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Patrick Lussier

Drive Angry

lussier511OldjQ20LYou know, in general I’m not a big fan of revenge films and I’m not even that into car movies. But something about this film obsesses me. You kind of got to hand it to Drive Angry – opening with a car racing through the hellscape and crossing the lane change to bridges, and let you know right away this isn’t going to just be a Fast and Furious rip-off…

Back on the more familiar streets of Earth we see Nick Cage run down a truck and execute the occupants with a shot gun as he grabs the information he needs.

We transition over to a diner in the middle of nowhere where Amber Heard character of Piper is being harassed by her boss. Nicholas Cage’s Milton sits in the corner and drinks coffee flirts with her partner. Pipers had enough of the boss and quits, racing off in her dodge Charger. Milton catches up with her and bums a ride. Across the bridge a ways, William Fitchner’s character, the accountant, arrives to begin his hunt for Milton.

index2Back at her home, Piper drops off Milton and walks and find her boyfriend boinking someone else. It’s just an excuse to get Tom Farmer, the writer, naked (It’s a goofy cameo much like My Bloody Valentine). Farmer’s character starts to get rough with Piper and Milton comes back to intervene. He and Piper take off into the night. While they hunker down for the evening in a cheap hotel and bar, the accountant has a visit to Todd Farmer to try and pick up Milton’s trail. It’s a good excuse for some nice, bloody violence. The accountant, posing as an FBI agent, appropriates the local cops to go find Milton.

It turns out that the accountant isn’t the only one looking for Milton – cult leader Jonah King is also searching for him. That’s a good thing, because Milton is looking for King as well. King gathers together a group of men to ambush Milton in his hotel room, which leads us to what maybe cinemas first and hopefully only nookie and whisky gunfight. We’ll leave it at that. The cops arrive with the accountant, making things more complicated. Milton escapes again to hunt down King. The Accountant gives chase but images3.jpgMilton still manages to elude him.

Along the way, he takes the opportunity to explain the plot to Piper – His daughter fell in with Kings cult and now he has taken off with her baby. That’s why Milton is after King.

In the meantime, All that gun fire has attracted the attention of the local police, led by the redoubtable Tom Atkins. They’re out to get them and have no intention of trying to take Milton alive.

The King is not too keen on not being taken alive either. An ambush leaves Milton shot and Piper kidnapped, but not for long. A high-speed chase ensues as Piper goes fisticuffs with King inside his campervan. She leaps free, exiting the campervan and gliding index.jpgthrough the open front window of Milton’s car. That’s enough for the car though – it breaks down, so it’s time for a pitstop with one of Miltons old allies. After a little bit more exposition, he borrows a car and they race their way into the third act. What they don’t realize is that there is a police blockade waiting for them, a trap that’s been arranged by King.

That’s about the time that the accountant shows up again in a large tanker truck which clears the police blockade  on his way to try and grab Milton. Milton and Piper take advantage of it and race past him towards their final showdown with King.

One of the reasons I particularly love this movie is because this is really the perfect (though unofficial) third entry in the Ghost Rider trilogy.

Stay with me on this.

Cage is playing a post-Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze. He really is, it feels like the “Spirits of Vengance” era Blaze from the 90’s comics. No longer cursed, but still damned. We don’t need Ghost Rider or even a motor cycle, because this closes his story arc perfectly. In fact, images4.jpgit’s possibly the best of the Ghost Rider films. Pity it isn’t really one of them. I spoke to Todd Farmer about this and while it wasn’t intentional, he told me I’m not the first to have this observation.

I’ve never understood the disdain for this film. It’s an over the top comic book action movie and I still love it.


The Prophecy 3 : the Ascent

lussierindex.jpgI have to admit, I’m walking into this one little reluctantly – I don’t dig the Prophecy films, and even though there’s a couple of recognizable names in the credits like Brad Doruff and Vincent Spano, there’s nothing here to really set me on fire. I’m hoping that Patrick Lussier can bring me some kinetic action and fun the way that he has with his vampire films.

Admittedly, the sight of Christopher Walken in long hair, creeping into a blasphemous tent revival definitely gets my attention. It is interesting to see that the film is picking up pretty much right after from the last installment – I remember that at the end of Prophecy 2, (which I watched for the box set project), Walken’s character had been cast out of heaven and left homeless. He wanders into barnburning tent revival with a heritic preacher who isn’t preaching that God is dead, but rather that he just doesn’t care. As he riles the crowd up, Brad Dourif makes his way up with a gun, shooting the preacher down in the middle of everything.

Miles away, there is a new angel on Earth,  but what’s images5.jpgreally interesting for me is watching his arrival, as he wanders right past the young crucifix that we saw in Dracula 2000 before heading to a wall full of angelic graffiti. I also noticed that Kenny Banya from Seinfeld is the undertaker again. A nice little bit of continuity throughout the Prophecy films – making sure Christopher Walken isn’t the only return player.

The heretic preacher that Brad Dourif supposedly murders at the beginning of the film, is Danyael – the Nephilim created in the last film. Angel Zophael wants to destroy him, but Gabriel, now immortal, is ready to ally with Danyael , if for no other reason than to just mess with the divines plans.

Over at the police station, Walken is interrogated about the shooting. He toys with a cop as the angel wanders the streets, ultimately arriving at the morgue. Zophael shows up just in time to meet up with Gabriel face-to-face, and they both instantly recognize one another. The problem is, Gabriel never knows whose side Zophael is on and he moves to deny him the Nephilim heart. He’s too late anyhow, Danyael awakens on the slab, and as Zophael runs to get him, Danyael’s already making his escape, right past Banya. I’m not sure who’s more upset, the angel or the Nephilim’s girlfriend who verbally accosts him.
Outside Gabriel spots Danyael making good his escape, while Kenny studies Angels and Nephilim and explains it all the girlfriend so he can catch the audience up on the story so far. It’s good enough to close the first act so that were ready to kick things into action for the last 55 minutes.

There’s things that goes in civil servants just shouldn’t know.

Danyael makes his way to the apartment of Brad Dourif, only to find the gunman dead, his wrists cut open, and on his lap, a bloody braille Bible with angelic symbols scrolled through the pages in Dourif’s blood. Zophael isn’t far behind, witnessing Danyael ’s visit through Dourifs eyes. He follows Danyael to a café where Danyaels been binging sugar… typical for angelic spontaneous tissue regeneration. Zopheal whips out a blade in the chase is on. It’s almost enough, he’s got Daniel and his hand, until walking screeches into the alleyway in a car, slamming into Zophael and granting Danyael a reprieve. He takes it and flees while walking chats up his fellow angel.

Danyaels girlfriend catches up with him, she can’t believe he’s alive. It’s a very doubting Thomas and Christlike gesture he shows her his scars and tells her then that his dying memory is of being in her arms. He transfers the memories of the angels falling to her and then sends her away as Zopheal arrives. Almost as she exits, so feel enters. It’s a quick battle, but what we come to expect from angelic combat. Lots of jumping in an air Melee.

Zophael tracks down Danyael’s girlfriend and uses her to try and find him, racing against time before Danyael can encounter and stop Pyreal, The angel of genocide. Soon, in the girlfriend’s truck, they are on the road, following Danyael on his motorcycle and Gabriel in his classic convertible. Walken is hamming up the scene by switching the radio station from “Earth Angel” over to something that he can play trumpet to while he drives. The girlfriend tries to escape her angelic captor by crashing her truck into a rock and disorienting the angel, but the pistol that she’s packing is sadly ineffective when he comes after her. It doesn’t matter, he’s an angel, and he can convincingly talk her into believing that Danyael is not the same person that rose from the morgue.

It all comes down to a showdown in the desert, (With a quick side stop – breakfast for Walken and a cameo for Mary, little girl from the first film, who points Danyael in the right direction) at Gilles Flats, on a Native American reservation,  where they’ll make their stand, and where Danyael must make a choice… to stand with Pyreal to usher in the end of the world, or to oppose him.

Lussier is actually a very good choice for this film, his work on Dracula 2000 shows him to be very comfortable with disturbing and creepy religious iconography. He revels in it images3.jpgwhen he makes Dracula films, and this seems like a great fit for him – just a natural extension of he comfort zone. His style is evident in quick cuts and flashbacks. Some of the sillier conceits like the way angels perch, are minimized in favor of Catholic iconography and world building. I can also see Lussier has influenceed the interesting angelic switchblade Vincent Spano’s Zophael carries. Indeed his performance as a murderous angel stalking his prey reminds me a great deal of Walken from the first film – in fact, it kind of makes Walken’s presence here completely extraneous. Also, the long index2hair wig just looks bad. It’s a fairly straightforward story and with the exception of Walken’s presence, stands very much on its own. All of these kind of things end up making it a bit superior to the second film, and Lussier’s far more action oriented vision makes this a surprisingly enjoyable entry in the Prophecy series. Sadly enough, it also marks the end of this particular arc– Gabriel’s story is complete and one could very easily view this as part three of a Prophecy trilogy.

There would be two more films after this, but they begin their own story. It’s a tough thing to do that sort of double duty – stand on your own while integrating into and existing series. Nevertheless it’s a task that Lussier and the Prophecy 3 achieve quite well.

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White Noise 2

lussier.jpgindex.jpgIt’s a weird thing, I’m not actually a huge fan of Nathan Fillion or Katie Sakoff, so to see them listed as the cast in white noise two, doesn’t do anything for me.

It kicks things off with a shocking murder, and then Fillion trying to deal with life without his wife and son. After a failed suicide attempt, he starts to see things happening around him – halos and latent images… and those halos tell him when people are about to die.

It seems like a benign enough gift, disturbing but harmless – that is until the dead start to visit him about half an hour in. This inspires him to save the life of the next person he sees about to die – in his mind it gives purpose to his son’s death.

images.jpgThe thing seems to be going alright until Fillion sees some old footage of his wife driving – and the gunmen who killed her just happened to save her life a few days prior. What was previously just a weird movie, has turned into a bona fides mystery, as Fillion discovers the horrifying consequences of his gift and actions.

What we end up with is something that feels like a love child of The Butterfly Effect and the Final Destination movies. It’s all about consequences and changing destiny. It’s Donnie Darko but not as pretentious.

I actually really dig it, and don’t feel like I have to have seen the previous film to know what’s going on – that’s good thing because I haven’t. The religious horror elements that I’m so used to seeing from Patrick Lussier are absent here though he manages to sneak a hint of it in index2.jpghere and there – some of the answers hidden in the Bible, just a bit of Revelation thrown in. Still, it feels largely like its own thing.

I wonder a bit though if Nathan Fillion is miscast – his usual affable, likeable self feels wasted when weighted down with grief and tragedy. Katie Sakoff on the other hand is a delight – bubbly and very girly. I have to admit, I tend to enjoy her more in everything that she’s done that isn’t Battlestar Galactica!


Dracula 3

lussierindex.jpgWe’ve got a trifecta on this entry – a Box Set category, a Director’s Spotlight, AND a franchise focus!

I like Patrick Lussier, and I’m pleased to see Roy Schneider, Gary Tunicliffe and Rutger However, but that stupid Gothic font worries me. I know that Dimension shot a bunch of these in Romania back to back, along with a couple of Prophecy and Hellraiser films. On the other hand, I rather like a lot of the productions Dimension has done this way so let’s see what we’re in for. Jason Scott Lee is the lead in this film, and that’s not a bad thing either… He was excellent as Bruce Lee in Dragon, I remember really digging that as a teenager when I saw it in the theatre. He is also of course, the voice of David, Nani’s boyfriend in Lilo and stitch.

images3.jpgAs I’ve mentioned before, Dracula 2000 is actually one of my all-time favorite vampire movies, but it was also one of those movies that I never thought should have been turned into a franchise. It stands alone really well and doesn’t lend itself all that well to further installments, however this isn’t a direct sequel anyhow. It’s more in the spirit and style of 2000, attaching itself as a sort of alternate universe sidequel film much the way Fulchi’s Zombie attaches to Dawn of the Dead as a sequel. Despite saying West Craven presents, Craven have nothing to do with this film.

We start off with vampire action in what looks like an abandoned subway and it’s good stuff – modern and slick and cool. They’re taking a cue from John Carpenters Vampires with cool vampire weapons and a militant priest. The fact that Lussier directed all three of these Dracula movies helps create a uniform feel. In addition to some modern sensibilities, he still manages to infuse the film with at least a touch of Christian images2.jpgmysticism, possibly the reason our protagonist is a priest.

After despatching the two bloodsuckers he returns home for more support

Roy Scheider is just phoning in his role as the Cardinal of the order, but even that’s enough to elevate this film a bit. We get sweeping dramatic shots of the train heading to Bucharest and the now-defunct priest continuing his journey and his mission to rescue his beloved Julia and destroy the vampire plague. It’s an occupied country, and the soldiers and equipment create a tense atmosphere. They take full advantage of the Gothic and stone look of Romania in crafting their film – it’s an effective use of limited resources.

This film has an interesting origin for Dracula as well, establishing a terminology – they’re correct that the name Dracula is not a proper name but rather an honorific – and aspirational one to be one of the dragons, the priest tells us he’s had many names over the years and has existed for a long time under many guises – it’s actually a really well images4.jpgdone recap.

The further they get into the city, especially at night the more abandoned things get, unfortunately instead of coming off as creepy, it just shows the lack of budget. A handful of extras wandering around in the background may have actually helped (but they may have needed to save those for later scene in Dracula’s feeding pit). Nevertheless the blue fog and eerie lighting provides a perfectly creepy horror movie setting for them to kill vampires in.

Like John Carpenter’s Vampires, what we get here is basically a horror tinged action movie with some interesting looking bad guys. The stilts vampire has to be seen to be believed. It’s a film that I think is actually strong enough to stand on its own without the name Dracula, and I almost wish they had, but they needed the brand recognition and I’ll admit I probably wouldn’t have found it without that myself so I completely understand. Dracula 3 : Legacy is full of action, intrigue, infections and has a genuinely well thought out story. Much to my surprise, it’s one to recommend


Dracula 2000

lussierindex2I’ve spent way too much time trying to figure out why this film is so hated. I’ll admit, the font used on the titles is a little over the top and the use of classic Dracula protagonists names for modern characters is a little irritating, but honestly – look at that opening shot of the Demetre… The blue cast that contrasts with the red blood on the people and on the sails. It’s amazing. The footprints in the sand where we slowly see animal turn the human, it’s marvelously understated and yet perfectly effective.

We get a good bit of establishing banter with our characters. It’s perfectly clear who Van Helsing is, but Johnny Lee Miller himself still charms as well. I feel a little heartbroken when Selena turns down his date.

Downstairs, the thieves are quick and efficient. Omar Epps actually does a marvelous job images4.jpgbeing sinister. He has a cultured style to him that underlies his efficiency. I could actually really dig a pure heist movie featuring this crew… it’s almost a shame that they won’t live long enough for a sequel.

In a gothic cave chamber below Van Helsing’s office (Setting off a few traps to give us some fun, spiky kills) The chamber itself, adorned with vampire skulls, almost feels like a hammer film set. It’s more of an homage than anything else, because the rest of this film will do its best to be slick and modern.

Across the pond in New Orleans, our heroine Mary, he is having bad dreams. Flashes of Dracula, armor, and strobe lighting mix with her face until she awakens terrified. It’s a reasonable bit of foreshadowing considering Dracula is on his way to her in the thieves airplane. The first attacks from Dracula are fast and brutal, and more than once it’s succeeded in making me jump. Gary Tunicliff wields fake blood effectively, though I’ll index.jpgdmit I wish Dracula’s de-ageing were a little less sudden. Then again, when you got Gerard Butler  in your cast, you want to get his shirt off and have him looking pretty as quick as possible.

We effectively sidestep skepticism by having Johnny Lee Miller follow Van Helsing and almost immediately witness the vampires firsthand. They’re well done too, Gary Tunnicliffe chose to make them gruesome more by virtue of blood spatter rather then the physical deformity we see in Carpenter’s Vampires or Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Still, there is no mistaking the red eyes and fangs for anything less than monsters. Lussier delivers us a kinetic action scene before Van Helsing takes Miller aside to explain the plot. There is a new twist to the vampire legend here, the idea that Dracula is patient zero – the first vampire, and that the methods that destroy other vampires simply don’t work on him. It’s a logical, organic addition to the mythology. We get additional foreshadowing as silver Mardi Gras coins are dropped from a balcony while Dracula wanders the streets of New Orleans. Foreshadowing is actually something Lussier is good at and the general confusion and massive activity that we get from this admittedly small-scale Mardi Gras celebration provides a colorful and acceptable challenge to our vampire hunters. It’s no challenge for Dracula though, as he finds Mary‘s roommate Lucy to images3.jpgcontinue the game of cat and mouse that he is playing with her and her father.

Lussier creates an almost Suspiria like atmosphere to introduce the brides and finally give us our first real confrontation with Dracula. We get great wolf and bat imagery as Miller savers Mary and they race after the Church for sanctuary.

We get bloody scripture, exploding bibles and massive cemeteries, not to mention one of the best crucifixion scenes I’ve ever seen and as we finally discover the origins of the first vampire.

images55.jpgThere is some cringe here, brilliant dialogue like “we are also much more complicated than our names aren’t we? “Are undercut by goofy dialogue like “I don’t drink… Coffee”. The ever present Virgin Records marketing can get on your face a bit as well and the name itself is admittedly a bit hokey. Still, the imagery, the twist and the action all serve to make this one of my all-time favorite vampire films, second only to the Lost Boys. It’s an incredibly fun vampire romp, not overly grotesque like Fright Night or John Carpenters Vampires but still free of the over-the-top romanticism that Anne Rice and the later Twilight stories would infuse into the genre.

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Director’s Spotlight : Patrick Lussier

lussierWhile I was going through one of those big box sets of random films I started to notice something. Patrick Lussier’s name kept coming up. The first time was when one of the Dracula 2000 films was part of the collection. There was a Prophecy movie in there to. It wasn’t one of Lussier’s, but the previous one (Which helped me understand the one I was watching) was.

As I dug further I discovered he was the director of several Todd Farmer projects. I was also discovering that I really enjoyed the Dracula films and realized it was time to do a retrospective on Lussier.  The problem is, he’s done so many sequels that we’re going to be constantly sharing time with other categories – Box Set, Franchise Focus, ect. Expect a lot of crossover this year, but don’t let that deter you. I rapidly discovered that Patrick Lussier is one of my favorite directors that I never knew I loved. He’s the only director’s spotlight this year so join me as we kick things off in a week or so with Dracula 2000!