Patrick: Evil Snoozes

Patrick: Evil Awakens is currently available on instant Netflix

Patrick

 

Patrick: Evil Awakens (2013) – Not rated

Behind the walls of the Roget Clinic, which specializes in the care of coma cases, a supposedly brain-dead patient is subjected to brutal experiments.”

The original Patrick (1978) was a fascinating take on the then very popular psychic powers subgenre. This subgenre was essentially started with Stephen King’s Carrie (or Brian DePalma’s Carrie if you prefer, 1976). Patrick shares some additional similarities with The Medusa Touch (1978) as not only do ¬†the main characters have psychich abilities but both are in comas. Brian DePalma revisited this territory in 1978 with an adaptation of John Farris’ psychic powers tale, The Fury but wait let me digress further.

The original Patrick (1978) was part of the Aussie exploitation wave. In 2008, director Mark Hartley detailed the making of that film and the Aussie exploitation wave in the outstanding documentary, Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation. He followed that up with the almost as good Machete Maidens Unleashed!, the story of Filipino filmmaking. Last year, he made Electric Boogaloo – the story of Cannon films. Unfortunately that isn’t available anywhere as yet.

Why am I digressing so much? Because it’s fun. Seriously though since Carrie was given the reboot treatment, why not Patrick? Mark Hartley apparently loved the original Patrick enough to remake it. Apparently, the name Patrick is too generic so the suits attached “Evil Awakens” to the title.

Sadly Hartley’s expertise at documentaries does not carry over to horror movies. Patrick: Evil Awakens is fairly generic with various attempts to update the proceedings to include the internet and cellphone usage. There are several creepy scenes, the nature of which I am loathe to spoil but Hartley is apparently of the Woman in Black 2 school of direction. Everything is Boo! Boo! Boo! but the ‘scares’ are of no significance and actually detract from the plot.

Charles Dance is a welcome addition to essentially any movie and this one is no exception. Still he can’t save a movie without a good script. Other performances are okay but not particularly memorable. The subplots and secondary characters aren’t fleshed out enough for audiences to care about any third act twists.

Patrick: Evil Awakens is a passable waste of time. It could have been much better if more time had been spent on the script and less on gratuitous gore, nudity, and jump scares.

 

Dracula (Should Remain) Untold

I saw Dracula Untold in the theater the other night.

Dracula Untold

 

Dracula Untold (2014) – Rated PG-13

Facing threats to his kingdom and his family, Vlad Tepes makes a deal with dangerous supernatural forces – whilst trying to avoid succumbing to the darkness himself.”

My father was a great man, a hero, so they say. But sometimes the world doesn’t need another hero, sometimes what it needs is a monster.

Once upon a time, Universal decided to reboot its long-storied horror franchises with a film starring a handsome, up and coming actor, featuring a lot of stylized fighting, and heavily utilizing some new-fangled computer generated imagery (or CGI for those of you into acronyms). That monstrosity was Van Helsing. It was a good idea followed by a series of bad choices thereby ruining a potential franchise opportunity.

Did Universal learn from this opportunity? Not really. The reins for Dracula Untold were handed to a first time feature director, Gary Shore. He was given a script written by two first-time writers, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless.

You would think that I would like illogical storylines since I adore fantasy, horror, and science fiction and those things by definition stretch the imagination. I have no problem accepting a ludicrous premise as the basis for a movie. The logic just has to be internally consistent.

I love Dracula. My favorite Dracula is the Christopher Lee Hammer version but this doesn’t stop me from enjoying the charms of Universal’s Bela Lugosi, the sexy Frank Langella version, or even the made-for-television Jack Palance version. There are certainly plenty of good ways to interpret an iconic character.

That said, I did not care for Luke Evans’ interpretation. He delivers his lines well but appears to be suffering from constipation throughout the film. His performance does have some magnetism to it but he comes off poorly in his scenes with Charles Dance.

Charles Dance is not the only Game of Thrones veteran in the cast. Art Parkinson, the quite neglected Rickon Stark (whatever happened to him?), plays Vlad’s son. It is not as thankless a role as Rickon but is still fairly minor with a single good scene. Sarah Gadon plays Vlad’s long-suffering wife, Mirena (sounds like Mina, hmmm).

One of Dracula Untold’s strongpoints is also its downfall. The action remains brisk at a mere hour and a half and no scene outstays its welcome. Unfortunately, with this being an origin story with a lot of required exposition, there is precious little time to develop a proper villain. Still it could be done except that the script basically decides that there should be a plethora of antagonists so none are actually developed.

Charles Dance’s character rules the screen but he can do a lot with a little. Dominic Cooper’s Mehmed is unfortunately a little generic aside from an absolutely ridiculous scene late in the film. No spoilers but we’re shown that Dracula is much faster and much, much stronger than a human yet that appears to not be the case when they meet. Obviously the writers and director thought this scene was very clever but it was more eye-rolling than anything else.

Speaking of eye-rolling, apparently not only are the Turkish soldiers uber-elite but they are capable of free climbing cliffs in FULL ARMOR. Not only does Dracula do this but so do many members of the Turkish army. The Turkish army also has no problem outmarching a group of refugees who have a good headstart on a fairly short trek. The silliness just takes you out of the suspension of disbelief necessary for this film.

While Dracula Untold is not worth your time or money, it is pretty, Charles Dance is great, Luke Evans isn’t bad, and the movie itself is a brisk hour and a half. You could do worse for Halloween. I’m just hoping for better. I’m looking at you Ouija, Horns, and Annabelle.

Awesome Game of Thrones – HBO No Go

We just finished the first season box set of A Game of Thrones last night. Unfortunately neither this nor any other HBO series is available on instant Netflix.

Game of Thrones

“Originally airing on HBO, this live-action fantasy series — based on George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels — charts the violent efforts of competing noble families to gain control of the vacant Westeros throne.”

You might think from the cover shot that Sean Bean is the star of the series. If there is a central character then yes Sean Bean’s Eddard Stark is that character but the brilliance of Game of Thrones lies in the depth and breadth of its ensemble cast. Everyone is really good, from veterans like Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) and Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) to newcomers Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark) and Maisie Williams (Arya Stark).

The standout here is Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister. He is an absolute delight and steals every scene he is in. He won an Emmy for his role. The fabulous clockwork map titles also won an Emmy and the series was nominated for eleven others.

Game of Thrones is a fantasy in the same sense that the new Battlestar Galactica was science fiction – it is true but it’s more of a milieu to discuss other topics. For Game of Thrones, this is a showcase¬† for politics. King Baratheon is obviously modeled heavily on King Henry VIII. There are a number of other historical parallels such as the Borgias and the Mongols, though each of George R.R. Martin’s characters are fully fleshed. My wife, who has read the first book, said that the show is accurate albeit with some compression of events.

The set design, writing, direction and cinematography are outstanding. Pacing is somewhat stately – this is definitely NOT a hack and slash, in spite of having recent Conan the Barbarian, Jason Momoa, playing Khal Drogo. Boy does that guy have muscles. The fantasy elements are very light but fit well into the storyline.

I watched this on Blu-Ray and the picture quality was phenomenal. This is one of the best looking Blu-Rays I own. If you still get discs from Netflix then I highly recommend putting this in your queue. I would really like HBO to offer HBO Go as a stand-alone service. I’m certainly not paying for cable TV and almost another $30 on top of that for HBO. Alternately I’d like to see a similar service from Showtime. Or perhaps just an ability to purchase individual episodes just after they air like I do with Walking Dead from Amazon.