You 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.
Back 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 Milton 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 through 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, it’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
I 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 really 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 when 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 hair 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.
White Noise 2
It’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.
The 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 here 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!
We’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.
As 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 mysticism, 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 done 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
I’m watching these completely out of order, but Dracula 2 gives me hope seeing both Khary Peyton and Craig Schiffer’s names in it. Of course I know this is a Gary Tunnicliff effects film, and I got to meet Jason Scott Lee’s character in Dracula 3– a movie I enjoyed enough to want to explore this middle one now as well.
We have a woman in white running for her life against a shadowy figure, what’s interesting is the figure is Lee – our vampire Hunter. What they are doing, is turning the tables. She’s not in innocent victim, she is vampire and in a few minutes and she and her twin sister turn the tables, attacking Lee and trying to destroy him. Getting a fight sequence with a marvelous beheading like this before we’re even five minutes into the film leaves me confident that the director who gave me Dracula 2000, one of my favorite vampire films ever, is on his game and about to give me something remarkably fun.
Schiffer is a paralyzed college teacher and Peyton is one of his students. It’s a great deal of fun to watch these two Hellraiser alumni together but it’s not long before we get a shot of the burnt up Dracula from Dracula 2000 hanging from neon cross and then delivered to a morgue, and now I’m ready for this thing to start in earnest. The corpse is completely desiccated and blackened and the doctor begins his autopsy. While the skin is charred, the organs inside are pristine – white even, as if they had never been touched by blood. While checking his teeth, a fang pops out – piercing the finger of one of the morticians. A single drop of blood hits the body which absorbs it greedily. Our mortician put in a call to Scheffer, while Lee, in full priest gear arrives at the morgue and stalks the halls, looking for a vampire to kill. He arrives, under the guise of giving the body last rights – but it’s too late… The morgue attendants have absconded with the body. A phone call from someone interested in buying the body came through and the $30 million payday was too much for them to resist. We find themselves on the road spiriting the body away to a property where they can test the body and figure out what’s going on. It’s a gorgeous old mansion deep in the heart of Romania (these kind of scenic locations were a staple of these kind of productions as financial concerns led Dimension to start filming there frequently in the early 2000’s).
The group fills a tub of blood in attempts to reanimate the corpse, as Craig Schiffer watches on a computer monitor. It’s all very reminiscent of Hellraiser, particuarly when the bloody corpse emerges from the water alive and energetic – Dracula has risen, emaciated and bloody alive. They subdue him with light and water. , and then keep him captive with iron chains and UV light. It’s kinetic and modern, and for a moment almost feels like the Lost Boys.
It’s a vampire action movie though, despite the scientists best efforts to study, the hunter arrives, the infection spreads and the action starts. Great execution where vampires are blown out the window by a gunshot, then bursting into flames she plummets down.
I got admit, I dig this series a great deal more than it deserves. There is something about the style in which it’s made, it just really appeals to me. It’s not nearly the film that Dracula 2000 was, but as far as fun vampire and action films, this works. It suffers a little bit from being the middle entry of a trilogy and you have to pair it with number 3 to really satisfy, nevertheless this is one I’ll definitely be coming back to with plenty of rewatch value.
Director’s Spotlight : Patrick Lussier
While 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!