Vampires and Aliens (TV reviews)

Van Helsing

Van Helsing (Season One) Kind of SPOILERS

After a volcanic eruption permanently dims daylight vampires, long hidden in shadows, emerge and devastate and enslave humankind. 3 years pass and the world is dealing with a vampire apocalypse where humans are either food, slaves or rebels. But all hope is not lost as a mysterious women who has been unconscious since the world went to hell, wakes up and promptly becomes the most wanted woman of the apocalypse; wanted by the vampires anyway. Who could she possibly be…think about the title of the show.

I wasn’t sold on this show at first but it did grow on me. I like apocalyptic tales, I like vampires, so after given it a couple of episodes I got over some of the mild cheesy stuff and just enjoyed it for the gory, sometimes unnerving story that unfolds. I believe Season 1 finished in December so it’s a bit of a wait to see what happens after the dramatic ending. Highly recommend checking it out on Netflix.

Colony

Colony (Season One) Minor SPOILERS

And now for something completely different – an alien apocalypse. Colony begins in Los Angeles 6 months after the arrival of an alien species. The details are sparse and bits and pieces of what occurred filter through the season but basically humans are now the aliens bitches. Why…not sure yet but they apparently have a purpose that is yet to be revealed.

During the first episode I felt a bit lost not really knowing what was happening but eventually I caught up. Like Van Helsing, the humans are either slaves, willing minions doing the monsters bidding or rebels. While watching this show I kept thinking about Fear the Walking Dead. There is something very similar to it and not just because Sarah Wayne Collins from The Walking Dead is in Colony. What I liked is that the invasion and devastation is still fresh and society is adapting to the new world under the rule of beings that the average person hasn’t actually seen but fears. All and all quite enjoyable and another show I suggest to check out on Netflix which has Season 1. Season 2 just started airing on TV a couple of weeks ago.

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Penny Dreadful (Pilot)

 

Episode 101

After much anticipation, the new gothic horror show from Showtime Penny Dreadful premiers tonight.  Technically the pilot has been available for the past week or so on demand but the nation wide debut is tonight.

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The Players: Josh Hartnett (Ethan Chandler); Eva Green (Vanessa Ives); Timothy Dalton (Sir Malcolm); Harry Treadaway (Dr. Victor Frankenstein)

Episode 101

First Impressions:  The first episode has proven to be quite the introduction to a cast of characters from literature who have been meshed wonderfully with a new set characters to battle the forces of evil in the streets of Victorian London.  The show starts out bloody with a gruesome murder and rolls along introducing us to the main players Ethan Chandler, Vanessa Ives and Sir Malcolm as the trio come together under mysterious circumstances. We follow them through the opium dens of London to the lair of a monster and the crude butcheresque mortuary where a certain Doctor is working on his greatest experiment.  The first episode of Penny Dreadful is quite good and I look forward to seeing more and more of the gothic goodness.

hans-holbein

 

Spring Entertainment Sweep

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We are about a month into Spring 2014, my birthday has just passed and so has my lazy week off from work.  So what does Spring sweep mean…what I’ve been watching, playing, reading and writing.  Here’s the sweep.

Watching

Hannibal S2

Hannibal (S.2) – With an explosive first episode, this season is continuing to develop the characters and the relationship, as sick and twisted as it might be, between Will and Hannibal.  Just as good as the first season but it’s up in the air as to whether it will continue for another.  We all know how the story goes but can we get another season or two from it?  I certainly hope so.

Black Sails

 

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Billy Bones

Black Sails (S.1) – I’m all about the pirates right now and I highly enjoyed the first season of this pirate tale.  True, there was not a lot of sailing on the sea but it offered great characters, a fluid story line, a couple surprising turns and no shortage of muscled, sun slicked pirates.  If you’re into that sort of thing.

JustifiedSeason5

Justified (S.5) – As much as I love Justified, I’m not surprised the last season will be airing next year.  Season 5 brought in a new group for Raylan to face off with and brought him down to the level of an ordinary man having to deal with the consequences of his less than lawful past actions.  Good stuff as always.

vikings-season-2

Vikings (S.2) – This season has certainly moved things along and posed some of Ragnar’s biggest challenges as he deals with obvious threats and those that are being schemed behind his back but how much of what occurs does Ragnar really know about?

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Game of Thrones (S.4) – What can you say about this season so far?  Hurray! Oh no! What? Who is that guy again?  Wait, is that a different actor?  Ohh…dragons.  There was a white walker, guess we won’t see them again until next season.  All kidding aside, the show remains strong in all aspects.  If only I could get through the first 100 pages of the book…

BItten

Bitten (S.1) – I was skeptical about this show.  The lead actress didn’t impress upon me (by looks alone) a strong kick ass, only female werewolf type like in the book however as the show progressed, I started to really enjoy it and Laura Vandervoort is quite good as Elena Michaels.

Orphan-Black-season-2

Orphan Black (S.2) – I did like the first season of this show but I didn’t love it.  Now that the second season has started, I’m enjoying it more.  The introduction is done and now the show is more about digging into the story behind how Sarah and the others came to be.

The-Originals

The Originals (S1): The Vampire Diaries spin-off, this show is more mature as the characters aren’t in high school and there is plenty of supernatural deviousness. Werewolves, vampires, witches and New Orléans.  Good stuff.

Upcoming: The Musketeers (Pilot April 27), Penny Dreadful (Pilot has aired, review coming soon), In The Flesh (S.2 May 15), True Blood (Final Season June 22), The Strain (July 19), The Killing (Final Season on Netflix August 1)

Playing 

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ESO – So far an enjoyable MMO.  I’m not overly familiar with The Elder Scrolls but I am enjoying this game even though I haven’t played much.

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Assassin’s Creed IV – Did I mention I’m all about the pirates right now.  I don’t know why I haven’t been playing this more since I got it at Christmas.  Loving it!

Reading

Stolen - Kelley Armstrong

 

 

amvampv3_2

 

Writing

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A Good Soldier: Still working on this book.  I haven’t posted the next chapter but I did finish chapter 17 and 18.  Just a matter of editing.  Then to continue Louis’ tale.

Vampire-and-Butterfly

 

Red Morning (Working title): Yet another idea for a vampire tale.  I have so many of these ideas but I have such a hard time actually writing a vampire story.  This time I will just do it.  Stay tuned for a new adventure.

hans-holbein-

The Hamiltons (2006)

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The Gist: Orphaned siblings are trying to put their lives back together and act like a normal family in suburbia after the death of their parents but their frequent relocations have sinister undertones.  Francis, the younger member of The Hamiltons, struggles with his family’s dark secrets while fighting his own battle between right and wrong and the deadly instinct that is starting to manifest from within.  The need to feed.

Family of Fiends: Cory Knauf (Francis Hamilton), Samuel Child (David Hamilton), Joseph McKelheer (Wendell Hamilton), Mackenzie Firgens (Darlene Hamilton)

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My Take: I decided to watch this after hearing about a movie called The Thompsons, which is the sequel to The Hamiltons.  This movie has some good things and some not so good things. The production has a low-budget feel and appearance and I admit that I almost turned it off after the first 10 minutes because of the low quality.  This is punctuated by some of the acting feeling over exaggerated and the dialogue, at points, being cringe worthy.

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I did, however, find the basis for the story interesting.  The family is dealing with the responsibilities of adulthood after their parent’s death and learning to provide for themselves in all things.  As Francis documents his family for a school project, the truth of those responsibilities is revealed as we watch the twins, Wendell and Darlene, go to town on her friend and leave her a bloody mess in a bathtub.  Francis is torn between his family of killers and his true nature and doing the right and moral thing- turning them all into the police.  His struggle is intensified as he befriends a girl that Wendell has locked in the cellar to feed to Lenny and as he tries to fight his deadly true nature.  We don’t actually get to see Lenny or find out the dark details of what the family is and how the siblings became what they are, until near the end.

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Final Thoughts: So, what did I think of this movie?  The premise and way the story is told, through the confused and suffering Francis, is what I liked about this flick.  What I didn’t like was the poor production which is emphasized by some bad acting and absurd dialogue.  Yes, I know movies don’t always have the funds for higher quality filming but it still bugs me.  I decided to give The Hamiltons a try because I plan to watch The Thompsons but I wouldn’t recommend it unless you don’t mind low-budget horror and hey, who doesn’t like low-budget horror flicks.

hans-holbein

Who Defanged the Vampire???

So there I was, sitting in my first ever creative writing fiction class, roll call was done and the instructor says “we’re going to go around the room, introduce ourselves and share our favourite authors and/or books.”  Bloody hell…quick on the spot, do you go English lit major and say Austen or Woolf or do you go for the weird, counter-culture Hunter S. Thompson, William Burroughts, Kafka or do you go for honesty and say Scott Sigler, Stephen King, Poppy Z. Brite & Anne Rice.  Pondering the dilemma of looking a certain way to 20 strangers, an 18-year-old pipes up and says that following the latest trends, she likes Anne Rice.  Uh-huh…trends…Anne Rice…naturally the mind leaps to what trends she is really referring to… Twilight.  Now if I say Anne Rice I might get pigeon holed into that group of shallow, swooning teenagers who think vampires are all about being pretty, tortured and romantic.  I say it anyway, Anne Rice with a quick follow-up of Byron for good measure to show my poetic and Gothic interests.  I don’t say it but these two writers are my biggest influences and them, along with Stephen King and Poppy Z. Brite, have inspired me to write.  I may not be a good writer but thanks to writers like them, I continue on, getting my demons and voices in my head out in the world.  Back to the Vamps.
Vampires….not so long ago the word probably would have brought images of Anne Rice’s Lestat or Bram Stoker’s Dracula to mind but today what do we have – Twilight.  What the happy hell is so great about this teen targeted bodice ripper of a story?  Could you make vampires anymore cliché and mainstream by putting them in high school of all places and what the hell is this I hear about them glittering in the sun?!  Even Corey Haim circa “The Lost Boys” could have kicked a glittering, lovesick vamp’s ass.  I watched Twilight for free on Movie Central and I still think it’s lame.  High school and immortality?  Defiantly a horror theme.  But I decided to give it a try, to make a judgement based on what I saw not just what I had heard.  It was just not good and puts shame on the vampire genre.  I can’t get over vampires choosing to blend in by going to high school and being surrounded by their food, falling in love with their food and trying to be normal but still hiding their true nature.  Sun and sparkles…makes me want to cry or scream out in angry disbelief.
Maybe I’m just old school and don’t think that a vampire should be a teenager of model proportions in high school. That being said, the vampire genre is ripe with swooning, romance and explicit sex (think about being intimate with a corpse for a moment….gross!!!  Would you f**k a zombie?) making these once feared, mythical creatures idolized and adored because of their sex appeal, not because they are fierce and powerful.  I do have to contradict myself because Dracula is a love story in its own way but the story is beautiful and tragic and doesn’t put the vampire as the boy who saves the lonely sad girl from her teenage angst.  One of my personal favourites for the literary vampire comes from the duo John Skipp & Craig Spector who put out a handful of graphic, brutal and raw horror novels in the ’80’s with their vampire contributions being Fright Night, yes like the great movie (I haven’t read the book because I can’t find a copy) and The Light At The End.  Violent, bloody, spats of sexual deviance (not for the faint of heart) and descriptions of good old fashion ’80’s clothes and culture-radical.  The truly grand marvel of vampire fiction that didn’t hit the mainstream like Anne Rice’s novels, would have to be Tom Holland’s “The Vampyre” or “Lord Of The Dead”.  What if Lord Byron, the rock star of the Romantic Poets, was a vampire?  The novel is intriguing and exceptionally well written, even though I am bias when it comes to all things Lord Byron, this is a very well written and articulated vampire novel.

The category of vampires is massive and spreads across so many different sub genres and media types, it would take a lot of time to fully explore this cultural phenomenon.  It ranges from primal, gritty and ugly to the pretty, sexy and romantic.  There is a little bit of something for everyone when it comes to the fang gang.

As someone who has loved the genre for over 20 years, read numerous books and stories of fiction and non-fiction, seen so many good and many more bad movies and would like to write my own magnum opus vamp filled novel, I feel that trends like Twilight take away the credibility of truly interesting and scary tales of vampires.  The popularity of Twilight adds an extra challenge to some of those writing a vampire novel to overcome the hurdle of teen romance which the genre is becoming more and more associated with; that and paranormal romance.  I cringe at those two words being coupled.   The real tragedy is that other books and films that deal with vampires might be overlooked by a cynical old bat like myself because of the assumption that it is just another Twilight.  If you want to see a good vampire movie with two young people, one human and one not connecting, see the Swedish flick “Let The Right One In”.  It is quiet and slower moving then most vamp flicks; there are no models in it but it is shot beautifully in the snowy Swedish landscape with 2 young and wonderfully talented actors.  Truly a unique and lovely movie.  The original Swedish movie is wonderful but I would avoid the American remake.  It was unnecessary and not even close to being on par with the original.  The book that spawned the film is very dark and very disturbing and again a novel not really for the faint of heart.

That’s my rant….ashes to ashes and dust to dust…