Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Cynic Reviews: "Blacula", "Night Watch", and "The Machinist"

In order to indulge my ADHD, I'm going to combine these three reviews.

#1: Blacula (1972):
This is not a good movie. Everything about this movie is dumb. The script is bad, the plot arbitrary, and the acting (with the exception of William Marshall, who seems to be made of pure awesome) is nothing particularly special.

And yet, I love this movie. Every stupid minute of it.

You see, this movie is bad, but it's the right kind of bad. It's all pure camp, from it's ludicrous setup to it's deliciously funky soundtrack, this movie is pure, brainless fun.

So I should probably say something about the plot here. William Marshall plays Mamuwalde, a centuries-old African prince who was cursed by Count Dracula to spend his life as a vampire. Eventually, in the '70s, he meets Tina, who just so happens to be the spitting image of his long-dead wife. None of that really matters. What does matter? William Marshall's voice is SO TOTALLY FUCKING AWESOME!!! Seriously, it's like Barry White fused with James Earl Jones, with a little of Morgan Freeman thrown in for good measure. I defy anyone to tell me it's not the classiest damn thing you've ever heard.

This is what classy looks like.

I highly recommend this movie to all of my fellow awkward, nerdy, bad-movie-watching dweebs. It's pure, dumb, funky awesomeness.

#2: Night Watch (2004):
Is there anything more quintessentially American than a dumb action movie? Apparently there is, considering the three best dumb action movies I've seen recently were Korean:

Shot in Mongolian by a director from Kazakhstan:

And, finally, Russian:

Night Watch is yet another stupid sort-of vampire flick. But this one has subtitles that bleed, move, and break, as well as a guy whose spine is also a sword, which is impossible in every sense of the word, but badass all the same.

So apparently, many years ago there was an epic battle between "others", supernatural beings who split into two factions: Dark others, who are the things that go bump in the night, and Light others, who aren't nearly as awesome. The two sides were equally matched, so the leaders of each side made a treaty and set up the light others as "Night Watch" to make sure the dark others would keep their side of the bargain. Likewise, the dark others would form a "Day Watch" to make sure the light others did the same. But there is a prophecy that foretells that an other will be born that will be born that will be more powerful than all the others. The battle between the two sides would once more resume, and the side that the Chosen One chooses is destined to win. SPOILER ALERT: he chooses evil. No, seriously. For some reason, this all falls nicely into the lap of Anton Gorodetsky, played by Russia's answer to Jason Segel.


Night Watch is surprisingly solid, with cool effects and good acting all around. It's no classic, but it's a fun little diversion.

#3: The Machinist (2004):
Something's not right with Trevor. He hasn't slept in a year, he's grown positively skeletal, and he seems to be losing his mind. He's starting to be stalked by a man named Ivan, who no one else seems to see. Trevor's life starts to slowly fall to pieces. He starts to think that everyone is against him.

That's about as much of the plot as I can write before I start giving things away. The Machinist couldn't be more different than the previous two movies. It's grim, tense, eerie, atmospheric, and, in parts, disturbing. It's not easy to watch, but it's very rewarding. This is a great psychological thriller, with a great script, direction, cinematography, fantastic performances, especially from Christian Bale as Trevor. He famously dropped dangerous amounts of weight to play Trevor, and it shows. He looks practically zombified, underling the great toll that has been hit to his sanity. This movie is not for everyone, though. If you're looking for a violent, body-a-minute, schlocky horror flick, stay away from this movie. The Machinist is very slow moving, taking it's time to build atmosphere and tension so thick it's almost suffocating, making the violent bits more terrifying and gripping. It's engrossing, suspenseful, and almost Hitchcockian. I highly recommend The Machinist to anyone looking for a solid psychological thriller.

I do have a couple of beefs with this movie, though. First, while the ending itself is powerful, the twist that leads on to it seems a little cheap to me. It seemed like it was building up to something more. The other beef is a little nitpicky. You see, since Trevor's memory has been fading due to his sleep deprivation, he has to write himself many, many notes to remind himself of daily chores. This becomes increasingly important to the plot as the film goes on. Sound familiar?

As I said, though, that's a minor thing. The Machinist is still very much worth checking out.

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