I’ve talked about The Monster Channel a few times. It was a fun streaming service with lots of cheesy movies, mostly with horror hosts. As of Nov 1, it became a subscription service as part of ROKTV. I signed up and have taken it for a month long test drive….and I’m very disappointed. The movies are just as cheesy and mostly the same ones they used to show. But the horror hosts are gone. How many times can I watch Attack of the Giant Leeches? Quite a few, actually. But only if each viewing has a good host doing goofy segments between scenes.
I haven’t found much else worthwhile on roktv and there doesn’t seem to be any customer service. With all the other streaming services available, we can all do better. Maybe roktv will improve over time but it sure isn’t worth the cost right now.
I’ve been thinking about what rules, if any, I should have for this website. I know it’s my website and I can do anything I want. Yet I feel like I should set some restrictions on myself. For instance, My review page only reviews books with vampires. The vampires don’t have to be the primary characters but they have to be in there somewhere. I read books with werewolves, witches, golems and politicians but unless they contain a vampire, I don’t review them.
I’ve also decided as a matter of fairness that I should only review books that I’ve recently read. It’s not fair to review a book ten years later. That’s why I reread Bram Stoker’s Dracula before reviewing it. That’s why you don’t find some vampire books on the Review Page. For instance, it’s been a few years since I read Twilight and I don’t have an official review. (Just between you and me, I liked it well enough to finish it but not well enough to read any sequels.)
I’ve been thinking about this lately because of a few books pushing my boundaries. I recently read a vampire anthology and realized I’ve never reviewed an anthology. It’s really hard to do. I’ve never read an anthology in which every story was good or bad. The only fair way to do it is to review each story individually and that’s sounds positively exhausting. So I’ve taken the lazy way out and not reviewed any anthologies.
I’m currently reading a book that’s in the YA (Young Adult) category. It’s not the first YA vampire book I’ve read and reviewed. But is it really fair for me to review them? It’s been many years since I was young and I still aspire to be an adult. Should I review these books as the grizzled old geezer I am or try to review them as I imagine a teen would react? I don’t know. It’s tough enough pretending to be myself without trying to pretend to be someone else.
I’m still watching Dracula on NBC. It seems to be turning into a Victorian (or maybe Edwardian, I’m too lazy to look it up) soap opera with Dracula as part of an ensemble rather than the main character. We still don’t know if he’s a good guy or bad guy. Nor do we know if his enemies are good guys or bad guys. That might be the point of the show. For now, enough interesting stuff is happening to keep me watching.
I can’t say the same for Dracula’s lead in, Grimm. That show is off to a really bad start. They took a thin story and stretched it into 3 episodes stretched across 2 seasons. And nothing interesting happened in any of them. This show might be out of gas. I’ll give it a little longer but it’s on notice.
Back here and here (among others) I wrote about The Monster Channel. They recently changed their business model. They’re now part of a subscription service called roktv. I plan to subscribe and review the new service. Look for my review in a few weeks.
Anyone trying to create a series with Dracula as a protagonist has some issues to deal with. What’s the setting: Medieval, Victorian or contemporary? NBC chose Victorian. Then there’s the related question, how closely to adhere to Stoker? This show seems to use a lot of names from the book but very little else. That’s OK. I really like the idea of Jonathon Harker as a journalist and Mina as a medical student. Lots of potential there.
But the biggest issue to deal with is how to have an ongoing series with an evil protagonist. You can focus on the people fighting Dracula like Stoker did. That worked pretty well for Marv Wolfman when he wrote the classic comic book series “Tomb of Dracula”. Or you can try to make Dracula a sympathetic character. It’s too soon to be sure which approach NBC is trying although it might be a little of both.
In any case, I was pleasantly surprised by the pilot episode. It had some interesting characters and situations. I wasn’t thrilled with some of the casting but I really liked Nonso Anozie as Renfield and Victoria Smurfit as Lady Jane. This show is going to be a tough balancing act for the writers but so far, I’m encouraged.
I don’t know why I didn’t watch this show when it ran on CBS in the late ’80s. The premise is a vampire police detective who only works the night shift. Nick Knight is centuries old and filled with regret over all the people he’s killed. Now he’s trying to atone by helping people and acting human.
Sounds kinda like the premise of Angel, right? So why wasn’t this show as interesting as Angel (which isn’t one of my favorite shows either)? First, Forever Knight was more police procedural than supernatural thriller. It followed in the footsteps of “quirky” detectives like Kojak and Baretta where the police department puts up with their quirkiness because they get results. In this case, the detective’s quirk is that he’s a vampire. But in many episodes, that was incidental to solving the crime. Otoh, each episode included a flashback to a historical incident where the vampire pops up, Zelig like, at famous moments and learns a lesson. The flashbacks were often more interesting than the main story lines.
So where did this series fail? Sure, the writing was flat and uninspired. The acting was often mediocre. The stunts were generally laughable. But ultimately, a show like this depends on the charisma of the lead actor. Geraint Wyn Davies simply couldn’t hold your attention like David Boreanaz. Often the supporting characters seemed more interesting. It makes me wonder if the show wouldn’t have been better with Rick Springfield (who was in the pilot which I haven’t seen). All I know is that this show may have laid some groundwork for better shows to come but it doesn’t hold up today.
These are Russian movies (with subtitles) that seem to get a lot right. The story is about a centuries old rivalry between forces of Light (Nightwatch) and Darkness (Daywatch). The two kinds of Others coexist by following the rules of the treaty that ended the last war. Will the uneasy peace survive a killing, a birth, a prophecy and a possible apocalypse?
There are vampires in these movies but they aren’t traditional vampires and this isn’t a traditional vampire movie. But that’s OK. The story is strong, the acting is solid, the suspense is real and the director has a wonderful and innovative visual style.
Daywatch is the sequel to Nightwatch. Unfortunately, the story is driven by the search for “The chalk of fate”, possibly the silliest McGuffin in the history of cinema. Still, both movies should be on your viewing list. If you’re an aspiring director, watch them repeatedly.
First, a disclaimer. I’m not a viewer of Vampire Diaries. I watched the pilot and decided not to continue. This isn’t to say I thought it bad, just not for me. So I came to The Originals without any preconceptions.
First, let’s list the stuff I liked. New Orleans is a good (but not original) setting for vampires and witches. I liked that the original vampires are medieval peasants instead of Vlad Tepes, Lilith or a Sumerian prince. Let’s see, what else did I like….Oh, the actresses are all attractive. Hmmmm, I guess that’s about it.
OK, what didn’t I like. The vampire origin story was really weak. Half the characters are annoying. The story seemed like it was from a paint-by-numbers box. And do we really need both witches and werewolves right off the bat? Aren’t there any interesting vampire stories to tell?
And yet, I’ll give it another week or two. If the series can just show me something, anything interesting I’ll give it more time. What did you think?
More schlock from Amazon’s Instant Video:
Blood Red Moon – This is the 1st Twilight movie if it had been done by a high school drama club with the budget of the chess club.
Zoltan: Hound of Dracula – This is a fairly routine vampire flick except that the vampire is a dog. Does that make the movie scarier, funnier or in any way more interesting? Not really. The first ten minutes are pretty good. The rest…not so much.
Dracula’s Last Rites – A small town mortician, doctor and sheriff are vampires and use the funeral home as a way to get free blood. They try to stake their victims before they can rise again with fangs. But when one of the bodies from the funeral home disappears…well, actually not much happens. BTW, Dracula doesn’t really appear in this movie nor does anyone get last rites. No truth in advertising.
The Shiver of Vampires – This movie has plenty of nudity and sex and still isn’t very interesting. It’s an artsy French film that’s more funny than scary, thrilling or thought provoking.
This is the way to make a very low budget vampire film. You don’t need famous actors, impressive special effects, realistic sets or professional stunts. You really just need an interesting story worth telling. Good writing doesn’t have to be expensive.
The basic setup: evil vampire trying to rule humanity, a governmental organization that fights the vampires, a Captain Ahab ruthlessly running the organization of vampire hunters and a former vampire hunter who gets turned into a vampire but continues to fight them. That may not sound too original but it’s the characterization that really makes the script. Nobody has to act like an idiot to drive the action. These seem like real people facing moral dilemmas in an unreal situation. The movie should either be upgraded or downgraded due to the lack of gratuitous nudity…your call. There are some nice twists in the story. I genuinely wanted to keep watching to see what would happen next.
I’m not saying this movie is Citizen Kane. That’s because Citizen Kane is overrated while this movie is not. But there aren’t many low budget vampire movies any better than this.
There have been many adaptations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Some of them claim to be faithful adaptations of the novel, but really aren’t. This one is. Alucard is the result of filming Dracula scene by scene and sometimes word by word. It’s as if the director handed out copies of the novel to the actors and cameramen and told them, “this is the script”. And now we know why it’s a bad idea to faithfully film a novel. Dracula is long and boring in parts. Parts of the book just aren’t very cinematic. Who wants to see a movie consisting entirely of journals, letters and news reports?
But there’s another oddity about Alucard. It’s faithful to the novel except given a contemporary setting. So when Jonathon Harker travels to Transylvania, it’s by bus. When he’s trapped in Dracula’s castle, he makes entries into his journal on a laptop computer. His entries are in Victorian English taken directly from the novel but they’re word processed. Characters have archaic speech and sexual attitudes even as they communicate by cellphone. It’s a jarring effect, much like adaptations of Shakespeare given a contemporary setting without changing the language.
Bottom line? Alucard doesn’t really work as traditional entertainment. It’s just too slow and boring. The acting varied from good to awful (David Harscheid was great as Dr. Van Helsing). The effects were laughable. (IMDB says the budget was $1500. Can that really be true?) But I found Alucard fascinating as filmmaking. The exercise of fidelity to the novel while shifting the setting was enough to keep my interest for the full 2.5 hours. If you like your vampire movies fast-paced, action-packed and cool, stay away from Alucard. But if you go for quirky films, films like nothing you’ve ever seen, you have to see this one.