Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Why ZOMBIES & SHARKS? Well, those are the two things that I’ve had the most nightmares about. It’s the reason I rarely swim in the ocean. It’s the reason I have an escape plan from my apartment just in case of a zombie apocalypse. Now if you’ve ever had those fears or fears like them, inspired mainly by nights upon nights of watching films of the frightening kind, this is the place for you. So look for AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS every Friday for the foreseeable future, horror hounds, where we’ll be covering horror in all forms; retro, indie, mainstream, old and new.
Last week we checked out a few After Dark Originals, HUSK & PROWL. Some wondered when they’d be able to check out these films. Well, SyFy is airing HUSK this Saturday (tomorrow) for all to enjoy and trust me, if you like scary scarecrow films, you’ll want to check it out. Here’s a link to my review of the film and interview with director Brett Simmons from last week. Hope you check HUSK out this weekend on SyFy!
Last week I also reviewed AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE, an excellent documentary on the history of grindhouse films through the ages. Congrats again to the winners of the contest we ran and look for AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE premiering at the Cinema Village in New York this weekend (showtimes: 2:40pm, 7:40pm, & 9:20pm)!
Now, here’s what we’ve got on tap this week on AICN HORROR. It’s gettin’ twinsy round here as I take a look at a pair of films in my new Make / Remake regular feature (what with all of the remakes popping up these days), and more twin terror with horror films TWINS OF EVIL and SECONDS APART. Enjoy!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
Make / Remake: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (2008)/LET ME IN (2010)
TWINS OF EVIL (1971)
SECONDS APART (2011)
And finally… !
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN / LET ME INThe Original (2008)
AKA LAT DEN RATTE KOMMA IN
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Written by John Ajvide Lindqvist (screenplay / novel)
Starring Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson, & Per Ragnar
The Remake (2010)
Directed by Matt Reeves
Written by Matt Reeves (screenplay) John Ajvide Lindqvist (screenplay/novel)
Starring Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, & Richard Jenkins
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
I know this isn’t going to make me very popular but LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, despite the tagline on the cover of the DVD, is not the best vampire film ever. It’s a great movie, sure, with some of the most iconic and creative uses of vampirism in a long time, but I just wanted to cut through the hype right away and say it’s not a flawless film. I’m not one of those folks that abhors the remake of the film either.
The tale of a young outsider who befriends an immortally young vampire set against a stark winter landscape best describes Swedish film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and its Americanized remake, LET ME IN. Boiled down to the basics they are films about trust, the title of the original cautioning the viewer to be wary of who to trust, while its remake is a bit more bawdy and American in its more forceful tone. Both feature a pair of outsiders: Oskar/Owen, an awkward young boy who is bullied at school, left alone at home, and has violent ambitions of striking back and Eli/Abby who is a mysterious young person who moves into Oskar/Owen’s apartment complex and brings a whole lot of murder with her. Eli/Abby is as wary as Oskar/Owen is at first, both testing each others’ limits and initially pushing each other away. But events seem to pull these two lost souls together; Eli/Abby needs someone to help her find blood and Oskar/Owen needs someone to give him confidence. Both films tell a story of young love more complex than anything ever even associated with the words TRUE or BLOOD or TWILIGHT.
LET ME IN follows the storyline of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN pretty closely. The differences between the two are superficial for the most part. The tone and pacing in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is much slower, but that’s to be expected with a foreign film, I’ve found. The remake shuffles around the narrative a bit (a new trend in modern films that once was innovative, yet now seems a bit tired), but basically tells the same tale, though with a bit more bombast to entertain the mass audiences. I don’t mind making the scope bigger when the scenes are used properly though. Reeves shows real talent in the uber-intense sequence when Richard Jenkins’ Father character is almost discovered in the back of a teenager’s car after his attempts to bring in a new victim for Abby fails. Even the car crash is handled with originality and technical skill, though at the same time, I love the simplicity of the same portion of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN as Per Ragnar’s attempt to kill a teen is thwarted in a school bathroom. Looking at these two scenes in particular really highlight the differences in these films and the different talents of these directors.
The performances of all four child actors are fantastic. Though Kare Hedebrant (Oskar) does a more convincing performance as a kid who just doesn’t know how to socialize very well, Kodi Smit-McPhee (Owen) shows the promise of an extremely talented young actor. Both Lina Leandersson and Chloe Moretz are enthralling as the young vamp, with Leandersson getting a slight edge because she’s much more of a real looking kid while Moretz has the beauty and talent of a future Hollywood starlet. I have to give the edge to Richard Jenkins when comparing his role with Per Ragnar’s simply because he brings a heft to the relationship between the Father and Abby that was something truly magical. The addition of Elias Coteas to any cast is great and though the role doesn’t exist in the original, it does serve its purpose as the witness in this film.
I don’t want to say that American audiences are dumber, but I do think that the studios think that way at times. There’s a lot of explanation going on in the remake that simply isn’t in LET ME IN. Maybe not in words, per se, but the cues are much more blatant. Jenkins’ character’s relationship with Abby is much more pronounced compared to the subtlety of LET ME IN’s relationship. Beefing up Jenkins’ role does give Reeves a chance to get a little more screen time for the amazing actor, so I’m not complaining about it.
***SPOILER*** And of course, the subplot that Abby is a young boy and not a young girl opens up a whole new level of sophistication in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN that LET ME IN only barely hints at. Though this fact is much more evident in the book (from what I hear, haven’t read it yet myself), one of the most disturbing scenes in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN takes place late in the film when Oskar cuts his hand in the secret room and Eli turns into an obvious male form as she laps up his blood from the floor and tells him to go away. Though it may be alluded to in the American version, I know people who didn’t even catch on to the fact that Abby was a boy. I don’t think that says anything about the person himself, but of how little they allude to it in the film. Themes of homosexuality run rampant throughout LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, even if they don’t come out and say this is a love story between two boys. The scene where Oskar and his father are spending time together and a man enters the apartment unannounced suggests this wasn’t Oskar’s first experience with same sex relationships. Even when Oskar asks Eli to “go with him” and she responds that, she’s “not a girl”, he still doesn’t seem to mind. I’m sure someone in management thought this might be too much for American audiences to stomach given the budget of LET ME IN and the need to make a profit, but I don’t think that’s why LET ME IN wasn’t a bigger hit than it was. ***END SPOILER***
I find it interesting that CGI proved to be a detriment to both films; LET THE RIGHT ONE IN with the downright goofy cat attack sequence and LET ME IN with the CGI attack in the tunnel. Though it would have been fun in any other film, the scene where a gaggle of cats attack a newly turned vampire seems extremely out of place in LET THE RIGHT ONE IN what with the first hour of the film being such a viscerally realistic and grounded portrayal of a bizarre relationship using horror staples. LET ME IN smartly drops the cat sequence, but because this is a Hollywood film, a CGI scene is added in its place where Abby attacks a man in a tunnel in silhouette and has the same effect. So blaringly CGI, these scenes took me out of the movie immediately and are a detriment to the films as a whole.
LET ME IN is available on DVD & BluRay everywhere this week.
TWINS OF EVIL (1971)AKA THE EVIL TWINS, THE TWINS OF DRACULA, THE VIRGIN VAMPIRES, THE DAUGHTERS OF DRACULA
Directed by John Hough
Written by Tudor Gates (screenplay) & Sheridan Le Fanu (characters created by)
Starring Peter Cushing, Madeleine Collinson, Mary Collinson, Damien Thomas, & David Warbeck
Retro-reviewed by Ambush Bug
Though this film is the third of the three Karnstein Vampire films Hammer produced inspired by Sheridan Le Fanu’s CARMILLA (the others being THE VAMPIRE LOVERS and LUST FOR A VAMPIRE), it sort of functions as a prequel and first in the order if you’re keeping count. Count Karnstein is front and center in this one, but what makes this film unique is the double threat the film doles out with Peter Cushing playing Gustav Weil, a witch finder. Though reminiscent of Vincent Price’s far superior film, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, this isn’t that bad either.
Keeping with the theme of this column, I chose this film because of the starring twins Madeline and Mary Collinson, Playboy Playmates at the time and truly a feast for the eyes for any beast, living or undead. The twins are absolutely gorgeous and I was surprised (though I shouldn’t have been, them being Playmates and all and this being Hammer) at the amount of flesh they bared for TWINS OF EVIL. Much like the next film, SECONDS APART, the film reels you in with the similarities of the twins then highlights the differences between the two. Here, Mary plays Maria, the virginal innocent, while Madeline seems to have a blast with the role of Frieda, the deviant twin who is fascinated with breaking the rules and the mysterious Count living in the castle overlooking the town. When Frieda sneaks away to the Count’s castle, she’s turned into a vampire. I love the way Frieda manipulates everyone in this film. Both of the Collinsons are good actresses, though I don’t think they went on to appear in any more films after this one.
Cushing, as usual, is top notch here as well as Gustav Weir. He smartly doesn’t try to imitate Price’s egomaniacal Matthew Hopkins from WITCHFINDER GENERAL. Here, Cushing plays Weir as sort of an evangelical preacher with a penchant for burning away sins. Cushing is so good that despite some pretty wicked witch burnings in the first hour of the film, you almost feel for him when he realizes that he’s not battling witches, but vampires. Weir has a great arc in this story which plays out perfectly. Also in the film is David Warbeck as the Hammer standby angelic do gooder dude in the film. Warbeck is strong here as Anton (at one point he was in contention with Roger Moore to play Bond and also popped up in Fulci’s THE BEYOND and THE BLACK CAT), a musician slash vampire expert (huh?). Even while singing and playing the harpsichord, he manages to keep his cool here as the hero.
That’s not to say there weren’t moments where I laughed out loud at TWINS OF EVIL. Cushing’s delivery of the title of the film is worth a guffaw or two, but when Count Karnstein raises his glass and toasts bawdily “To Satan!” I couldn’t help but chortle (the fact that actor Damien Thomas looks like a cross between David Copperfield and Jimmy Fallon doesn’t help things). By the time Karnstein plays a frantic game of charades with his man-servant as the witch finders close in on the castle I was almost in tears:
Man-servant crosses his arms.
Karnstein: “They have crosses?!?!”
Man-servant acts like he’s being stabbed in the heart with a stake.
Karnstein: “And stakes?!?!?”
Man-servant acts like he’s chopping wood.
Karnstein: “And axes!?!?!?”
Then for no reason at all, Karnstein slaps Frieda.
Freakin’ hilarious overacting and unintentionally awesome.
Nothing but a good time can be had with TWINS OF EVIL, a truly twisted, ultra-cleavagey, sometimes unintentionally funny horror film that could only come from the House of Hammer. It’s witch hunters vs. vampires with a pair of hot twins in the middle. I don’t think I have to say any more to win you over on this one.
SECONDS APART (2011)Part of the After Dark Originals series in select theaters now!
Directed by Antonio Negret
Written by George Richards
Starring Edmund Entin, Gary Entin, Orlando Jones, & Samantha Droke
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Think DEAD RINGERS meets HEATHERS with a peppering of THE FURY and you’ve got this little After Dark Original down to a tee. Highlighting the simple eeriness of twins themselves, SECONDS APART is a surprisingly effective little horror film. The twins, Edmund and Gary Entin, are pretty fantastic as the leads with their soulless eyes and identical movements. There’s just something creepy about people moving in tandem, looking and moving in the same manner. It’s been the subject of many a horror film through the years.
I mentioned DEAD RINGERS because SECONDS APART could be retitled DEAD RINGERS: THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS. The story starts with a creepy Russian Roulette sequence where everyone ends up dead. Then we cut to the dead eyes of the twins watching a video of the game and attesting that they feel nothing while watching it. From the get-go, we know the twins are behind the murders. Finding a way to prove it is the problem, and these talented twins have the power to make proving it difficult. The narrative is reminiscent of Cronenberg’s twin opus as a girl comes between brothers and proves to be the one thing that can get through the psychic armor they’ve erected around themselves.
Orlando Jones flexes his dramatic muscles here. Though I’m not sure if the role fits him perfectly, most of the scenes he’s in work decently. I think the main problem with Jones' obsessed cop schtick is that it’s a bit overwritten and melodramatic. Had Jones played the role a bit more subtly, I think he would have been a better antagonist for the evil twins.
Director Antonio Negret does a great job of setting a feeling of unease, especially in the scenes involving the twins using their powers, yet even more so in the scenes following the twins through their everyday lives of serving their parents breakfast, riding their bikes, and playing piano in tandem. His camera hypes up the surreal nature of the double even while doing the most common of acts. SECONDS APART is definitely worth checking out when it becomes available on SyFy or DVD, whichever comes first. I’ve seen three of these After Dark Originals now and all of them have been fantastically original and fun. SECONDS APART highlights the creepiness of twins to maximum effect, even during the moments of banality.
And finally…there’s this...
See ya, next week, folks!
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Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the names to purchase)!
MUSCLES & FIGHTS VOL.3 & MUSCLES & FRIGHTS VOL.1.
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NANNY & HANK miniseries: #1, #2, #3, & #4 (interview, interview, interview, preview, & review, review, Facebook Page in stores now!)
Zenescope’s WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010
THE DEATHSPORT GAMES miniseries: #1, #2, #3, & #4 (review, Facebook Page, in stores now!)