Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
Vern’s a good egg. If you don’t know that by now, then catch up to the rest of us and enjoy this new review by him.
It's me Vern. Remember me, I write articles, win awards, etc. Today I am returning to my old shtick of reviewing straight to video sequels nobody asked for. Enjoy!
Actually the first picture I'm gonna deal with here is not completely un-asked for. The first movie CUBE was one of those small time cult movies that nobody is really rabid about but everybody kind of likes. The premise is that a group of strangers find themselves inside strange, symmetrical rooms with vault doors on each side. When they go through a door, they find themselves in a room exactly like the last one. And when they go through one of the doors in there, it's another room exactly like that one. And when they go through one of the doors in there, it's another room exactly like that one. And I could go on man. There's nowhere to go. So of course they get into a George A. Romero type deal where they each have a different background and they argue and what not by they try to put aside their differences to solve the puzzle of "what in fuck's name is going on here." There is math, etc.
The acting is not all that great and none of the actors really have the kind of screen presence you want them to have. And the dialogue isn't exactly on Romero's level. But it's such a good premise that you can't help but enjoy it.
Well CUBE 2: HYPERCUBE is almost the same level of quality as the first one, its main downfall being that we've already seen this before. They do shake up the premise a little by introducing this idea of the "hypercube." I don't know if they made this up or if this is some actual thing that weirdo math guys are into, but the idea is that it is a 4 dimensional cube. There is length, width, depth, and the mysterious fourth dimension. Maybe time, maybe smell, who knows what it is. Only some math whiz guy I guess. Not me, I am a Writer.
Anyway what this hybercube deal does is when you go through one of the doors, you don't necessarily go into the next cube over. Maybe you go into another room ten miles away. Maybe you go into another cube ten minutes ago and run into yourself. These poor fucks start getting shifted all around time and space and they get attacked by flying geometry and shit. I guess you would call it math-fi, like that movie π. (you know, like PIE.) It's π in a box.
Now I don't exactly remember who the poor saps were that got trapped in the first cube, but these ones are maybe a little more obvious. You can tell right away that you're gonna get your standard business - they all are hiding a secret, one of them may or may not betray the others, etc. So it's not that surprising that the Writer, Sean Hood, also did that piece of garbage HALLOWEEN RESURRECTION. Now, if I remember right - correct me if I'm wrong on this - that was the one that sucked the most out of all the HALLOWEEN pictures. I mean there were alot of sucky ones in the series, for example part 3, part 4, part 5 and of course part 6. But there was one that sucked more than any other and that would be the one that involved the internet, reality tv, Busta Rhymes dressed as Michael Meyers, etc.
Anyway fuck the writer, what does he do other than make up all the stuff that happens. Cinema is a visual medium, not a stuff happening medium. The filmatist here is Andrzej Sekula, who we all know and love as the cinematographist of RESERVOIR DOGS and PULP FICTION. Oh and who could forget COUSIN BETTE. This is his second time in the director chair after some movie called FAIT ACCOMPLI aka VOODOO DAWN. He also acts as director of photographing and I think the new look he gave to the cube, let's call it the HYPERLOOK, is pretty nice.
Remember when they had hypercolor, it was a type of clothes that changes color from your body heat. what the fuck man.
Anyway the movie held my attention. There is less numbers and more geometry. There is a pretty grim ending that gives you a look into the outside world without being too specific about what's going on. I mean it's okay.
The other movie I saw recently is not quite up to that okay standard though. It is called DRACULA II: ASCENSION. I wish I could say it was DRACULA II: HYPERDRACULA but I'm afraid that would be a lie. I'm also sorry to say that this is not Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee or Frank Langella, who is an underrated Dracula. Instead it is "the thrilling sequel to DRACULA 2000." Like the thrilling predecessor, it is directed by a guy named Patrick Lussier and thrillingly executive produced by Wes Craven.
I don't know why the studios think we trust Wes Craven to present a movie to us. I mean I know he has done some pretty good stuff in the past, like the first and last Freddy pictures, and THE HILLS HAVE EYES, and to a certain extent THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. As a director he's hit and miss, but as an executive producer he has an unbroken record of garbage. I mean, have you seen MINDRIPPER? Or WISHMASTER? "Careful... what you weesh for..." I mean jesus man. And there was that remake of CARNIVAL OF SOULS. I never saw it but that's because I read that it was about a serial killer clown.
Well DRACULA 2000 is probaly one of Mr. Craven's better outings as an executive producer. I remember it being not all that bad, while also not all that good. I can't really remember much about it so I was gonna refresh my memory by reading my review of it, but turns out it was so memorable I forgot to review it. Oh well. All I remember is that it followed most of the old resurrecting Dracula cliches from the Hammer movies pretty closely, in a year 2000 setting, with a little biblical twist tying in Dracula to Judas. I found it mildly entertaining.
But DRACULA II pretty much abandons Dracula. Instead it's the story of a group of medical students with no screen presence who capture a vampire and think they can get money out of it. Other than the beginning and end, the entire movie takes place in an old mansion where they have the vampire tied up. I guess the vampire must be Dracula, but he sure doesn't seem like the Dracula I know. He stays tied up until the last ten minutes of the movie. He is a spikey haired punk vampire. He's not the suave, seductive sex machine Dracula of the movies, or the hideous, hypnotic Dracula of the book who has the power to control weather, spiders and moths and turn into a wolf and shit.
Just once I would like to see a movie Dracula that controls moths. Nobody ever controls moths in movies, in my opinion.
Anyway, this isn't much of a Dracula movie. And I mean I understand when you can't get the cast to return for a cheapass sequel. Obviously Taye Diggs wouldn't come back for this. But Dracula is a FICTIONAL CHARACTER. It shouldn't be hard to talk him into a meatier role than this. They basically have him do a walkon at the end, when he becomes Rutger Hauer in what I guess is the setup for the thrilling sequel to DRACULA II. (I didn't realize he ever changed into Rutger Hauer, but the credits list Hauer as playing "Dracula 3" and some other guy as "Dracula 2.")
Brande Roderick plays one of the medical students, and in the film's best scene they find themselves around a campfire discussing their careers. MC Hammer lectures Corey Feldman saying that celebrities have no right to complain about their lives when there are people out there really struggling to put food on their tables. Suddenly a coyote howls and Emmanuel Lewis jumps up and runs for the tent. He comes back with a rolled up towel. He unrolls it and inside is a huge knife, and he starts swinging it around!
Oh I'm sorry, that wasn't DRACULA II, that was some tv show that Brande Roderick is on. Man you boys should watch that show. MC Hammer and Emmanuel Lewis share a bunkbed, and in the morning Hammer says, "Manny Moe, you get the bathroom first, followed by your co-pilot." I never seen anything like it.
Anyway there is nothing even close to that entertaining in this movie, but there is one element that is worth singling out as "good." In fact the opening scene had me convinced it was going to be a worthwhile viewing experience, since it starts off with a badass vampire slayer priest played by Jason Scott Leigh.
Jason Scott Leigh is of course the guy who played Bruce Lee in DRAGON: THE BRUCE LEE STORY, and if you've seen that you know he's pretty phenomenal. The guy looks nothing like Bruce Lee, and he's a totally different body type. But somehow in the fight scenes he scrunches his body up and he moves just right and at times he makes you think of him as really being Bruce Lee. I mean people are always talking about actors gaining weight or doing accents or whatever, but that was a case of a guy really going through an amazing physical transformation, and he seems to just do it with his movements. That's a real underrated movie too, a good balance of corny romance and kung-fu action. Too bad the director turned into Rob Cohen.
Anyway, Mr. Leigh was perfect casting to play this generic, er, iconic type character of the asskicking priest. He really makes him cool. He's got long hair and a long coat and when you see him in silhouette you assume he's Dracula. But then you see his collar. He gets to do some martial arts, kill some vampires with a whip, carry around a couple severed heads. But his best scene is early on when he's been nicked by a vampire so he takes his shirt off and goes out into the sunlight and screams in pain as the vampirism is apparently burned out of his body. He makes it agonizing.
Unfortunately, his character takes the backseat to the "plot" and mostly disappears until the end of the movie, when he swoops in to make the save and turn the movie vaguely interesting again.
By the way, if you don't figure out the second you see Craig Sheffer in a wheelchair that he's gonna get bit and start walking, then you might be able to enjoy this movie. sorry I gave it away to you though, whoops. Or who knows, maybe that won't happen, nobody really knows.
One last thing about this movie. One of the ways they keep the guy who is apparently Dracula tied up for the whole movie is they put a net on top of him. Because vampires can get distracted by knots. I knew I had seen this obscure vampire detail in one other movie, so I was thinking it must've been DRACULA 2000 I. But looking at my old reviews it turned out to be HABIT, the most watchable of Larry Fessenden's Pretentious Horror Trilogy. In my review of HABIT I included a random offhand comment:
"There's also at least one obscure vampire detail, that she gets preoccupied by knots. I hope they bring that one back in DRACULA 2000 II."
Well, I got my knots, but in order to get that I also had to get DRACULA II.
"Careful... what you weesh for..."
I just keep re-reading that digression about MC Hammer and Emmanuel Lewis. You made me laugh ginger ale out my nose with that one, Vern, and I wasn’t even drinking ginger ale at the time. You rock, man. Nice to hear from you, as always.