Vampires

Underworld: Blood Wars

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The vampire death dealer, Selene, is at it again. After the vampire coven that was her home betrayed her she is out on her own. Her only solace is knowing that her daughter is somewhere safe and hidden away from the vampires that would use her blood for their own gain. When a new Lycan leader arises who is determined to find Selene’s daughter she is forced to go back to those who sought to destroy her.

This is the fifth Underworld film of the franchise, including the prequel. I loved the first film, the second film was entertaining as well as the prequel. Once we got to the fourth film things drastically went downhill. It was so dreadful that I completely blocked it from my memory and didn’t remember most of the events when I went into the fifth film. Because of how much I disliked the fourth film, I entered Blood Wars with low expectations.

For the most part the plot of this film held my interest. The Underworld films tend to have a lot of political intrigue, especially within the vampire covens, and this installment was no different. We are introduced to a new leader in the vampire covens, Semira, who is bloodthirsty for power. The twists and turns surrounding her and her desire to become invincible were quite intriguing. There was also a new Lycan leader known as Marius. We are told early on that he is different than previous Lycan leaders, but we do not immediately learn why. It adds a layer of mystery to the plot. The biggest down side to the plot is there are far too many flashbacks in the film. It felt like a third of the film consisted of scenes from the previous movies. Despite this, the filmmakers still added some fun new material. While I wouldn’t say this is an Oscar worthy story, it was enough to make me pay attention.

As with any Underworld film there were a lot of amazing action scenes in Blood Wars. This film was released in 2D and 3D, and I would recommend seeing it in 3D specifically for the fight scenes. I’m not sure if it was just that it had been a while since I watched this franchise, but I felt that this film was much more graphically violent than its predecessors. There is a possibility the filmmakers chose to have more gore to make the 3D more interesting, as they utilized it to emphasize some of the more interesting kills in the film.

Unfortunately, while the 3D made some scenes more interesting, it did not help with the unfortunate CGI. The earlier Underworld films were known for their practical effects and unique creature design. Blood Wars not only over used CGI, but the design they chose for the werewolf, Marius, is downright laughable. They gave him a different look than the other werewolves and it was so ridiculous that it ruined any fight scene his character was in. Overall the effects felt poorly done and ruined a movie heavily laden with CGI. The only effects in the film that were somewhat well done were for the wounds during the more graphic kills.

Underworld: Blood Wars consisted of a number of talented actors. Kate Beckinsale reprised her role as the beautiful and lethal Selene. It blows my mind that she has been playing this role for 14 years and can still kick some ass while wearing a vinyl body suit. Theo James (Divergent) also returned as the vampire, David. David will do anything to help Selene after she saved his life. I’ve never thought of James as an exceptional actor, but I did enjoy his performance in this film. The two main newcomers to this installment were Lara Pulver (True Blood) and Tobias Menzies (Outlander). Pulver plays the cunning Semira. Her performance was one of the more entertaining ones simply because she made her character look like she truly enjoyed being evil and devious. Menzies portrayed the werewolf leader, Marius. In general I am a fan of Menzies, and I know he can play truly vile villains. Sadly his performance in this film made his character seem more like a petulant child than a menacing leader.

If you see Underworld: Blood Wars in theaters, be sure to see it in 3D. It makes what would otherwise be a CGI action film nightmare into something at least somewhat more entertaining. Although I will say you aren’t missing too much if you decide to wait until the film hits Redbox. The action is fun, the plot has a lot of twists and turns, but in reality this installment is only marginally better than the fourth film. The filmmakers are clearly going to make a sixth film. After the last two films I wish they wouldn’t, but I will likely still see the next one when it is released in theaters.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10

What We Do in the Shadows

A group of four vampires live in a house together in New Zealand. They decide to let a documentary film crew follow them around to film their daily lives. Many centuries ago these were masterful, terrifying vampires that could do whatever they wanted. Now they live like your typical roommates having to pay rent, divide chores, and try to pick up girls in clubs. As the crew follows this odd group, you begin to realize they are some of the most ridiculous vampires you have ever seen. It isn’t until a new roommate gets added into the mix that this group finally steps up their vampire game.

This is a great film to show someone who isn’t necessarily interested in the horror genre. It is horror, comedy, and mocumentary all rolled into one. That being said, it is very light on the horror, but it’s definitely not light on the humor! This film delivered on the laughs constantly and in ways that I did not expect. They did a great job of creating a very simple story about a group of bachelor roommates with incredibly boring lives, but making it hilarious by making the characters ancient vampires. The vampire Viago (Taika Waititi) was especially hilarious. He acted as the narrator of the film, introducing us to all the characters and how they all live their undead lives.

All of the main actors did a tremendous job. What made the performances so enjoyable was the subtlety of them. Most of the humor tends to be on the sarcastic side, or a character will say something that is clearly the opposite of reality (although that character will definitely think it’s the truth). While I believe the standout performance was definitely Waititi, Jemaine Clement (Vladislav) and Jonny Brugh (Deacon) were truly funny as well. This is the kind of film where even the actors that had smaller, two-line roles were able to stand out and do or say something so simple that still made you crack up.

Another great aspect of the film was the special effects. There were not many special effects, but the ones that were added to the film were perfect. What made them so perfect is that they were delightfully cheesy. The two main types of effects were fake blood spewing from the vampires’ victims and what I assume was string to make the vampires appear to fly/hover. Both of these effects looked so ridiculous, but in the best way possible because it added to the cheesy feel of the film. There was also an amazing scene where two vampires are seemingly battling on the floor, the walls, and the ceiling. I would guess that this scene was filmed on a set where they are able to spin the room so it appears to us that they are sideways and upside down when they are actually right-side up the entire time. However they achieved this scene, it was hilarious and very fun to watch.

As I said before, this is a movie I would definitely suggest horror fans share with their friends or family that may be weary of horror films. It is not scary at all, it is so amusing, and it perfectly fuses comical scenarios with creatures typically associated with scary movies. Of course, it is great to watch with people who genuinely enjoy horror as well. This genre bender has aspects that will appeal to practically any viewer. I would have to say that this is one of my favorite comedies so far of 2015.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10