Thursday, June 30, 2011

Movie Review: Dark Wolf

 According to IMDB,  $2,500,000 was spent making this thing.  What a freaking waste.

 The premise has some promise.  It is a modern day werewolf story with its own mythology.  The film opens on a modern city, were something is running through the streets at night.  We end up at a strip-club where several attractive, topless women are plying their craft when suddenly the front door bursts right off the hinges and a big biker dude runs in followed by three cops.  After a bit of chaos, the biker dude is subdued and arrested, but not before he glares at his captors through eyes that glow a crimson red.   

 I thought when I saw Stephen Williams in the film that their might be some hope, but no, he dies in the very next scene.  The biker dude is tossed into a paddy wagon.  The entire truck starts to shake, and the prisoner, transformed into one of the cheesiest werewolves in movie history, rips through the steel wall between the back of the truck and the cab, killing the driver and Williams.  Then, a cartoonish CGI wolf bursts out the back of the wagon and makes a break for it.  Williams, who I think I saw credited as "Token", was the only black character making an appearance in the entire film.

 After the escape, the studly young white detective takes the rookie female officer back to the station and explains to her that he and his now deceased partner are the city's special unit for handling werewolves.  Werewolves and humans have co-existed for centuries, but the pure-breed werewolves are at war with human-werewolf hybrids.  The hybrids are more dangerous and more inclined toward dominating humanity.  The hot young rookie, having trouble believing what her new partner is saying despite seeing the beast rip out of a police truck first hand, decides to aide him in his hunt anyway.  They go to a local diner to meet with a werewolf contact on the streets.

 At the diner works Josie, who, unbeknownst to her, is the latest Matriarch of the pure-breed werewolves.  A homeless woman in the alley behind the diner is her protector, and comes from a line of protectors that have been around for centuries.  The young detective, Steve Turley, seeks the protector, Mary, for the word on what is going on.  Mary explains to the detective that she is guarding the Matriarch, and that the werewolf he is hunting is the "Dark Wolf", a super-werewolf that can only be killed with silver through the eye.  The "Dark Wolf's" mission in life is to mate with the Matriarch, thus ending the pure-breed line and dominating all werewolves, with humanity next on the agenda.  Mary explains that the Matriarch must go through her initial change, then must read an old grimoire which explains what it is to be a werewolf.  To make things even more complicated, whom ever the Matriarch touches will be marked by her, and the Dark Wolf will scent the mark and kill whoever has it.

 The female officer, McGowan, accidentally bumps into Josie in the bathroom.  While McGowan is doing her hair, the Dark Wolf attacks her through the window and takes a chunk out of her throat.  Turley goes to investigate, during which time the Dark Wolf attacks Mary, mortally wounding her.  Back in the alley, Mary tells Turley with her dieing breath that Josie is the Matriarch, and that he must protect her.  Turley grabs Josie while her friend and boyfriend protest and they take off.  Josie's friend, Stacey, finds the book and leaves with Josie's boyfriend to go to Stacey's photographer boyfriend's house.

 Turley does his best to explain what is going on to Josie, who has been experiencing mild transformations (like the glowing eyes) and having werewolf hallucinations, so she is not altogether surprised by the revelation. In Turley's bathroom, Josie rips off her blouse (she does this several times throughout the film, yet the blouse is miraculously in wearable condition) and she begins to wolf-out.  Turley finds her in his tub, hands all clawed and hairy, but she reverts to human form and puts on her top before her breasts are exposed to the camera.
 Meanwhile, McGowan is in the hospital and it appears that she will recover.  Unfortunately, the Dark Wolf is hiding in the shadows of what in the real-world would have been a well-lit hospital room.  He rips McGowan apart, the leaves.

 Turley tells Josie a series of awful werewolf jokes, which despite being terrible are the highlight of the script.  He then gets a call informing him that McGowan is dead.  Turley and Josie go to the hospital, and Turley finds McGowans tattered  remains in a room being guarded by an officer... but with no other police activity.  Turley then remembers Mary telling him that anyone Josie touched would be a target for the Dark Wolf, and Josie explains that she touched her friend, Stacey.  They leave for Stacey's boyfriend's place.

 Stacey's boyfriend is taking pictures of a topless model when Stacey and Josie's boyfriend arrive.  Miguel, the effeminate make-up artist, finds the werewolf book in Stacey's belongings, and after reviewing the illustrations has and idea to put Stacey and the model in full-body make-up and shoot them on the roof in the full moon light.  More boobage and some girl-on-girl action ensues, while Josie's boyfriend gets himself locked-out of the building in the alley and ends up the Dark Wolf's next mangled victim.  After the hot shoot, Stacey's boyfriend goes to develop the film in his darkroom, the girls go looking for Josie's boyfriend, and Miguel goes to take a shit.  

 There is a knock at the door, Miguel pinches it off and wipes, then goes to answer it.  At the door is biker-dude, completely nude (because werewolves who transform from wolf to human find clothes inconvenient) except for his bandana (which makes no sense).  Biker dude, looking for Josie, proceeds to toss Miguel around like a rag-doll, then wolfs-out to finish him off.  The girls find Stacey's boyfriend in the darkroom, and when the three get back to the studio-apartment, they find the place trashed, Miguel dead, and the Dark Wolf attacks, killing the extraneous female actress.  Stacey and her boyfriend make a break for the alley and end up trapped in a warehouse elevator.

 Turley and Josie arrive at Stacey's boyfriend's, and find the mess and the book.  Josie does a ridiculously low-budget CGI transformation into a different nude actress with werewolf make-up, and chases Turley around the room until he figures out the she must be placed in the full-moon light to recover from her transformation.

 As an aside, this film spent most of its money on Stephen Williams, low-end CGI, and paying about a dozen young women to be topless or nearly completely nude for extended periods of time.  Yet, their lead female, Samaire Armstrong, is not even topless once in this film.  There is always one actress in these films not willing to be nude on camera, and it is a distraction.  Armstrong's acting did not help this film one iota.  They should have found someone willing to be nude in a role that frequently left the lead female completely naked or in shredded clothing.  Because I find this kind of thing irritating, her is her brief nude images from It's a Boy Thing.

Stacey calls Josie at her boyfriend's home phone, and tells Turley where they are.  They decide to meet Turley and Josie at the warehouse, making a break for their car.  Stacey and her boyfriend make it to the car, but not before the Dark Wolf attacks the vehicle while Turley struggles to start the car again.

 Question: if the plan was to pull the car up, have these two kids jump in the back-seat, and then haul ass, why did the police officer and experienced werewolf-hunter decide to shut-off the engine?

 They race off to the police station were Turley order the three into a bomb-shelter in the basement of the building, but instead of doing the smart-thing, Josie decides to make her stand.  "No one else will die because of me", she swears to Turley and her friends.

 The Dark Wolf attacks the station and proceeds to kill every cop on duty.  

 When the Dark Wolf finally gets Josie, after both she and Turley spend several minutes staring down the beast over the end of their silver-bullet firing pistols without taking a shot, he decides to take his time with ravishing her.  After all, I suppose, it has been rush-rush-rush all night long tracking her down and killing people... this is quality time!  This gives Turley enough time to toss Josie a pistol, and for Josie to finally put a silver-bullet in the Dark Wolf's eye, apparently killing it.  

 The next day, Turley and Josie say their good-byes... its standard police procedure to allow key-witnesses leave town after a maniac racks-up a huge body count trying to get laid.  The film closes on the human corpse of the Dark Wolf, who's other eye opens and glows a crimson red.

 The gratuitous T'n'A is the only redeeming aspect of this film.  The acting is over-done, the characters are all shallow, the special effects are second or even third rate... Honestly, I bought this film because it was a 4 for $10 special and they had nothing else that I either did not already have or that interested me.  You might be tempted to watch this film for the boobage, but you will be better served with internet porn.

Movie Review: Angel of the Night

 This film caught my eye because it is "presented by" FANGORIA, the most well-known publication in and about the horror-film industry.  Vampire films have been disappointing as of late (Twilight, anyone?) and have typically focused on the romanticism of the modern vampire icon rather than the horror of an immoral and viscous predator.  I think the last good vampire flic I watched was John Carpenter's Vampires, though I do have several great vampire films in my collection.

 Angel of the Night is a Danish film first released in 1998, but has the grittiness of a film from the early 1980's or even late 1970's.  It is dubbed into English, but the dubbing is done well enough as to not be too distracting.  I assume that because of the dubbing, the US version has some credits digitally inserted into the introduction.  The film opens with a close up of a pewter amulet of a bat dangling from a necklace.  It then moves to a woman looking up at the camera from below who screams when she sees what the viewer is encouraged to assume is a vampire attacking her.

 Not the most original opening for a vampire flic.  And, while the film isn't terrible, the rest of the film comes off as a collaboration of films and stories we are all already familiar with.

 Rebecca inherits her grandmother's estate, and she is going to the property with her husband-to-be, Mads, and their party-friend, Charlotte.  Along with the estate is a book, information about her grandmother's "Association for the Protection of Vampires", and a house full of antique and modern luxuries.  The film is held together by the main characters reading from the grandmother's book, a journal about the history of a vampire, Rico, who Rebecca is apparently descended from. 

 This allows the film to use a technique that I particularly enjoy when it is executed well.  The film is actually a series of vignettes, separate mini-stories within the over-all story-arch. 

 The first story tells how Richard, a married Priest and father of a young daughter, is sent by his church-elder along with the mayor of his town and a third man to hunt and kill a vampire who is preying on the local women.  The setting is Denmark in the 17 or 1800's.  They find the vampire and destroy it using a special, ceremonial stake, but not before the mayor and the third man are killed and the Priest himself is turned into a vampire.

 Not only is the white, blonde, dutch Priest turned into a blood-thirsty creature of the night, but a dark-haired Spanish one at that.  The Vampire Monster was a cheesy latex-beast complete with stereotypical monster laugh.

 We return to Rebecca and her friends, who begin exploring her grandmother's home.  They find a crypt in the basement.  Mad and Charlotte are itching to go out and party, although they are taking Rebecca's obsession a bit more seriously.

 The next story is set in more modern times, and is about Tim and his street-crew.  Tim and his friends are leather-jacket wearing thugs who have become vampire hunter's when the girls at the local strip-club begin to go missing.  Tim and his gang hunt down Richard, who now goes by "Rico", by working their way through his vampire minions.  They manage to defeat Rico's minions, but as each of them have been bitten become vampires themselves and minions of the master.

 Rebecca and her friends find the ceremonial stake originally used by Richard and a scroll in the crypt with the "7 Forgotten Names" which must be read to revive the fallen Rico.  They also find the skeleton of a giant-bat thing.  Mad gets frustrated with Rebecca's insistence on continuing to explore the crypt and he and Charlotte go upstairs with the book.  Mad and Charlotte call for a cab to go out to the clubs, and while they wait continue to read the book while relaxing in an upstairs bedroom.

 The next story is about a woman named Maria who is pregnant and happily engaged.  She has been having strange dreams, memories of the night she was raped by the vampire Rico.  Every 100 years, Rico must impregnate a "special" woman and then drink the blood of his own child to remain immortal.  When Rico's minions, including Tim's crew from the previous story, find out the Maria wants to abort the child, they take steps to stop her.  A Peruvian priest has visions about Maria and the danger she is in and flies to Denmark to protect her.  Rico and his minions kill the priest and Maria's fiance, but she foils Rico's plans by spitting holy water in his face then drinking the holy water to cause a spontaneous abortion of the half-vampire in her womb.  Rico, upon seeing the blood dripping through her pants from between her legs instantly turns into a giant-bat skeleton and falls.

 Down in the crypt, Rebecca seems to become possessed by an urge to read the scroll, which before she couldn't translate.  She reads the 7 forgotten names; Brujah, Toreador, Ventrue, Malakvian, Tremere, Nosferatu, and Gangrel, and uses her blood drawn from the ceremonial stake to wake Rico.  These are the 7 clans of the "Camarilla", a vampire-political group from the role-playing game Vampire: the Masquerade.  V:TM was an obvious influence on this film, although it may have been more correct to replace "Tremere" with "Salubri", which was the original blood-line before the Tremere usurpation.  When Rico rises, Rebecca snaps out of her trance and takes cover in one of the crypts.  Rico, now a giant-bat, tries in vain to get to Rebecca, then flies off when he hears music from the upstairs bedroom.

Upstairs, Mad, having forgotten his engagement to Rebecca, is having sex with Charlotte.  Since she is on-top, she has the unfortunate luck of being attacked by the giant-bat.  While she is struggling and being fed-on by Rico, Mad takes cover behind a dresser and is joined by Rebecca.  They attack Rico, trying to save Charlotte, and manage to wound him with the ceremonial stake Rico originally used to kill the vampire that turned him.  Both Rebecca and Mad are thrown out the second-story window, and the wounded and weakened Rico flies off into the night.  Rebecca recovers, finds the stake, and goes off alone to find Rico.  When she does, he tries to seduce her, but this only allows her in close enough to stake the vampire through the heart.  The vampire Rico is dragged into hell by blackened hands coming out of the earth, while the soul of Richard the priest ascends into heaven with his angelic wife.

 Rebecca rejoins Mad, who has recovered from his fall.  The cab he called arrives, and he and Rebecca, bloodied but alive, climb in.  Mad is already over his affair with Charlotte, and doesn't mention it.  The cabby is oblivious to the shabby state of the couple, and as they drive off they look back at the house and see the silhouette of Charlotte, now a vampire, who they decide to simply abandon.

 Any one of the vignettes could have been developed into a proper and interesting vampire film, but instead we have a story that is lacking and at times ridiculous.  The writer and director, Shakey Gonzales, has gone on to create a number of other low-budget horror films, which are apparently stronger offerings than this.  I consider this film a kind of prelude to the Underworld franchise, which is also heavily influenced by the V:TM games though vastly superior.

 The settings were well done, although it is clear that they crew had limited access to the mansion and grounds they were shooting in.  The special effects left something to be desired, and the film might have been better sticking with the vampire make-up and dumping the bat-monsters.  There are two nude scenes; a stripper at the club during Tim's vignette and Maria being "raped" by the vampire (she doesn't put up a fight and seems to be enjoying it, but because she was in a trance, it is considered "rape"... if I had a dollar for every time I read about a woman using the "I wasn't coherent enough to agree" excuse for being sexually irresponsible...).  Where there should have been a third nude scene, Charlotte fucking Mad, there was no nudity.

 Now tell me, ladies, how often do you have sex and not take your bra off?  This always irks me in films; guys want to see nipples and if they are fucking a woman they are going to take steps to unleash the boobage.  Women, I have been told, don't find bras to be the most comfortable garment around, and they know that nude breasts stimulate and titillate (pun intended) their partners.  In other words, if you're having sex, the nipple will make an appearance.  Not doing that in a film robs the scene of some much needed realism.

 Leaving Charlotte behind as a vampire also seems a bit irresponsible.  You killed one vampire and ended his centuries-old reign of terror, only to have another vampire take up were he left off?  Also, if you were Charlotte, who would be in positions 1 and 2 on your list of victims considering the shabby way you were used?  Yes, clearly Charlotte was a slut, but then her "friends" Rebecca and especially Mad aren't much better.

 The best line in the movie is Richard the priest, facing the vampire monster, saying, "As God's Emissary, pay for what you've done!" after which the vampire promptly takes a bite out of his neck.  Being God's Emissary apparently doesn't count for much.

 Over-all, I say if you have something else to watch, watch that rather than this film.  It has its moments, but you're not missing anything by missing this.