Dracula Review (1931)

My History With the Film:
So confession time.... I've never watched any of the Universal Monster movies. Nope, not a single one. I've seen documentaries and have read all of Crestwood Horror Series of books, but the closest I've gotten to watching a Universal Monster movie was watching The Monster Squad. That was until recently, when I decided to watch Tod Browning's 1931 Dracula.

I knew I needed to see a handful of the Universal Monster movies, so I bought the eight movie Blu-ray set back in 2017. It's taken me some time to get around to watching them, but I finally watched Dracula a few months back.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
A local solicitor is sent to Count Dracula's castle, who unbeknownst to him is a vampire. After siring the solicitor, Count Dracula travels to London to reek havoc.

What I Liked About It:
-The set design is amazing and it's truly wonderful to see in crystal clear blu-ray format. I couldn't imaging sitting through a VHS copy of Dracula, but man is the blu-ray gorgeous.

-The plot is simple and the performances are all around pretty great. Of course, watching this film eighty years later it's easy to notice quirks in the dialogue and action that were used by the performers in these early talkie films.

-The special effects are surprisingly good for 1931. I was not expecting them to look as good as they did.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-Personally, I struggle with films from before 1975 or so. It's a pacing thing for me, and the pacing on this movie is what you'd expect out of something from the 1930s. It comes across almost like a play and is slow and deliberate giving the audience enough time to pick up on the story and never once get lost. I wasn't bored by this film, but I also wasn't riveted.

Additional Notes:
-In 1927, Bela Lugosi portrayed Dracula in a Broadway version for 261 performances. He was so eager to play Dracula on film that he took a meager salary of $500 a week for seven weeks to secure the role. This was an insultingly low pay even for an actor during The Great Depression.

-Also from the original Broadway play were actors Edward Van Sloan as Van Helsing and Herbert Bunston as Doctor Seward.
-Lugosi's epic Dracula stare was achieved by pointing two pencil-spot lights into the actor's eyes.

-Sound was so new to films in 1931, that no real musical score was used in the movie. It was believed that the audience would have a hard time hearing music with no real explanation of why it is there.

-Dracula's castle was actually a painting on a piece of glass in front of the camera..

-The boat footage was taken from another Universal film, 1925's The Storm Breaker. Silent films were shot at a different speed of film, thus the reason for the quick and jerky moments during that scene.

-A Spanish version of Dracula was filmed on the same set at the same time, just featuring actors who spoke Spanish.

I'm sure there have been millions and millions of words written about this film. If you are reading my site, you know that I keep things as minimalistic as possible and don't dive too much into themes. The question I try to answer is: is this movie worth my time? In all honestly, for the film and story it is not. It's simple, slow moving, and a little bit boring at times. With that being said, if you are a fan of older films I'm sure the pacing wouldn't throw you nearly as much as it does me. Also, if you are a huge horror fan, then I think its worth your time to sit down (like I am) and checking out these classics. These films paved the way for the horror movies that were to come and they were some truly technological treats in their day. The make up, special effects, and acting were all groundbreaking and without these films tearing down barriers, who knows if the film industry would have grown into what it is today.

So, I feel obligated to review this film on two standards. Is this film worth your time for story? No, skip it. It's a two out of five.

Should you watch this film for historical value? Absolutely, it's worthy of a four out of five when you judge it based on that.

Summer of ’84 Review (2018)

My History With the Film: 
I first heard about Summer of ’84 sometime in late 2017 or early 2018. The title caught my eye and after watching the trailer I was intrigued. I love these modern stories set in the 80’s (IT, Stranger Things, Super 8) and Summer of ’84 seemed to be out to capture that same tone of innocence and exploration that its predecessors did.

Summer of ’84 received a very limited theatrical release, but made its way to Shudder rather quickly. I had planned on watching it before the holidays, but if I’m honest, I was burned out on horror. I watched so much horror over Halloween that I just needed a few months to regroup and watch something different. Earlier this week, I sat down to give Summer of ’84 a shot and when it was all over I sat stunned at how brilliant it was.

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
After a string of teenage boys are murdered, a teenager and his friends begin to suspect a local police officer is behind it all.

What I Liked About It:
-The 80’s setting was wonderfully created and used to its full potential. I think sometimes storytellers use the 80’s and 90’s as a setting just because, and it doesn’t serve a real purpose. In the case of Summer of ’84, the 80’s provided the perfect backdrop to tell this story. Had it been set it in modern times, it would not have been near as effective and technology would have ruined a lot of it.

-The music is absolutely wonderful. After finishing the movie, I immediately added the soundtrack to my Synthwave playlist and I listened to it the following morning on my way to work. It’s a perfect synth blend that feels a lot like John Carpenter meets the soundtrack of Phantasm and Psycho.

-The casting was amazing in almost every way. The child actors knocked it out of the park, every single one of them. You truly believed they were all friends and it was almost like being welcomed into their own little world. The adult actors were also great with Rich Sommer (Wayne Mackey) putting on a memorable performance. I’ve been a fan of Mr. Sommer’s since Mad Men, but this is by far the best role I’ve ever seen him in.

-The slow burn in this film is amazing and the film keeps your attention with uncomfortable moments. You feel legit fear at times, and I love that! The one scene that blew me away ::SPOILERS:: is when Davey looks out the window with his binoculars and finds Mackey looking back at him. ::END SPOILERS:: That was frightening.

-I loved the relationship that everyone had with one another, especially Davey (Graham Verchere) and Nikki (Tiera Skovbye). They had some many incredible moments together, I especially loved what she did for him when she bumped into the guys checking on the house she was cat sitting.

-I expected them to blotch the ending. I don’t know why, but I just assumed it would be some generic ending that would leave me feeling unsatisfied. Instead, they went all in and I sat there with a huge grin on my face and I loved every second of it. It was the most satisfied I’ve been watching the end of a movie in a very, very long time.

-My favorite scene ::SPOILERS:: is when Davey realizes all the family pictures are actually pictures of his victims. My God did that disturb me in a wonderful way. ::END SPOILERS::

What I Didn't Like About It:
-The only weak spot I saw in this film was the casting of a single actor who played Davey’s dad. It’s not that he was terrible; he just felt a step below everyone else in the production. Looking over his IMDB page, it’s clear that he was not. I think maybe I just didn’t like how he portrayed the character. It just didn’t flow as well as everyone else.

Additional Notes:
-At the bowling alley you can see a cabinet with Polybius, a fictional arcade game that originated in an urban legend in the early 2000’s.

-There is a scene where the kids are all riding bikes while “Cruel Summer” by Banarama plays. This is done in the same positioning as the scene in The Karate Kid which was actually released in the summer of 1984.

-There are lots of other supposed nods/references to other 80’s properties, but I feel like a lot of them are reaching. I’m going to wait till I listen to the commentary before adding any of those additional notes.

I make no qualms about admitting that I feel like this film was made for me. Almost every element of the film seemed to cater to all the things I love about movies and want in movies. There was adventure, friends bonding, legit terror, some crazy “oh shit” moments, and a touch of romance. The music was incredible, the cast was excellent, and I just cannot say enough good things about this film. The moment it ended I went straight to Amazon and ordered a blu-ray. This is a must watch movie if I ever seen one.

I’m not sure where this movie will end up in my favorite movies of all-time, because you always need to a second watch and a few months before making that sort of assessment, but I have a feeling it’ll be breaking into my top fifteen. I loved this movie and it was the most fun I had watching a movie in quite some time.

Summer of ’84 is clearly a five out of five and a must own.

Scream 4 Review (2011)

My History With the Film:
I was managing a movie theater in 2011 when Scream 4 came out. To be honest, I had no idea it was in production. I had heard rumors a few years earlier that Scream 4 might come about, but it wasn’t until I unrolled the Scream 4 poster that I realized this was in fact a real film.

In 2011, a new Scream movie didn’t sound all that appealing. Scream 3 was not a good film and my nostalgia for the franchise had yet to kick in. Now, if someone were to announce Scream 5, I would be jumping for joy and following every step of the production, but in 2011, things were different. Scream 4 came to the theater, underwhelmed, and left without much of an impact. 

A couple of years later, I had my first urge to watch the Scream franchise since 2000, when Scream 3 came out. It’d been well over ten years by this point and the fond memories of the debate over whether Scream was good for the horror genre of not was now just a fond memory in the back of my mind. I started at the beginning and worked my way though before finally buying a digital copy of Scream 4. I found a film that was updated, yet still effective, despite the story being a little on the weak side. 

What The Film Is About (Non-Spoiler):
Sidney Prescott returns home to Woodsboro on a book tour and the Ghostface Killer returns.

What I Liked About It:
-Scream was great because it was very meta (a word I hate, but have no other way to describe this) and current. It took current technology and turned it against us, and in Scream 4 they continue that tradition. Cordless phones and caller ID were no longer current, and instead the film utilizes cell phones, texts, video blogging, live camera feeds, etc. All forms of technology that are still valid at the writing of this post in 2018, as well as in 2011 when the film was released.

-Scream 4 decided to right the wrongs of Scream 3 by bringing back Kevin Williamson to write the script, returning the film to Woodsboro, and keeping the plot centered around the core group of survivors that we all love. They didn’t just insert these characters back into their old roles, they allowed them all to grow and adapt (some for better, some for worse) and it really felt like you were catching up with three characters ten years later who were at different phases in their life.

-One of my favorite things about Scream is the music. I love the score and it’s wonderful in Scream 1, 2 and 4. I’m not sure what happened in 3 since it was the same composer. I think they wanted to deviate from the status quo and that was a mistake. I’m happy to report that Scream 4 brings back those familiar tones and it just feels right.

-The movie was a little ahead of its time and focusing on the “Me Generation.” It’s about young people who want to be the center of attention, no matter what, and that is why I feel like this movie has actually gotten better several years after its initial release.

What I Didn't Like About It:
-I didn’t like the relationship that Sidney had with the killer. It’s plausible, but I just didn’t buy into it all the way. 

-For a good part of the film, it feels like they are attempting to transition the future of Scream from one generation to another. I’m glad this wasn’t the case, because quite frankly, the scenes featuring only the young cast members were the ones that worked the less. I don’t feel this way out of favoritism for the original cast, I felt like the new cast members weren’t as well rounded or different enough to matter. 

Additional Notes:
-One of the rare horror franchises where all of the main characters returned for all four sequels.

-The final film that Wes Craven directed before his death.

-The only Scream film to use a CGI knife.

-Wes Craven only agreed to film Scream 4 if the script was as good as the original Scream.

-Has the highest kill count (15) of all the Scream films.

-The film opened on April 15th, 2011, fifteen years to the day of the original film’s release.

-The new cast memebers were all archetypes for characters in the original film: Jill (Sidney), Kirby/Olivia (Tatum), Trevor (Billy), Charlie (Stu), and Robbie (Randy).

-Kevin Williamson expressed some annoyance towards the release of the film because The Weinstein’s brought in Ehren Kruger (the writer of Scream 3) to polish up the script.

Scream 4 is a good entry in the Scream franchise. I’m not sure if I’d rank it above Scream 1 and 2, but it’s definitely better than Scream 3 and feels more like a Scream film. I like how the plot was updated to feature new technology and the motive the killer is rational, especially in today’s age of social media.

I rate Scream 4 as an four out of five, and say it’s a must own.