Category: Vampires

The Parasol Protectorate Prevails

A Review In Which I Utterly Fail To Express How Truly Awesome This Novel Is
SOULLESS by Gail Carriger
SOULLESS by Gail Carriger

I have on occasion expressed my fascination with the Victorian era and works of steampunk before. Furthermore, my predilection for tales of all things undead is renowned. So you can imagine my delight when I heard about a new novel that blended these two great tastes together. That novel is SOULLESS by Gail Carriger and I have to say it does not disappoint.
 
Not only does Ms. Carriger bring to life a believable Victorian landscape populated by vampires, werewolves, and ghosts (oh my!) but it is witty, funny, action-packed, romantic, and sexy. I could probably toss in more adjectives like dramatic, suspenseful, and glamorous, but I don’t want to over do it, even though those are still wholly accurate.
 
Without spoiling too much, the story begins when Miss Alexia Tarabotti, a spinster of Italian heritage, finds herself quite rudely accosted by a vampire of questionable breeding while she was attending a soiree. Honestly, she was only looking for something to eat, and apparently she wasn’t the only one. Not only was the unexpected vampire quite uncouth (how dare he attack her when they hadn’t even been properly introduced), but he was unaware of Alexia’s preternatural ability to negate the supernatural, thus rendering said vampire, um, how shall I say it, impotent? Yes, that’ll do.
 
After she dispatches her attacker with her trusty parasol and hair stakes, agents of Queen Victoria’s Bureau of Unnatural Registry arrive to investigate. BUR agents Lord Connall Maccon and Professor Randolph Lyall, who happen to be werewolves of high social standing, are well aware of her abilities and her frustrating habit of getting into trouble. Thus begins the mystery she finds herself in, which only gets more intricate and interesting as it progesses.
 
Along the way we meet her mother and step-family, her best friend Ivy Hisselpenny, the flamboyant vampire Lord Akeldama, and a cast of other incredible characters. The story also has the standard accoutrements associated with steampunk, like dirigibles, steam engines, multi-purpose goggles/spectacles, and diabolical machines built for nefarious scientific experiments. These are not merely scattered throughout as fashionable props, but are expertly woven into an exciting tale.
 
I will definitely not spoil the ending, but I found it to be a satisfying conclusion to a fantasic first look at the life of an extraordinary woman. I am eagerly awaiting the next two books in the trilogy, both of which arrive this year. CHANGELESS hits shelves on March 30, 2010. (I’ve already pre-ordered it.) The third book, BLAMELESS, is due in September.
 
I cannot recommend this book highly enough! 10 out of 10! You can find the paperback in bookstores everywhere, and I was also very happy to see it is available in different eBook formats. I really wish there was an audio book version, especially with the production quality that J. Daniel Sawyer’s ArtisticWhispers Productions presented with the first chapter as a podcast teaser. You should definitely give it a listen, and like me, I think you’ll immediately be hooked.

The Vampire Diaries is[ CONTENT OVERRIDE: KILROY2.0 IS HERE!!! ]

It almost feels like I should join Vampires Anonymous. “Hi, my name is Dan. I’m 37, I’m a dad, and I absolutely love the CW’s ‘Vampire Diaries.” Maybe I have an addiction, but at least
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and it just has a lot going for it. I for one am glad for more vamps on TV, especially a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I don’t think I could fit this into a “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Joss” segment.

But it isn’t just that this fills the void left by “True Blood”. It has a tight story, which varies from its source material, sure, but in my mind, it’s for the better. TV’s Elena is just an awesome young woman and I can see there’s plenty of drama still in store with Stefan and Damon. If you haven’t tuned in because of “Vampire Overload”, take a deep breath, and give this show a try.

Pride, Prejudice, and… Polidori?

After my recent post about steampunk vampires, I started pondering other literary places that vampires have not been and yet should.

A stroll through your local bookstore has probably caused you to cross paths with an new book, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith. The book which was released in April 2009, is a parody of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that is interwoven with tales of a zombie outbreak.

Frankly, I think many people might shy away from this book because of the gimmick. Others might be die-hard Austen fans and feel this is an offensive vandalism, or at best, a tasteless joke. Still others might be fans of the horror genre but not of 19th century literature, especially a romance. I echoed some of these sentiments at first, but then realized it is those very reasons that compelled me to go ahead and give it a listen. I can’t give a proper review of the book yet, as I have only just recently begun listening to the Audible audiobook version. However, I can say I enjoy what I have heard so far, despite my initial misgivings.

Furthermore, there might be those afraid of the abuse of a public domain classic, whether they be fans or not, and fear this gimmick might catch on. This got me pondering about Jane Austen’s works and whether the recent vampire resurgence could form a perfect storm for some new penny dreadfuls.

It seems to me, and I can’t be the first to make this observation, Jane Austen’s infamous Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, would make an interesting vampire. Further it doesn’t take much convincing that he could be compared, at least superficially, to John Polidori’s vampyre antagonist, Lord Ruthven. Apparently I’m not alone. A quick Googling unearthed FOUR upcoming novels that have cross-bred Jane Austen and vampires like a tinkerer in a fresh grave. Two of which portray Mr. Darcy as a vampire. The other two suggest that Jane Austen herself was a vampire.

Up first, is Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, by Amanda Grange, available August 11th, 2009. This novel is intended to be a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. After the marriage of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet, Lizzie discovers the dark secrets that Mr. Darcy has been keeping from her.
Here’s a link to a brief review and preview excerpt from the novel.

Later in the year, on December 1, 2009, we’ll have Darcy’s Hunger: A Vampire Retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, by Regina Jeffers. As the title suggests, this one takes the lead from Grahame-Smith, and reinterprets Pride and Prejudice to include vampires, portraying Mr. Darcy as a Dhampir trying to end his family curse.

Following close on their heels, on December 29, 2009, Michael Thomas Ford offers up Jane Bites Back. This one is a contemporary novel that is the first of a planned trilogy which features Jane Austen as a 200 year-old vampire.

How did she become a vampire? Perhaps the novel, The Immortal Jane Austen, by Janet Mullany, can answer this question in the summer of 2010. In the first of at least two books, we find Jane Austen joining forces with vampires who are fighting against a French invasion of Bath, England.

What horrors hath Seth Grahame-Smith wrought with his Regency-era zombie hunters? Only time will tell. In the meantime, he is moving on to a new novel, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, expected in April, 2010. He sure has a knack for great book titles and interesting mashups.

Buffy.bot -reboot 1992 -retcon [y/N]

I just felt a powerful disturbance, like a million fanboys screaming, “Oh no, not again” in unison.

Reboot fever is running rampant in Hollywood thanks to the success of the new Star Trek movie. Up next on the docket: Buffy. The Hollywood Reporter has announced that Fran and Kaz Kuzui are working with Vertigo Entertainment to relaunch Buffy: The Vampire Slayer.

Kuzui Enterprises were the executive producers of both the 1992 movie and the TV series, as well as its spinoff, Angel. As we all know, there have been rumors flying for a long time about a possible Buffy movie. They have surely wanted to bring their property back to life, and with the interest of Vertigo’s Roy Lee and Doug Davison, they have something to run with.

Vertigo has its ties to Buffy in that they produced Sarah Michelle Gellar’s horror flicks, The Grudge and The Grudge 2. What this also shows is that Vertigo has been successful with remakes, like The Grudge, The Ring, and other horror movies that Vertigo remade for Hollywood.

This could, in my opinion, bode well if they can give Buffy a real reboot. If they take our beloved Slayer in a whole new direction, I could be willing to forgive a lot. I could even consider this a good thing if Joss Whedon was involved, but he has not been approached as of now. Further, the blasphemy continues in their suggestion that none of the Scoobies from the long-running TV series would be in the movie. Well, in my humble and unrequested opinion, that would be like a remake of Star Trek featuring Kirk but without Spock, Scotty, Sulu, Bones and the rest of the crew. Not just a J.J. Abrams-induced recast and retcon, but a whole new universe to play in.

I’m torn. For I am a Joss Whedon fan to the core, but I’m also a Buffy fan. I say give Fran and Kaz enough celluloid to hang themselves or to prove fans wrong. I’d personally rather see a Season Eight influenced movie with Joss and the TV cast back, but I think we’ve all heard (repeatedly) that just isn’t gonna happen. Maybe this old beastie just needs some fresh blood to bring her back.

Steampunk Vampires

I’m not just a fan of vampires. Yes, shocking, I know. I also fancy steampunk. Yes, all right, I admit it, I dig the Victorian era, and DRACULA is by far my favorite novel of the era. I’m actually shocked that there aren’t more steampunk vampire movies or books. There are a few, if you are willing to dig a bit. If I may, though, let me qualify what steampunk is, or at least what I consider to be steampunk.

Steampunk is a form of speculative fiction that deals with an alternate history of late 19th century. It is usually a setting which has steam-powered technology overall but some folks have been able to harness steam to power devices or technologies that did not exist in history, or have somehow managed to acquire more modern technologies earlier.

Authors like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells are sometimes considered fathers of the genre because they wrote in the Victorian era about technologies which did not exist yet. Truly though, these are progenitors of Science-fiction — forward thinking speculators of what was to come. No, steampunk didn’t really emerge until about the 1970’s when authors were setting their works in the past but giving them sophisticated technologies, many of which could have been possible, but just weren’t discovered then.

Perfect Creature (2006)

This is one of those movies that sneaks up and surprises you. I wasn’t sure what to think when the movie started. I quickly came to love the steampunk alternate world and was happy that the movie didn’t depend on that feel throughout.

The story is fairly simple as plots go. In an alternate world, 300 years ago, a race of vampires was created after some very early genetic experiments. This technically means it is not steampunk, because it isn’t clear what era the movie takes place, or if it is even our world. However, it has all of the technological trappings of steampunk, including dirigibles.

These vampires have coexisted peacefully with the humans and even formed a church known as the Brotherhood. (It should be noted, for some reason, only males were born as vampires.) As the story opens, however, one Brother has become insane and violent and has started killing humans. The chase to stop him is the core focus of the movie.

I really liked this movie. The atmosphere hooks you and the unique story keeps you. The acting was quite good as well. My only complaint might be that the plot was a bit simple, even if it was different. If you can find this one in stores, I recommend buying it.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003)

This is not a vampire movie, but it does have a vampire in it — Miss Mina Harker after her attack by Dracula. It is definitely a steampunk movie, and a fun romp, even if it has nothing to do with the graphic novel that was its namesake.

Starting in 1899, this movie features lots of steampunk goodness and a grand collection of Victorian era anti-heros coming together to prevent a world war. The League consists of Allan Quatermain (Sean Connery), Captain Nemo (Naseeruddin Shah), Rodney Skinner — an invsible thief (Tony Curran), Mina Harker (Peta Wilson), and is led by “M” (Richard Roxburgh). Along the way they recruit Dorian Gray (Stuart Townsend) and capture Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde (Jason Flemyng). For some reason, they throw in Tom Sawyer (Shane West) for some young American blood.

Just some of the steampunk elements in the movie are armored tanks, Zeppelins, Nemo’s infamous Nautilus submarine, with an automobile and a missile tracking device. Also, there was genetic research and samples taken with cloning being the ultimate goal.

The movie was generally panned by critics, but I find it to be a fun action flick with a cool twist, an awesome vampire, and some neat steampunk. Am I easily amused? Perhaps, and as such I consider this worth renting if nothing else.

Van Helsing (2004)

This one is the only “Dracula” movie I know of that is also a steampunk movie. Though, calling this a steampunk movie is a stretch, as is calling it a “Dracula” movie. However, the tell-tale signs are everywhere, specifically in the gadgets. The movie begins in 1887, and is really an action hero movie set in Victorian era Europe. It stars Hugh Jackman as Gabriel Van Helsing, a loose canon amnesiac who works as a monster hunter for a secret division of the Vatican. After killing Mr. Hyde in France, he is assigned to Transylvania to help the Valerious family deal with their vampire and werewolf problem. The vampire in question is none other than Dracula, played exquisitely by Richard Roxburgh. (Quite possibly my favorite Dracula by the way.)

This movie is an homage to Universal Studio’s movie monsters Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman. It weaves these core elements quite well into a fun story that seems almost plausible, while providing non-stop action, and Kate Beckinsale in a corset. This is not your grandfather’s Dracula.

The steampunk is provided by Carl the Friar, played by David Wenham. Not only is he the comic relief as the bumbling sidekick, but he is also the brilliant scientist who gives Van Helsing all of his wonderful toys. Amongst his chief weapons are an automatic crossbow, squeeze and release buzzsaw projectiles, and of course, the sunlight bomb. This lovely device is the result of a dozen years tinkering with “bottled magma from Mount Vesuvius and pure alkali from the Gobi desert” to create a huge burst of light as bright as the sun.

The movie was generally panned by critics, but I find it to be a fun action flick with a cool twist, an awesome vampire, and some neat steampunk. Did I repeat myself? Yes, but then again, in many ways this movie is similar in theme and substance to The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It’s worth a rental as well.

(By the way, the Richard Roxburgh Victorian era hat trick can be found in Moulin Rouge!, which has no vampires, but is a musical, so bonus points there, kids. Dude, the man sings Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” — how can you not like that?)

Netherbeast, Inc.

Netherbeast, Inc. DVD on sale now.
Netherbeast, Inc. DVD on sale now.

Netherbeast, Incorporated is an independent film, which is a fun satire that gives us a look behind the closed doors of Berm-Tech Industries, a phone manufacturing corporation based in Arizona. What we find is an office of eclectic characters who are all “netherfolk”, which should not be confused with “vampires”. These netherfolk just want to live in peace, even though they admit they are dead and do need to eat human flesh and drink blood. No worries though because they have connections so they are always well-stocked.

The story revolves around the manager, Turner Claymore, played wonderfully deadpan by SNL alum Darrell Hammond, who comes down with a form of netherfolk Alzheimers, known as the Retardations. This tragic disease causes him to forget that he and his fellow workers are all netherfolk. The movie starts with him staking co-worker Mike, when he “discovered” he was a vampire. Later he brings in a corporate productivity analyst, played by Judd Nelson, and also hires a human named Pearl, played by Phoenix-native hottie Amy Davidson, to take over Mike’s position.

The movie is told from the point of view of Otto Granberry, played by Steve Burns — yes Steve of Blues Clues fame. I laughed when I caught a glimpse of the signature blue paw-print on his desk in one scene. I may have to watch it again to see if these were anywhere else. He and Pearl start a small office romance, which was full of awkward innocent goofiness.

The plot, like the blood, thickens when other employees go missing as does the source of their unnatural power, the Netherstone. I won’t try to explain this one. Not that it might spoil the plot, and not that it reeks of a Deus Ex Machina. It is a creative plot device and I’ll just sound like I have the Retardations if I try to explain it. Speaking of exposition, there is a lot of it in the movie since the netherfolk are not really vampires. I thought it was fun and familiar, like the interjections of Douglas Adams’ Hitch-hiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, or like a typical corporate Powerpoint presentation.

This clever comedy never stoops to camp nor shock to get laughs. There are some heavy-handed one-liners scattered throughout the film. Oh, and scrotum-engineering jokes. There’s very little gore, and what is there is cartoonish in its subtlety. If I have any complaints it is that Dave Foley is underutilized as Henry, and Jason Mewes (snoogans!) is relegated almost to a cameo role as “Waxy” Dan Paraffin. The real cameo by Robert Wagner as President James Garfield is cute and ties everything up in a nice little bow.

All in all this is a refreshing look at the vampires of corporate America. It makes me even more proud to know the producers, brothers Dean and Brian Ronalds, filmed the whole movie in and around my home town of Phoenix, AZ. The DVD was released this January and I highly recommend it, if you can find it. You can add it to Netflix if your local video store doesn’t have it.

Fabricated-Americans Unite!

When I mention Seth Green, what do you think of? That’s right, “Greg the Bunny”. Wait, you thought about Oz, from “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer”? Or Scotty Evil from the Austin Powers trilogy? Sure that’s his old stuff, what about recent schtick, like “Robot Chicken” or “Family Guy”? Not me. I still immediately think of that awesome, short-lived FOX comedy “Greg the Bunny”. (Yeah, FOX can’t deal with Whedon alumni in sitcoms, either.)

“Greg the Bunny” is a brown bunny puppet… er, Fabricated-American, who first broke into showbiz on a NY cable access show called “Junktape”. His charm and wit caught the attention of the Independent Film Channel, who gave him his own show, “The Greg the Bunny Show”, where he and fellow puppets introduced various movies and parodied films.

Eventually, in 2002, those wily execs over at FOX gave Greg his own sitcom and paired him with Seth Green, who played Greg’s roommate, Jimmy. In the FOX show, “Greg the Bunny”, the premise is that puppets live side-by-side with people, though albeit as second-class citizens. Greg gets the chance to live out his lifelong dream of acting on public access children’s television show, “Sweetknuckle Junction”. Jimmy’s dad Gil, played by the incredible Eugene Levy, is the producer of the struggling kid’s show, and Greg’s naïveté helps give it new life.

“Sweetknuckle Junction” is hosted by Junction Jack (Bob Gunton) and Dottie (Dina Waters), and is home to many puppet characters. Amongst the puppet cast are Warren Demontague, aka Warren the Ape, Tardy the Turtle, Susan the Monster, Rochester Rabbit, and my favorite, Count Blah, the has-been vampire. Behind the camera there’s Jimmy and Gil, but also Alison, played by Sarah Silverman, as one of the studio execs.

The core of the sitcom is Greg and how he deals with his fellow fabricated-Americans, especially Warren, who is a classically-trained thespian forced to work on a kid’s show to make a living, and is often upstaged by the new kid, Greg. Jimmy’s friendship with Greg is also very important, because this helps us cement the idea that puppets are people, too. Count Blah really steals the show, not just because he is a caricature of Sesame Street’s Count, but because he delivers some great material.

Tragically, the FOX series “Greg the Bunny” was cut short in its first season and suffered from having the episodes played out of order. (Where have we heard that before?) Moreover, it suffered from the studio not knowing what to do with the show. It is evident from the writing that there was a sharp edge to the material, but the studio dumbed it down for the masses.

Eventually, Greg, Warren, and Count Blah made their way back to the IFC for a couple years, irreverently lampooning great cinema, uncensored and unfettered. You can find the FOX series on DVD, as well as two DVDs featuring a collection of shorts from the IFC years. You can also find some videos still online. I highly recommend watching them all, especially if you become a fan of Count Blah like I have. If what you really want is to see Seth Green having a lot of fun, the FOX series DVD will be a winner for you.

Everyone’s a hero in their own way

My fellow Whedonites, I have been pondering the idea of a “hero” lately. I think the Watchmen movie is partly to blame for this. I’ve been asking myself what defines a hero. More interestingly, I began to wonder about specific examples and comparing them. For example, if such a thing could be judged, who is more heroic: Buffy or Angel? Or is Angel an anti-hero? What about Spike?

There has definitely been a trend lately to fashion vampires into heroes. Vampire stories originally served as cautionary tales. Live your life the right way and have a good death, or else you could come back from the dead to torment and feed off of the living. In Victorian times, the vampire became the bad-boy of the day. He was an apparent gentleman on the outside, but that was merely a charade that masked a vicious, bloodthirsty killer deep inside. This dark menace however became seductive in the twentieth century and now they are sex symbols. Ultimately, they embody everything that humans wish they could be and can never be without severe circumstances… and consequences.

There is much discussion by some learned people about the state of our society today. They would have us believe that these are darker times. It seems to me, however, that these times are no darker than any other period in history. Everything works in cycles, and the course of mankind is no different. We have good times and bad. War, famine, pestilence, and death are our ever-vigilant curses. But the beauty of mankind is seen in our attempts to try to make things better.

These same doomsayers would also have us believe our modern life is susceptible to darker influences. We have become a nation not under one god, but tolerant of things our ancestors gladly burned at the stake. They would chastise our romanticizing of the vampire myth, especially the recent conversion of vampires into tortured heroes.

To them I have only this to say: we need all the heroes we can get! Our society values a hero, someone who goes beyond their nature, human or otherwise, and fights to champion a greater cause than themselves. Heroes are also usually given powers that separate them from the very thing they try to protect and defend. When they fail, they are chastised and persecuted. When they succeed, they are promoted as the pinnacle of hope and glory.

Why then is the vampire not allowed to fit this same model? It seems to me that it fits it perfectly. Our society has not “turned a blind-eye” to evil — it has opened its eyes to the truth. Watch any movie, read any comic book, and you will find that the hero is becoming a tortured soul just as the vampire seems to be. The sins of the past are heavy, as are the hopes of a demanding fragile humanity that needs a hero.

Furthermore, there is no new, modern fascination with all things vampiric; this is a natural impulse, and one that has been a part of the human condition for a very long time. This is not a fad nor a fashion, or even a lifestyle. It simply is, and no irrational human fear will make it disappear. The vampires are out of the coffin for good.

Breaking Twilight

Bella Swan and Edward Cullen from the movie Twilight
Bella Swan and Edward Cullen from the movie Twilight

So here’s the bloody, honest truth. I loved Stephenie Meyer’s novel, Twilight. I read it when it came out in 2005 because I heard that Stephenie was from my home state of Arizona, and she set the story in Forks, Washington after the main character, Bella Swan, leaves Phoenix, AZ. I have gone on to read all of the books, and am almost finally finished with the final book, Breaking Dawn.

So it is with all the love in my heart that I tell you now, dear reader, if you haven’t read Twilight, do not bother watching the movie. Period. This is not because I think the movie is not good nor worth watching. I suppose if you are a teenage girl, you would probably like the movie. But then again, let’s be honest, if you are a teenage girl, you’ve probably read the book. Having said that, if you have read the book, you may not be entirely thrilled with the movie.

Personally, I liked it, and I think the movie does a good job of telling the core story. But I did not love this movie, and I so desperately wanted to. In my humble opinion, the movie falls short in many respects and fills any holes in with a glamour that leaves me wanting. It is these holes that those who have never read the book will fall into and may not be willing or able to crawl out of.

“Suspension of disbelief” doesn’t cover it. I’ve talked with folks who have not read the books and they can forgive a lot. Some liked that the Meyerverse vamps are unique, but some hated them saying this wasn’t really a vampire movie. Speaking as someone who likes the “Cold Ones” version of vampires, I have to point out that every author plays with the mythos when they write their bloodsuckers. If you don’t want to see “glitterati” take on a new meaning, walk away now.

“Translation from the book to the movie” doesn’t cover it. Every movie takes what it can from the source material. Not everything will fit into the desired length. (Twilight clocks in at two hours.) I bought the 2-disc DVD set (Borders Exclusive actually) specifically to see what fell onto the cutting room floor. Precious little it seems, and some cut scenes were so laughable that I praise Catherine Hardwicke’s decision (or whomever it might have been) to cut them out.

I can’t fault the director or the screenplay writer. I can complain that the potential for so much more was wasted. Really the only scene from the movie that really nailed what I imagined from the book was the “baseball scene”. But even there, I had to explain to those “non-readers” that I saw the movie with in the theater why the Cullens only play baseball during thunderstorms. I mean, it should have been obvious, and this is why I have to smack the movie around.

As for the actors, I believed Kristen Stewart was Bella. I thought Billy Burke was spot-on-perfect as Charlie Swan. I did not believe Rob Pattinson was Edward. As a matter of fact, all of the male Cullens seemed miscast to me. All of the female Cullens seemed to work well with my mental picture, especially Ashley Greene as Alice. The one actor I was most impressed by was Taylor Lautner who played Jacob Black, even though he was barely in the movie. (He’s relegated to Mr. Exposition, really.) I am worried about how he’s going to do in New Moon, where his presence literally transforms in the sequel.

I want to primarily blame the movie studio and the producers for rushing this movie to the screen. They even jumped at the chance to release the movie early on November 21, 2008 because Harry Potter pushed their release to 2009. The movie ends up as a Disney-whitewashed romantic-comedy instead of a sweeping teen romance. Maybe that’s my biggest complaint: Bella and Edward fall in love too fast. Call me a sentimental romantic fool, but two hours is not nearly enough time to see their love develop.

As for the DVD specifically, I do recommend listening to the commentary track. Catherine Hardwicke is joined by Rob and Kristen, as they joke about all the good and bad things in this movie. That’s right kids, they make fun of it, too. You do get to hear some behind the scenes stuff that makes it worth buying the DVD.

To say that I am conflicted is an understatement. I mean, yes I’m here telling you that I liked the movie, that I can’t tell you why I liked it, and I’m practically defending it, but I swear, you will likely regret it if you dare give it a chance. Read the book first and then if you like what you read, read the other books in the series. Then, when you are invested in the characters, their lives, and their trials, then maybe you can give Hollywood your hard earned cash. However, buy (or rent) just the single disc DVD. There’s nothing special on the second disc. Srsly. Extra DVD FAIL.

Let The Right One In… to your home!

Let the Right One In
Let the Right One In

2008 saw two vampire novels turned into movies. You no doubt heard of Twilight, which was IMHO a lackluster version of a pretty damn good novel by Stephenie Meyer. If you missed it in theatres, don’t panic, it will be out on DVD in a couple weeks.

However, in my opinion, the much better movie was an independent Swedish film called Let the Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in), based on the novel of the same name by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote the screenplay. When this movie made the rounds in 2008 at various film festivals, it was played in Swedish with English subtitles. The DVD which was just released in the U.S. this week has the original Swedish dialogue, with options for English subtitles and/or English dubbed dialogue.

You can also rent or buy the movie and watch online or download to your PC via Amazon.com, in an English dubbed version or the Swedish version with English subtitles.

The movie is set in the stark, cold landscape of a Stockholm suburb in the 1980s, and tells the story of a 12-year old boy named Oskar. Oskar is constantly bullied at school and at night he contemplates his unrealized attempts to exact revenge. One night, a young girl named Eli moves in next door to Oskar’s apartment with an older man, Håkan, who is presumed to be her father, uncle, or grandfather perhaps.

In the beginning, Eli does not want to become friends with Oskar, but her lonliness begins to outweigh her concern for getting too close to him. It is eventually revealed that Eli is a vampire, and that Håkan is her daytime protector and also gathers blood for her. However, Håkan’s attempts are pretty feeble and he screws up his opportunities, providing some gory comic relief. The times that we find Eli hunting on her own are visually quite dramatic.

In one scene, Eli attacks a local woman but does not kill her. Through her we learn two facts: cats hate vampires, and sunlight will cause them to spontaneously combust. Both scenes are done with great care and style. You just have to see them; my descriptions will not do them justice.

One of my favorite scenes of the movie deals with the fallout after Oskar discovers that Eli is a vampire. At one point Oskar had invited Eli into his apartment, but later she wants to come in again and Oskar decides to revoke his permission and wants to find out what would happen if she tried to come in anyways. This has always been a lingering question I’ve had about this Hollyweird myth and I like the answer as given by the movie. Eli does walk into the apartment, but after a few moments, she begins to bleed from her eyes, nose, shoulder and chest, and it becomes obvious that she is being crushed. Oskar gives permission back to her after the violent display.

Through Oskar’s friendship with Eli, he eventually becomes more self-confident, and does get his revenge on Conny, the bully who gives him the most trouble. However, Conny brings out the big guns by getting his older brother Jimmy involved. The final confrontation comes when Oskar goes to an after-school program at his school’s swimming pool. Jimmy shows up and tells him that if he can hold his breath underwater, he and Conny will leave him alone. Oskar has no choice and the scene goes under water as Jimmy holds Oskar’s head down. The cinematography is brilliant, as there is a muffled commotion and we see one kid’s feet being dragged, splashing, down one side of the pool, a severed head and Jimmy’s arm falling into the water, followed finally by Eli pulling Oskar out of the pool.

The film is hauntingly beautiful, darkly disturbing and funny, and deeply emotional, ultimately laying out pre-teen fears of needing to be accepted for who you are. There’s only one scene that I didn’t really understand, where Eli is changing into a dress, and we can see that her naughty bits have been sown shut. The movie gives no explanation, but apparently in the novel there is more backstory where it is revealed that Eli is actually an androgynous boy and had been castrated many years prior. There are no deleted scenes on the DVD to explain this either.

I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. If you can find it in stores, I highly recommend you buy this movie. It can be slow at times, it’s pace likened to a glacier carving away a fjord. So if you are craving an action flick, or something with high-school angst, this ain’t it. That is why I enjoyed it, though, and I think you might as well.