The Gravedancers – After Dark Horrorfest


The Gravedancers (2006) – Rated R

“A heartfelt Irish wake for an old friend accidentally awakens three ghosts — a rapist, an ax murderer and a pint-sized pyromaniac — who wreak havoc on the drunken revelers who danced on their graves: Harris (Dominic Purcell), Allison (Clare Kramer) and Kira (Josie Maran). Marcus Thomas, TchĂ©ky Karyo and Megahn Perry star in this horrific tale of cause and effect from director Mike Mendez (The Convent).”

“This night you breathe while they cannot so dance ye soul on their resting spot”

I really loved the idea behind After Dark’s Horrorfest (8 Films to Die For). Each year they would release the best independent and/or foreign horror movies – movies that might not otherwise get a release. I caught several of the first set during the run and thoroughly enjoyed them even though they varied quite a bit in quality. Unfortunately the quality quickly ran downhill and it seems to have just become another Direct to DVD label.

As an example contrast the quality of the following five films (one from each of their years) – Husk, Lake Mungo, Slaughter, Crazy Eights (starring Traci Lords), and Dark Ride with ones they missed out on – independent films such as Tucker & Dale versus Evil and Red State and foreign films like Dead Snow, Trollhunter, and The Horde. It’s not that the Horrorfest films are bad (most are enjoyable if not memorable) but it was supposed to be a showcase for the best in independent/foreign horror and it just isn’t.

Having said that, I found The Gravedancers to be quite entertaining. The scriptwriters found a reason why poltergeist activity would escalate. I always wondered why in these films the ghost would start by moving small objects and ever so slowly work their way up to real mayhem. If you have that kind of power, why start so small?

There are still quite a few nits to pick (sidebar: you do understand that nitpicking refers to lice right?). The opening scene is completely unnecessary in light of the rest of the film (and actually undercuts the final scene). The setup is very contrived (Sid sneaks carefully into a graveyard on a rainy night and yet brings a boombox?). They don’t dance on their friend’s grave – they happen to wander over to where the state buries criminals and the insane before they start dancing. Is there really a parapsychology department at any college?

Still, the story is different, fun and scary here and there. Sorry Insidious – the idea that a person is haunted and not the house was not new even with this film. My favorite part of the film though is how awesomely creepy the ghosts look. There is a great 360 degree shot towards the end of the film (no spoilers). The special effects at the climax are a tad over the top, pulling this from suspenseful over to fun.

Dominic Purcell is one of those TV actors who hasn’t quite made it. He is good-looking, buff, likeable and a decent actor but hasn’t shown enough charisma to be a star (though he has anchored both the Prison Break and John Doe TV series). Clare Kramer is good here as Allison Mitchell but the role is not nearly as meaty or memorable as her hilarious turn as Glory in season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Josie (Van Helsing) Maran is fine as the unstable and tormented Kira as is Marcus Thomas as Sid. Tcheky Karyo adds some acting chops as paranormal investigator Vincent Cochet. Stuntwoman Samantha MacIvor gets to play Nurse Jenny in addition to her normal chores.

People Watch: The haunted woman in the opening scene is played by Oakley Stevenson, the director’s wife.

La Femme Nikita – French Fried week

There are quite a number of French films available on instant Netflix. We will be featuring some of them this week. La Femme Nikita is currently available on instant Netflix.

WATCH: La Femme Nikita (1990) – Rated R.

“Internationally acclaimed director Luc Besson delivers the action-packed story of Nikita (Anne Parillaud), a ruthless street junkie whose killer instincts could make her the perfect weapon, in this French film that was remade as Point of No Return in the U.S. Recruited against her will into a secret government organization, Nikita is broken and transformed into a sexy, sophisticated “lethal weapon.””

“And suppose I refuse?” – “Aisle seven. number 30.”

First I have to say that it is quite bizarre that a film called “Nikita” in France would be called “La Femme Nikita” in English. Instead of using the same title, you add “The Woman” in front of it? Of course La Femme sounds so much cooler than The Woman.

Second “Crayone” does not translate as “May I write it?” Although I do like that “chewing gum” is apparently colloquial enough to be used in the French as well. Also “See you later” (in English) is translated as “See You later”.

Both La Femme Nikita and the American remake Point of No Return are currently available on instant Netflix.

Nikita here is a completely unrepentant drugged-out murderous thug and that is before her transformation into an elite assassin. Nikita is played by the wonderful Anne Parillaud. In Point of No Return, she is renamed Maggie and played by Bridget Fonda.

Tcheky Karyo plays Bob, the handler. He does a convincing job of playing a consummate professional who is also in love with Nikita. He conveys a sense of heartbreak that he must always maintain a professional relationship with her. The scene where he gets a kiss is very good. His role is capably played by Gabriel Byrne in Point of No Return.

Nikita is also trained by Amande (played by famous French actress Jeanne Moreau). In Point of No Return, Anne Bancroft plays Amanda adding a touch of class to that version. As you can see both versions have good actors.

Luc Besson does a very good job of directing La Femme Nikita . He goes more for substance than style. There are several scenes that pack a real punch but most are in the last act so I will not spoil them.

There is more emotional depth and complexity in the French version (not surprisingly). The American version also tones down the beginning to make Nikita/Maggie more appealing – it actually just makes her less believable. I did think the setpieces were actually better in the American version.

I recommend watching La Femme Nikita. It is the better of the two films. If you cannot stand reading subtitles or just have a yen for Bridget Fonda/Gabriel Byrne/Anne Bancroft then watch Point of No Return.

Canada later made a series of La Femme Nikita with Peta Wilson in the starring role. I have not seen it but it is available on DVD through Netflix.

People Watch: Jean Reno has a brief but very memorable role as Victor Nettoyeur (the Cleaner). This role is played by Harvey Keitel in Point of No Return.