it in the background?


Team FYC: "Only Lovers Left Alive" for Hair & Makeup

Editor's Note: We're featuring individually chosen FYC's for various longshots in the Oscar race. We'll never repeat a film or a category so we hope you enjoy the variety of picks. And if you're lucky enough to be an AMPAS, HFPA, or Critics Group voter, take note! Here's Tim on Only Lovers Left Alive.

From Gary Oldman’s transformation into a desiccated gargoyle, to a 7-year-old wearing plastic fangs, vampires have long been an inspiration for disguising human beings as immortal bloodsuckers. And with Only Lovers Left Alive, the hair and makeup designer Gerd Zeiss has made a terrific addition to the annals of the cinematic undead.

Director Jim Jarmusch’s vision for the film was more about characters detached from time than horror, and so the vampires played by Tilda Swinton,Tom Hiddleston, Mia Wasikowsa, and John Hurt haven’t been designed to look like animate corpses, so much as people who are very, very tired, and very, very old. Swinton’s pallid flesh and stringy, wild straw-colored hair are maybe the most immediately impressive work of design, instantly communicating the idea of decades and centuries spent in the dark and isolated from the world, a feeling that she is herself starting to fade away. It doesn’t necessarily communicate illness or decay, so much as a kind of thinness and used-up energy.

Tilda is the film’s showiest vampire, but all of them suggest the same principles of fatigue and being removed from the entire history of human fashion, out of some combination of disinterest and being out-of-sync with the times. Hiddleston’s lanky, unwashed hair does that one way; Hurt’s craggy, sallow face does it another, particularly later in the film, as he grows increasingly worn-out and weak even by this film’s standards. And Wasikowska stands in contrast to them, with overly bright, scrubbed flesh that speaks to her character’s far different priorities and interests, even before the plot starts to make those differences manifest.

In its sole important human character, played by Anton Yelchin, the film even finds space for a wannabe vampire poser, though he isn’t aware that’s what he’s doing. But the calculated sloppiness of his hair and his unfortunately scruffy face illustrates the mind of someone who wants to project an image to the world, even as Hiddleston and Swinton suggest those who no longer care in the slightest what other people think of their appearance.

Of fancy prosthetics and architecturally elaborate up-dos, there are none, But Only Lovers Left Alive gets far more mileage out of the small details of its character makeup than most movies relying on enormously fanciful monsters ever could hope to. It draws us steadily and invisibly into the characters’ history and worldview and mood, using their appearance to suggest their backstories in ways that would be clumsy and obvious put into dialogue. It’s an essential reason that the film is one of the deepest and emotionally involving vampire movies of recent years.

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