Tag Archives: Underworld

Movie Review: Werewolf: The Beast Among Us (2012)

Werewolves and vampires are popular these days (as witnessed by this blog and my book, Drasmyr). “Werewolf: The Beast Among Us” is a made-for-DVD movie about a werewolf terrorizing a small 19th-century village. A couple friends and I rented this film for a kind of pre-Halloween werewolf flick-night. It stars Guy Wilson as the main character, a young surgeon-in-training named Daniel who also has a penchant for drawing and blacksmithing (he’s a talented young lad). It also stars Stephen Rea (they guy who played the detective in “V for Vendetta and also starred in the latest “Underworld” movie), although his is a minor role.

 

In the film, Daniel and his village are desperate to stop the predations of the hideous beast. They hire a group of werewolf hunters, who will hopefully solve their problem. Soon, however, they learn that this werewolf is unlike any other: It was born a werewolf, not transformed by a bite. So, it is stronger and smarter than the rest of its brethren and it has the potential to learn how to shape-shift at will. Danielle, of course, wants to join the hunters, but he is turned down initially. Eventually, though, the leader of the hunters, Charles, accepts his help and they assign a few small tasks to Danielle—mostly procuring bait and what-have-you. Then, the hunt begins. I’ll leave the rest of the plot a mystery, so you can enjoy it yourself.

 

Overall, the film was entertaining. It was better than a lot of werewolf movies I’ve seen (not that I’ve seen too many—it just seems way too easy to make a bad werewolf movie). The special effects were okay, though not exceptional. The plot was interesting, but some of the developments seemed forced. There were gypsies in the movie, and they were only there because it was a werewolf movie. They had the one vital clue, and that was about it. And their costumes pretty much blended with the rest of the town—very non-distinctive. There was a romantic element to the film, but one which left a very large unresolved problem by the time it wrapped up. The film also used a number of elements “lifted” from other werewolf movies I’ve seen. Most particularly, it took a few elements from the remake of “The Wolfman” that came out a couple years ago.

 

Overall I’ll give this film three stars out of five. If you want to see a really good werewolf movie, I’d recommend the aforementioned remake of “The Wolfman.” Still, this movie was worth seeing. Good for Halloween.

Monster Mishmash: A Vampire Werewolf

This is a continuation of the train of thought started with my “Monster Mishmash: A Vampire Dragon” post. In that post, I examined what a creature that was the result of crossing a dragon and vampire would be like. So, I thought, why not continue the thought process and see what happens when you cross a vampire with a werewolf? Unfortunately, this one doesn’t work quite as well. Depending upon the tradition you start with, it might not be really that much of a change. I remember in Francis Ford Coppola’s film version of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” there were several instances where Dracula shape-changed into something, that to me, looked pretty much like a werewolf. A snarling, lust-ridden, beastie of fur, and claws. And if that’s the case, trying to make a vampire into a werewolf, might be something of a step down or just an insignificant change. The vampire can already control wolves, and assume the werewolf form: what would the werewolf aspect give him? Dracula is, also, already supernaturally strong. At most, the vampire might just lose-control of his shape-shifting faculties on the night of a full moon. And lack of control would certainly be a weakness gained. Alternatively, and perhaps more probably, he would just absorb the werewolf nature and continue on his way, relatively unchanged.

 

On the other hand, if you go with the “Underworld” series of movies, the notion of a vampire-werewolf is already central to the plot: they beat me to the punchline here. Underworld vampires are limited to human form, and not as physically strong (I don’t think) as the werewolves. In such a situation, both species benefit from the mix and you wind up with something that is “stronger than either.” There’s really not that much to add to the notion here, because the whole movie series revolves around that plot point. They have their vampire-werewolves and they have several two hour movies to develop the theme in, compared to my mere few hundred words of text. Still, I should probably say something. A vampire-werewolf in Underworld, if I recall, gains a limited shape-changing ability, and also loses the weaknesses of each respective species. He is no longer affected by silver or sunlight. So, the only way to kill him is to rip him to pieces. And if that is your plan, since he is unusually strong, you’ll have your work cut out for you.

 

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the vampire-werewolf. For myself, since I prefer my vampires like Dracula, I see only a limited benefit in the combination, if that. The vampire is already in possession of much of the werewolf’s strengths, so the combination is of limited utility.

Fantasy Monster Fight: Vampires vs. Werewolves

All right. This is a completely silly post which has no bearing on the real world, or on literary criticism, or on whatever else, but I’m in an odd mood.

 

Some people have fantasy football (do people still do that these days?); I’ve got my fantasy monster fight. The question before me is: who would win in a fight? A vampire? Or a werewolf? Whole book series and movies have been written on this topic. In the Underworld movie series, for example, vampires and werewolves are in a state of perpetual warfare. And in the Twilight books… uh, I really don’t know because I refuse to read them, but I understand that there is a love triangle involving a human, a werewolf, and a vampire. Re-reading that, that sounds like the beginning of a bad joke. “A human, a werewolf, and a vampire enter a bar…”

 

Anyway, if a vampire and a werewolf came to blows, who would win? For those of us geeky gamers who used to play AD&D, the winner is obviously the vampire. Just look at the creatures’ stats in the Monster Manual. But trying to evaluate the match through literature is a little bit more difficult. One can only assess the situation by evaluating strengths and weaknesses.

 

Both vampires and werewolves are supernaturally strong. Both tend to be on the prowl or at their peak strength during night time hours. One on one against the typical human, the typical human doesn’t stand a chance. Both vampires and werewolves procreate by biting humans. And typically such transformations are a one way deal. What about weaknesses?

 

As far as humans are concerned, the only way to kill a werewolf is with a silver bullet. And I suppose fire works as well. The ways to kill a vampire, depending upon which particular myth you are dealing with, include: wooden stakes through the heart, decapitation, immersion in running water, sunlight, a silver bullet, and holy water. And I don’t think they are fond of fire either. The vampire also has several other weaknesses, although none of them are fatal. These include invitations, garlic, and roses. Clearly, if one considers weaknesses alone, the werewolf has the advantage. At least, it is clear that a human will find it more difficult to kill a werewolf than a vampire.

 

The vampire, however, does have two more important advantages: it can fly (or transform into a bat) and it always retains a human-like intelligence. Since it is intelligent, a vampire is more likely to seek out a gun and silver bullet if it is about to face a werewolf than vice versa. If one nixes the transforming into a bat bit, and simply gives the vampire the power of flight with a gun and several silver bullets, the vampire’s going to win quite easily. Actually, unless one grants the werewolf the ability to harm the vampire with its claws and bite, the vampire will always have the advantage of intellect over animalistic brawn. It should win pretty much every confrontation on those grounds: a snarling, drooling werewolf simply won’t think to use a wooden stake or a bowie knife. But if the vampire and werewolf can both harm each other with their respective natural weapons, all bets are off.

 

Regardless, as far as humans are concerned: it is better to fight a vampire. You have more options to kill, repel, or, at the very least, escape from a vampire than you do a werewolf. So, remember that the next time you are out wandering through a graveyard beneath a full moon. Go with the guy clawing his way out of the ground rather than the strange beastie howling at the moon.

The Vampire’s Bite: Curse or Virus?

I have written previously of how the nature of the vampire has changed since the original writing of Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”(the original blog entry is here). Where once they could move about during the day, they are now incinerated by sunlight. Where they could once turn into a bat, many modern varieties are limited to a human-like form. Etc… One thing I failed to touch on, however, was the manner by which the vampire transforms its unhappy victim into another vampire. By all accounts, it does so by biting his or her victim, and draining the blood to a certain critical point. Through the years, though, one’s understanding of the bite and how it ultimately works has changed.

 

At the time when “Dracula” was written, the bite was understood to be a curse. The vampire, as agent of the Christian Devil, bit the victim, and he or she was transformed into a creature of the night by the mysterious powers of darkness. The method of transformation was safely ensconced in the supernatural. It was beyond human understanding, and as such, offered no hope of redemption. Most modern people, as a result of the continuing advance of science, do not believe in curses. They require a more “scientific” explanation for the vampire. They want to see some mechanical explanation that is somewhat more plausible than some unfathomable “curse.” And so the vampire virus was born. I don’t know who first used the virus-explanation, but it seems quite prevalent nowadays. I remember seeing it once in a comic book years ago, and I thought it clever, then. They used it in the series of “Underworld” movies starring Kate Beckinsale, and earlier in the “Blade” movies starring Wesley Snipes. I’m sure I’ve seen it elsewhere, but precisely where, eludes me for the moment. Anyway, I’m starting to get annoyed with the vampire virus explanation. I mean, really, do we need a “quasi-scientific” explanation for a vampire?

 

Isn’t it more chilling and more sinister to have the method of transformation beyond mere mortal explanation? Although most of the tales agree that the virus is incurable, that aspect of the disease is a temporary state. There is no reason why a virus, in principle, could not be cured at some later point in time by scientific advance. Some movies have even incorporated a “cure” for vampirism in the plot line. And to me this just detracts from the supernatural horror. Give me the curse without a cure. The sentence of living damnation that cannot be suspended. I mean, we are dealing with supernatural folklore here. Why limit ourselves with “science.” The vampire virus was kind of cool and clever for a time, but nowadays, I’m starting to look at it as more of a cliché. I like the mysterious and the unfathomable; give me the curse with no cure. It makes for a much more chilling tale.

 

And, of course, I must shamelessly mention my fantasy vampire novel, Drasmyr—see the side bar under Publications if you are interested.

Movie Review: Underworld: The Awakening

This is the fourth installment (I believe) in the Underworld series. I’m more a sword and sorcery guy, but vampires and werewolves suit me, too. I saw the movie this afternoon. Overall, I’d give it about three out of five stars. It was okay, wasn’t spectacular. I think the Underworld series is doing the opposite of the Star Trek series. In Star Trek all the even numbered members of the series were exceptional, the odd ones were pretty humdrum (except III–I think). In Underworld, the odd numbers rule, while the even ones are a bit lackluster.

There was a lot of blood, guts, and killing in the movie. That will appeal to some viewers; I, however, like a better developed plotline. This one had a pretty basic plot–which in some ways is good because it’s easy to follow–there were even a couple interesting… I’ll call them developments instead of twists. Logically, the movie held together well… those things that made me go, “Huh? What?” were explained by the end of the movie. And that’s good. Still, there were several incidents which I’d seen before in other movies particularly in the big battle at the end (can we say “Pirates of the Caribbean”–sorry for the spoiler–there was even stuff borrowed from “The Matrix” earlier in the movie). I guess the biggest weakness was that I think it was kind of formulaic. The “cool” developments I mentioned above were not enough to make the movie stand out. The plot was too linear and the movie only lasted a little over ninety minutes, so I walked away feeling that something was missing. There were really only four different settings and the movie as a whole seemed largely a compilation of shots of Kate Beckinsale looking “cool” in black leather, kicking butt, and taking names. Which are all good things, but not enough on their own to carry the day.

Anyway, like I said: three stars out of five. It’s all right for a single viewing and to pass an afternoon, but I’ll won’t go out of my way to see it a second time.