Patrolling the night with “Boy Wonder”

   Boy wonder

    Just like a good sports movie, everyone loves to root for the underdog. In the same way, I am always on the lookout for independent films that have the power to transcend their own subcategory and get a deserved spot in the limelight alongside blockbuster counterparts. Thanks to Netflix and other streaming services it has become far easier to access numerous films that would have been otherwise unavailable to me. Often times, the lack of budget is glaringly apparent. The lack of funds seeps through the cracks of the project, manifesting itself in one of a thousand different outlets. But that’s the name of the game. As much as I would love to sit down, watch a low budget independent film and have it absolutely blow me away (not a far fetched hope) often times you have to take the good with the bad. With no studio influence, independent filmmakers are free to explore their voice and their craft as they see fit.

    Boy Wonder is just such a film. Michael Morrissey presents a Batman-esque tale of a boy that takes a horrific event from his past and uses his anger as fuel to bring a brutal type of vigilante justice to his neighborhood. As a young boy, Sean Donovan sat in the back seat of his mothers car and watched as she was killed by a carjacker. Now in High School, Sean aces his tests, avoids most social interactions and spends most of his spare time at the local police station. As a new detective begins her job at the same station, she becomes interested in Sean’s story and the case surrounding his mother’s murder. As the film progresses we learn more and more about Sean’s past and the relationship he has with his father. Intermingled with the dramatic elements are scenes of brutal street justice in which he observes people hurting others and stopping it at all costs.

    The movie has flaws, to put it lightly. Some of the acting is stale, the dialogue is far more expository than is necessary. At times it seems like we’re being forced to relate to some of the minor characters when it is neither necessary nor wanted. That being said, Caleb Steinmeyer portrays a truly interesting character in Sean Donovan. It’s an extremely similar backstory with the Batman mythos, but with a financially poor protagonist that has less control and discipline. The story is dark and brutal, almost to a fault, but it presents an interesting set of circumstances with a surprisingly strong leading man. The film itself is shot beautifully, often times giving off the sense that it was much more than an independent, low budget film.

Vampires, Vampires Everywhere: Fright Night and Daybreakers Double Feature


Fright Night Daybreakers_poster


I don’t use the word “trounced” nearly as often as I should, so here goes. The base of vampire lore has been trounced by watered down literary and cinematic iterations of the iconic monsters. It was a process that’s happened over decades and reached it’s peak with the abysmal Twilight series. I understand the desire to use the, purely evil, monsters as sympathetic and mysterious protagonists, it was a concept that was original back in the day but has since become an increasingly common theme. I consider Dracula (the novel) my personal home base on how I view vampires and what rules they should follow (again, it’s a completely personal base, I understand people have complete creative license to display them however they want.) There is something entirely appealing to me in going “back to basics” when a particular genre or device has strayed so far from it’s origins. That’s why I would like to talk about two such movies in recent cinematic history that go back to basics and show that it works extremely well when done correctly. One is a drama the other is comedy, and both are, naturally, horrors.


      Fright Night is a 2011 remake of a 1980s horror comedy. The film centers around a high school student in Nevada who comes the conclusion that his new neighbor (Colin Farrell) not only has everything to do with the murders being committed in his community, but that he’s a full fledged vampire to boot. Naturally no one believes him, so he implores the help of Las Vegas magician, Peter Vincent (The 10th Doctor himself; David Tennant), whose entire show centers on him killing vampires (the stage kind, not the real kind). The film boasts an incredibly well cast array of actors to portray their respective roles. In particular Farrell plays a great quintessential vampire, he brings in the seductive nature that has been a real winner for screen vampires over the years, but must abide by all the old rules, including not being able to enter homes without being invited. Tennant also brings his magnificent charm to the film as a grittier, jaded and more crass version of the titular Doctor that he successfully brought back into the lime-lite.


Switching gears to Daybreakers, we’re treated to a much darker, almost noir film about vampirism being a disease that, with few exceptions, the entire world has succumbed to. The plague, rather than being a curse, is viewed as the key to eternal youth. Those that become infected become vampires in every sense of the word. They can’t go into the sunlight, they have no reflection and they have an insatiable lust for human blood. Ethan Hawke plays Edward Dalton, one of the few Vampires that regrets his transformation. He works tirelessly to create a synthetic form of blood in order to sustain the population. The world’s supply of human blood is dwindling, with a deficiency of the crucial food source, the populace slowly starts to mutate into horrific monsters with no self control. Those that haven’t been infected find themselves hunted and put into farms where their blood is humanely harvested. The film becomes a race to find a cure when Dalton meets up with a group of rebels led by a man that claims to have been infected but accidentally cured himself.


Both films have very different tones, despite sharing such a huge central force. Fright Night allows for plenty of gross out and slapstick humor throughout the whole film, while Daybreakers has very little humor; rather it takes a slick and cool approach, every frame is beautiful and futuristic, giving a glimpse into an evil society that is cutting edge on the surface but rotting from within. Fright Night’s take on the genre offers a single threat to the larger community, conversely Daybreakers is just the opposite. The two are easily grouped together being “vampire movies” but their separate approaches to the story is refreshing to see. However the similarities that they do share is what set them apart from most of the vampire drivel that’s cursed the audience lately.


In both movies, the idea of vampires is established as an evil that is forced to abide to certain rules that resonate strongly throughout the history of vampiric lore. Sure, Daybreakers allows room for some sympathy among the Vampires, Dalton doesn’t drink human blood and hates what he’s become, but the majority of the populace has completely turned into near amoral monsters. Though Daybreakers is more dramatic and serious, I can respect Fright Night more for it’s strict guidelines for following those rules. Fright Night gives us a purely evil vampire. His demeanor is closer to that of Edward from Twilight but far better in that he uses his natural ability to attract women purely as a method of obtaining a meal, and he uses his smolder as a form of humor instead of trying to impress the audience. He is smooth and calculating in his ability to gain the trust of his neighbors, and he is ruthless when he turns into his monster self.


Rarely do you find two films that are simultaneously incredibly different and incredibly similar. Both have managed to rise above the white noise generated by the vampire sub-genre. They stick true to what literally everyone knows about vampires, while each taking their own creative license to make something original, funny, exciting and interesting. Daybreakers proves itself to be a dark and visually impressive dystopian noir with plenty of blood and gore. Fright Night uses cleaver writing and exciting action sequences to provide a tense and hilarious horror comedy. Their respective world building allows the viewer to experience a vastly different array of emotions, which is a large part of why these movies stand out. It’s not that we necessarily needed to have more vampire movies pumped into the over saturated market, it’s that it is refreshing to see them done, not only right, but well.


Dredd 3D: 2012s Unsung Hero

In my last post, Ryan Partlow mentioned a movie that was almost completely overlooked this past year. It deserved much better than what it got at the box office. I’ve decided to give my two-cents Dredd 3D.

   Movies tend to muddle themselves up quite frequently. How often do you get a fairly interesting action movie with a strong cast, only to have the focus of the film go off in a hundred different directions, ala Spider Man 3, in which we’re introduced to far too many villains and side plots? There is a fine line between what a director wants to accomplish with their film and what is actually possible. The closer a director is to that line of what is possible without going over, the better off the movie tends to be. A movie may not have a very ambitious plot, but if those behind the camera know what they want and how to attain it to it’s maximum potential, it’s going to be a better experience for everyone. In Dredd 3D the filmmakers involved were working with a below average budget. They knew their limitations both in regards to story and financial ability and they nailed it.

Dredd follows the titular hero as he takes the rookie, Anderson, out for observation. While on the call they unwittingly cross the “MaMa Gang” and find themselves locked in a massive vertical cement city. The MaMa gang consist of some of the most ruthless gangsters in Mega-City One; the fictional post apocalyptic city/state in which the story takes place. Ma-Ma (played by Lena Headey) is a the head of the gang, she is responsible for the distribution of the drug SLO-MO, a narcotic that makes the user feel as if time is passing at 1% of its normal speed. She is a ruthless psychopath. Karl Urban plays Dredd perfectly; cold, calculating and unforgiving. Anderson (played by Olivia Thirlby) is a young woman with psychic abilities who is in the process of becoming a Judge. Judges are the cities law enforcers who make judgments and pass sentences on the spot. The world of Dredd is extremely violent and brutal, which is part of what makes this movie so fun.

There is no plot twists in this movie. There are no odd tangents that the characters go off to follow to the detriment of the viewers, this is quite simply one entire gang verses two Judges. With the massive concrete tower sprawling into the sky, it gives the entire film the feeling of an old school video game as our heroes work their way up to the top floor. This feeling that is enhanced by the increasing body count. It’s an extremely simple process, and the characters themselves have very little character arch; but that was precisely what was intended. We’re treated to something like an 80s action film, without the melodrama. The original Dredd character was based off of Clint Eastwood’s character in the  Dirt Harry movies, a parallel that becomes more and more clear as the movie progresses. From all points, this movie should have just been another mindless action movie lost in the white noise of it’s genre. the actors involved executed their roles so well, and the makers of the film were so devoted to the source material that the project meant too much to let it fall into the standard cliches.

The quality is superb, it’s unflinching in it’s brutal violence, unrelenting in it’s adrenaline filled action scenes, and unforgiving towards evil. Next to Cabin in the Woods, Dredd 3D was the most fun I had in theaters last year.