Guest Post: Frankenstein (1931)

Hey there, friends, hope you’re doing well on this spooky October day. So today we’re doing something a little different. For once, you’re not putting up with my terrible opinion(s). No, instead this piece is written by my dear friend Mary, who is the first proper guest writer we’ve had on the blog, so that’s exciting. Anyhow, I won’t dawdle any longer.
Let’s just sit back and enjoy as Mary takes us through the 1931 classic “Frankenstein.

Frankenstein is one of the most culturally impactful monster movies released by Universal Studios. The appearance of the Monster and the notion of a “creator” has influenced everything from TV comedies (such as The Munsters); to fantasy cinema (such as Edward Scissorhands); to sci-fi horror (such as Ex Machina). It’s not just about the flat top head and the neck bolts, it’s about our desire to understand life and, most crucially, what makes us human.
The Monster made his first outing in 1931, in a movie directed by James Whale, who went on to direct The Invisible Man and The Bride of Frankenstein as part of Universal’s original horror canon. The very image of the Monster that we see to date is influenced specifically by this movie, and not the Mary Shelley novel on which it is – very loosely – based.

The film opens with a bow-tied Master of Ceremonies warning the viewers that what they are about to see is both disturbing and horrifying. The feels like an unusual move for a horror movie but, perhaps, back in 1931 it was deemed necessary before introducing the Monster to movie-goers who had never seen such a character before. The cast list roles up, with every player’s name listed apart from the actor playing the Monster. It’s a neat little marketing hook.

Centring around Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) and his lab assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye), Whale’s adaptation of the gothic horror novel really homes in on the titular character’s God complex and his quest to create new life without the aid of a higher being. A mix up at the university sees Fritz steal an “abnormal, criminal” brain – as opposed to a “normal, good” one – and thus the Monster is born. Boris Karloff – who had been a farm hand and a truck driver as well as a bit part player – brings the Monster to life in his first outing in the role.

The use of light and shadow throughout is straight out of German expressionist films. The creeping shadows up the spiral staircases are straight out of Nosferatu. It feels dreamy in its grandiose at times – the sheer scale of the windmill laboratory or the wedding celebrations – and often tapers this with close ups so tight you can see the stage make up. The only thing that prevents all of this from truly drawing you in is often the furniture and backdrops. At times, it looks like most pieces could be knocked over with a strong cough and you can see the paint brush marks on the “clouds” or “village” in the background. It feels cheap in contrast to the spiraling violins and ominous organ music accompanying it.

However, it’s not all corny. Colin Clive is excellent as Henry Frankenstein, his desperate cries of “Now I know what it feels like to BE God!” neatly summing up everything you need to know about his character. He believes himself to be a man of science; a discoverer; a creator. Yet he’s also bound by social expectations of marriage and children. Clive does well at conveying this conflict. In such a short run time, he is probably one of the most nuanced characters and, as such, you’re able to flit between empathising with and condoning his actions.

But it’s Boris Karloff you’re really here to see. The “big reveal” is teased, slowly, and he doesn’t actually appear until just around the halfway mark. His Monster is misunderstood – trying to make sense of his place in the world, acting on impulse and frightened by human behaviour. This all-but non-verbal performance is incredible to watch. The child like joy he expresses upon seeing flowers float is so sad. The close ups of his tear-filled eyes and curious expression are stunning. His appearance was achieved through practical hair and make-up effects, as well as having Karloff remove his dental bridgework to create a sunken in face.

Dwight Frye is good in his short amount of screen time as Fritz – a lab assistant who has no doubt faced his share of cruelty (owing to his own appearance) and, yet, it is he who treats the Monster the worst. Frederick Kerr, as Baron Frankenstein, is supposed to bring some comic relief but is just rather annoying. Mae Clarke, as Elizabeth, doesn’t really have much to do other than scream or look doe-eyed but, hey, it was the 1930s. That’s what blondes did in pictures, right?

What’s so interesting watching the movie now is the themes and imagery it throws up. Just years after the movie’s release, all across Europe, many were being rounded up and driven out as people became afraid of “the other”. Windows were smashed and fires were set then, too. What right to we have to say who lives and who dies? And, of course, it asks the question “What makes us human?”. Are the braying mob, bullish and jeering, any better than the Monster? Where is their humanity?

Frankenstein feels more like a melodrama-come-morality tale, as opposed to a horror (even if it does introduce us to the Monster for the first of many outings). The surprisingly nuanced performance from Boris Karloff is what makes this movie really worth watching. And, despite the ropey sets and even ropier acting, it is a classic and absolutely worth checking out this spooky season … just don’t expect to be too spooked, despite the pre-film “warning”.

Written by Mary Palmer

Series Review: Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness – Season 1 (2021)

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of the CG-animated “Resident Evil” movies, with “Resident Evil: Damnation” being my favorite of the bunch. So when it was announced that we were getting a new animated series for the franchise, I got excited. And now it’s here, on Netflix, and I watched the entire thing. So let’s talk about it.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness”.

A few years after the outbreak in Raccoon City, we once again meet up Leon Kennedy (Nick Apostolides) and Claire Redfield (Stephanie Panisello) as they’ve moved on to new positions in the world. And we follow them as they look into strange goings on involving bioweapons and horrific drawings, leading them down a dangerous path of horrors and conspiracies. So yeah, the setup treads familiar ground if you’re a fan of this franchise, which is fine, as long as it’s handled in an interesting and enjoyable way. Sadly, that’s not quite what’s going on here. I’m not saying that it’s outright poor, I didn’t dislike the story here. But it’s done in such a dry way, lacking the personality and unique charisma that makes “Resident Evil” into what it is. There is no real suspense, there’s not much (if any) excitement in how it could pan out, there’s not really any sense of fun, and at no point does it feel like it needed to be a “Resident Evil” story. On the whole, it’s a passable thriller narrative for a rainy Sunday, but sadly I never got truly invested in it.

The characters in this are… fine? Much like the case of the story, they lack a lot of personality. Leon is neither the naive optimist of “Resident Evil 2” or the snarky legend of “Resident Evil 4”, he’s just kind of a quiet tough guy who never shows much sign of any charisma.  Nick Apostolides does a good job with the performance, but it just feels slightly underwhelming when the material he has to work with is so… plain. Claire comes close at times of showing off some of the determined charm that I loved in “Resident Evil 2”, but never quiiiiite gets to go the distance on it. At least I can say that Stephanie Panisello does a good job with her performance. The other charaters… again, very plain, doesn’t get much, if any interesting development. They’re just kinda there. At least I can say that the supporting cast, featuring people like Ray Chase, Jona Xiao, Billy Kametz, Brad Venable, and more, all do very well in the roles.

The score for this series was composed by Yugo Kanno, and I think he did a good job with it. It doesn’t necessarily do much to stand out, but it has enough nice little action, horror, and drama flourishes throughout to at least give the show an enjoyable enough soundscape.

Based on the “Resident Evil” game franchise published by Capcom, “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness” was created by Hiroyuki Kobayashi, with Eiichiro Hasumi handling direction. And now comes the part where I can finally pile praise upon the show. This show has some spectacular animation. Going for this sort of semi-realistic style can be a gamble, but I think they pulled it off. Character movement is fluid and natural, making me believe each action that happens. And the sheer amount of detail they managed to put in the show is absolutely insane. Individual hairs on characters’ heads, creasing in fabrics, subtle details in metal, there’s just a ridiculous amount of detail in everything throughout this show, which is just mindboggling to me. How can you pull this level of detail off? But yeah, this show is really well animated.

Keep in mind that the show just came out, so these ratings will change over time (not on this blog though, I’m too lazy to edit shit as time goes on). On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 56% positive rating. On Metacritic it currently has no rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.3/10.

So yeah, despite my excitement for it, “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness” isn’t quite as enjoyable as I had hoped, with its biggest weakness being a lack of personality and identity. It has an okay plot, mediocre characters, good performances, good music, and terrific animation and direction. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness” is a 6.20/10. So while very flawed, it can at least be worth a watch.

My review of “Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness” is now completed.

Well, damn…

Movie Review: The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)

While I miss going to the cinema, it’s nice that I still can experience brand new movies from the safety of my own home. And this one comes to us straight from Netflix.

Ladies, gents, and non-binaries… “The Mitchells vs. The Machines”.

Going on what is meant to be a family bonding road trip, the dysfunctional Mitchell family find themselves caught in the middle of a robot apocalypse, and must do everything they can to survive and possibly also save the world. So yeah, this movie blends a lot of familiar elements into its story. There’s the whole dysfunctional family angle, the misunderstood teenager, there’s a road trip comedy, there’s robots trying to take over, there’s social commentary on modern tech… yeah, this soup has a lot of ingredients. And they all come together quite well to make for a highly enjoyable narrative. Yes, it really doesn’t do much new, but that’s okay, because it handles its familiar ideas in really fun, easily digestible ways. It also helps that it seldom lets anything outstay its welcome, thanks to a crackling pace. But it does also know to slow down when there needs to be a bit of character drama. It’s basically a good, well paced story that I highly enjoyed.

The characters in this are all charming, colorful, and highly entertaining. They all have some quirk to them that is used in fun ways throughout the movie, and it also at times makes for some interesting character dynamics when needed. I don’t really wanna say too much more, as I feel the characters and their unique charms are best left experienced, so let’s just mention some of the actors in this, all of which are great in their respective roles. You got Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph, Michael Rianda, Eric André, Olivia Colman, Fred Armisen, Beck Bennett, and many more.

The score for the movie was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, and I think it’s great. It’s very energetic and fun, fitting the fast pace of the movie. I also think the heavy use of synths add a lot to it, complementing both the robot uprising and the bouncy family adventure. There’s also a few licensed songs used here, and they work fine.

“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” was written and directed by Michael Rianda and Jeff Rowe, and I think they did a terrific job with it. This movie has this really energetic and snappy direction that really helps keep any moment from getting stale, and which makes action scenes an absolute joy to behold. Speaking of beholding, holy crap, this animation in this is spectacular. It is of course 3D/CG in its basis, but it also seems to incorporate elements of cel-shading, some traditional 2D animation, and even a few other styles at a few points that I won’t spoil. But yeah, it makes for animation that really pops off the screen lingers in the viewer’s (AKA my) mind. The movie is also insanely funny, there’s so many jokes here I laughed really hard at. There were also a few I didn’t really enjoy, but thanks to the movie’s fast pace they didn’t really outstay their welcome, so the overall experience remained very positive.

This movie just came out, so ratings might change over time (I will however not change anything, for I am lazy). On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 96% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 80/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.2/10.

“The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is an insanely fun and hilarious family film that I highly enjoyed. It has a really good story, great characters, great performances, great music, fantastic direction/animation, and hilarious comedy. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is a 9.67/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Mitchells vs. The Machines” is now completed.

It’s been a while since I laughed so much that it made me cough. Good on ya, movie.

Movie Review: Justice League Dark: Apokolips War (2020)

If you’ve followed my blog for an extended amount of time, then you’re probably aware that I have a certain fondness for animated movies based on DC superhero comics. I tend to watch them all, and review a lot of them. And today we’re doing just that. So here we go!

Ladies and gentlemen… “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War”!

After the Justice League fails to defeat the alien despot Darkseid (Tony Todd), the world turns into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. And with the League basically gone at this point, it’s up to a ragtag gang of remaining heroes and villains to team up to make one final attempt at stopping the alien dictator. So this is basically the big, “everything looks dire” finale to this specific universe of animated films. And you can really feel that the crew of this movie are taking a big swing at giving us an emotionally satisfying finale to this universe that they’ve kept going since 2014. And I think they succeeded quite well. For only having a 90 minute runtime, they manage to get a lot of stuff in there without making any of it feel forced. As the title implies, we get to see a little more of the Dark League, especially since John Constantine (Matt Ryan) more or less acts as the main character here. We get the Suicide Squad involved, we get payoffs from the Teen Titans stuff from other movies. They somehow manage to involve payoffs from pretty much all branches of this movie universe, and it all works marvelously… for me as a fan who’s followed these films for years, at least. I felt satisfied with this wrap-up. It’s dark, it’s exciting, it’s fun, and it even got me a little emotional. It’s just a solid narrative.

The characters in this are colorful, fun, and surprisingly nuanced. We both get to see the personalities we’ve come to know (and mostly love) over the years as they are, but we also get to see a surprising amount of nuance and character development throughout that really made me care for them all much more. And since this is the big finale, they bring in the big guns on the cast. A lot of recognizable names, and all giving top notch voice performances. Matt Ryan, Jason O’Mara, Roger Cross, Tony Todd, Camilla Luddington, Jerry O’Connell, Taissa Farmiga, Stuart Allan, Ray Chase,Liam McIntyre, Rainn Wilson, and more all deliver their talents wonderfully.

As with a lot of the previous DC animated movies, the score for this one was composed by Frederik Wiedmann. And as per usual he knocked it out of the park. Of course he gives us the familiar superhero brass, but he also gives us a fair bit of somber pieces as well to really show how desperate the entire situation is for our heroes. And really, Wiedmann has never failed before, but this is still somehow his best work for this series.

Based on various comics from DC, “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War” was directed by Matt Peters and Christina Sotta. And I think they did a terrific job. As with the story, you can tell that they were going all out on the directiong/animation on this one. Because out of all the movies in this animated universe, this is the best looking one. The animation is crisp, and everything flows beautifully. And this makes action scenes an absolute blast to watch. They also went all out on violence in this. People die… and not in nice ways. And that helps add some extra impact to fights. So yeah, the crew killed it.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10.

I know some of you don’t care for these movies, but for me “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War” was a satisfying and exciting finale to this specific run of DC animated features. It has a really good story, great characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/animation. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War” is a 9.78/10. Which of course means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Justice League Dark: Apokolips War” is now completed.

I’m really gonna miss looking forward to new movies in this series.

Movie Review: Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954)

You know that Universal Monsters box set I’ve been going through this month? Yeah, this is the last one in that. I decided to skip reviewing “Phantom of the Opera”, because I had nothing interesting to say about that boring movie. But I am dedicated to at least cover this here. The last one. The big shebang. The one with all the water.

Mermaids and mermen… “Creature From the Black Lagoon”.

A group of scientists are deep within the Amazonian jungle, studying Devonian fossils. What they don’t know however is that there is a living prehistoric creature roaming the area, about to cause them a lot of grief. What I appreciate about the story of this movie is that there are no lofty ambitions, no aim to make it a thoughtful experience. It’s justa simple creature feature, a fun popcorn flick. Don’t get me wrong, I love the contemplative tone of the two “Frankenstein” movies, and I do love me some  depth in my fiction… but sometimes you just need to see a strange amphibian messing with some people. This does however come with the backside of it feeling very disposable. It’s an easy watch that one can easily enjoy on a slow evening, but it’s also very surface level. It’s basic entertainment, never engaged beyond a “I enjoyed that, that was alright”.

The characters in this are alright, they’re nothing special. They serve the story just fine. And Richard Carlson, Julie Adams, Whit Bissell, Richard Denning, and Antonio Moreno all do very well in their respective roles. For fans of this movie, I did indeed leave out Nestor Paiva as Lucas, the boat captain. And that’s because he deseved his own little section, because he’s a ton of fun to watch. By far the most entertaining character/performance. And then there’s the double act of Ben Chapman and Ricou Browning as the titular creature, with either actor used depending on if the creature was in the water or on land. They both did a solid enough job with that.

The score for the movie was composed by Henry Mancini, Hans J. Salter, and Herman Stein. And it was pretty good. For a lot of scenes they’ve composed tracks that overall just work decently enough for whatever is going on in the scene, whether that is going on a boat in the jungle or serenely swimming. Then they’ve also composed a leitmotif for the creature, and it awesome. It’s basically just three notes, but the combination of those notes, and the intensity in which they are played makes for a phenomenal little theme that adds a lot to the creature’s appearances.

“Creature From the Black Lagoon” was directed by one Jack Arnold, and I think he did a good enough job. Scenes flow nicely, and he has a good way of shooting both slower talk scenes and more intense monster appearances. But I must also give a lot of credit to James Curtis Havens who helmed the underwater sequences, which are terrifically well made. Speaking of well made, the creature design is iconic as fuck. Eyes look a little wonky, but the suit itself still holds up quite well. The craft in general is just good here.

This movie has been pretty well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 79% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 68/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.0/10.

“Creature From the Black Lagoon” may not be anything special compared to some of the other movies in the Universal Monsters box set, but it’s still an enjoyable little monster flick. It has a decent story, decent characters, good performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Creature From the Black Lagoon” is a 7.45/10. So it’s certainly worth renting.

My review of “Creature From the Black Lagoon” is now completed.

For other lagoon recommendations, I point you to the anime series “Black Lagoon”. It has nothing to do with the monster, but it’s a damn good show.

Movie Review: Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

Our journey through the Universal Monsters blu-ray set  continues, with the first (and only) sequel within it. So let’s put our neck-bolts on and get ready to talk about it.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Bride of Frankenstein”.

Set immediately after the horrifying events of the first movie, we follow the Monster (Boris Karloff) as he makes a daring escape, trying to just be left in peace. All while the somehow still alive Dr. Frankenstein (Colin Clive) once again is in the business to create life. This movie is a little falsely advertised. The bride does technically exist in this movie, but spoiler alert, she’s barely fuckin’ in it. She only shows up for a minute right at the end, barely playing any role in it. The story leading up to that is excellent, and I don’t mind the bride scene either… but when your movie is named after something that’s only there for a minute, then you kinda fucked up, I feel. It’s like if you took “Fight Club” and named it “The Harassment of Raymond K. Hessel”, yes it happens in the movie, but it’s such a minor element that it’s not worth naming the movie after it. Wow, I spent a lot of time on that one thing… but I guess I can justify that with “the movie is very mismarketed”.  Anyway, the rest of the story is great, they get some excellent drama of the Monster being on the run from the mob of scared people. There is a lot of nuance within the narrative, it is emotionally engaging. But man, that title snafu really bugs me.

The characters in this are colorful (ironic, given the monochrome) and entertaining. Let’s start with Boris Karloff as the Monster. He’s a tender creature, someone who doesn’t want to hurt anyone, but is sometimes forced because he’s trying to survive. He has such a beautifully tragic arc in this movie, and Karloff’s performance is fantastic. Colin Clive returns as Dr. Frankenstein, and he’s a little more reserved this time around… and Clive does a good job with his performance. And the supporting cast, containing people like Valerie Hobson, Ernest Theisger, Elsa Lanchester, Dwight Frye, O.P. Heggie, and more, all do quite well in their respective roles. Theeeeeen there’s one cast member I don’t like. That is one Una O’Connor. She was also in “The Invisible Man”, in which she was kinda fun. Here however she doesn’t fit. Her performance doesn’t work with the serious tone of this… and she has a lot of screen time. Do you see the problem with that one? But yeah, one really big sore thumb in an otherwise great cast.

The score for the movie was composed by Franz Waxman, and I think he did a good job with it. It’s fun, it’s decently emotional, and it overall does fit the whole mad science/gothic vibe for it. It just works for this movie pretty well.

The director of the first movie, James Whale, came back to direct “Bride of Frankenstein” as well, and once again his direction is spectacular. This man was very much ahead of his time, giving scenes a lot of exciting camera movements and angles that almost felt ahead of their time. Whale’s direction is electrifying, and when you combine that with the cinematography of John Mescall’s cinematography, you get a movie that is beautiful to look at.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 98% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 95/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10. The movie even was nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Sound.

So yeah, I don’t love “Bride of Frankenstein” as much as most people. It has some flaws within its title-story ratio, and also one painful performance… but it’s still a solid flick. It has a good plot, okay characters, great performances, good music, and great direction/cinematography. Time for my final score. *ahem*. My final score for “Bride of Frankenstein” is an 8.11/10. So while flawed, it’s still worth buying.

My review of “Bride of Frankenstein” is now completed.

The film twitter people are gonna kill me for me… and then reanimate me so they can kill me again.

Movie Review: The Invisible Man (1933)

And our journey through the Universal Monsters blu-ray set continues!

Invisible ladies and invisible gentlemen… “The Invisible Man”!

Scientist Jack Griffin (Claude Rains) has managed to find a way to turn himself invisible. This has however come at the cost of his mind, turning him into a homicidal maniac. So now we have our little horror/sci-fi plot. And I kinda loved this story. It’s relatively simple, not aiming for any lofty mindfuckery. But what we do get is a fast-paced, eerie, and quite fun narrative of public paranoia and scientifically induced madness. And while there’s been overall fun factors in the previous Universal Monster movies we’ve covered, none have been as gleeful about it as this one. Seeing Griffin’s invisible rampage through England is an absolute riot, as it’s handled with a surprising amount of dark comedy. Yes, the idea of an invisible man running around and terrorizing people is really scary, but the way it’s done here manages to perfectly balance fear of the unknown with a big, mischievous grin. And I found the blend to be very entertaining.

The characters in this can seem a little bit cartoony at times, but I do find them to serve the narrative quite well. First we have Jack Griffin, mad scientist and resident invisible man. He’s a highly intelligent man, always being able to outsmart his opponents. Combine this with his science-induced madness, and you get a highly entertaining central protagonist and villain. And Claude Rains is fantastic in the role, giving us an electrifying performance. We also get performances from people like Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan, Una O’Connor, E.E. Clive, Holmes Herbert, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score in the movie was composed by Heinz Roemheld, and while it’s used very sporadically, the few times it shows up it is pretty good, composed in a way that perfectly fits the whole mad scientist thing.

Based on the 1897 science fiction novel by H.G. Wells, “The Invisible Man” was directed by James Whale (who also directed “Frankenstein”), and I think Whale has outdone himself here. His direction has a lot of energy to it, never letting a moment sit too long or get too dull, all without making anything feel rushed. And the editing in this is absolutely superb, this especially shown during a really fun and snappy montage where news of the invisible man spread to the people of the country. Speaking of imperceptible fellas, holy fucking shit, that effect is still impressive to this day. I do know HOW they achieved that effect, but it still feels a little mindblowing how they managed to achieve this in the early 1930s.

This movie has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 94% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 87/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.7/10.

So yeah, “The Invisible Man” is another great horror classic. It has a great story, pretty good characters, great performances, okay music, an amazing invisible man effect, and great directing/editing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “The Invisible Man” is a 9.77/10. Which means it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “The Invisible Man” is now completed.

I love the smell of mad science in the weekends.

Series Review: Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Season 4 (1999 – 2000)

Disclaimer: This is not an official Month of Spooks post. I know it could easily slot into that, but it’s not. Mom and I simply got to this point in our rewatch of the show, and I might as well review the season now before I forget. So anyhow, let’s go.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 4.

With high school behind them, Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her friends can finally move on to something new and exciting… College! But just because they’re attending a new school it doesn’t mean they’ll get away from the vampires, demons, and a shadowy military organization… Yeah, this season gets a little different. Season 4 is a very ambitious one. Sure, that could be said about seasons 2 and 3 as well, but at least that ambition felt somewhat reasonable. However, the ambitious nature of the fourth season doesn’t always yield great results. There are a lot of problems with the overarching narrative this season, especially in the second half of the season, where a particular narrative choice happens. And even some of the one-offs aren’t great. Sure, this season does have the terrifyingly fantastic “Hush”, and the gut-wrenching “Wild at Heart”. But then there are some less than stellar ones too. Do I hate the story/stories here? No. I do kind of enjoy it, but it does feel slightly off overall.

As per usual, the characters of this season are what make it… for the most part. The main cast of Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon, Anthony Head, and Seth Green are all great and all get some good development. Some recurring guest stars such as James Marsters, Kristine Sutherland, and Emma Caulfield are also great. Now, let’s talk about newcomers… or at least one. Marc Blucas plays Riley, a teacher’s assistant who Buffy meets at college, and he serves as a bit of a new love interest. And while his character development is fairly whatever, I do think Blucas does a damn fine job with his performance.

As with the previous two seasons, the music was composed by Christophe Beck, and once again he did a damn good job. It was bombastic, it was subtle, it was emotional, it was fun… Beck is just a great composer. And as per usual, there was a fair bit of licensed music throughout, and all the songs worked well for their respective scenes.

As with the other seasons, writing and directing for season 4 of “Buffy” was handled by a whole bunch of people. And while some of the writing could be less than stellar (as alluded to earlier), the directing generally kept a decent level of quality. Of course this is highlighted the best in the season’s best episode “Hush”, which is just fucking masterful. But most other episodes are really well handled too. Even the effects are for the most part quite good. You can tell that they had found a rhythm with the craft of the show.

This season has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 67% positive rating. On Metacritic it has an audience score of 7.3/10. And while there’s no season average, on imdb.com the show sits firmly on an 8.2/10.

Season 4 of “Buffy” is a bit of a mixed bag, but overall I do still enjoy it (maybe my bias for these characters is showing). It has okay story, great characters, great performances, great music, and really good directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Buffy” season 4 is a 7.23/10. So while quite flawed, it’s still worth watching.

My review of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” season 4 is now completed.

I guess college does ruin things… I’m joking, stay in school, kids.

Series Review: Fortitude – Season 3 (2018)

For the past two years, I’ve covered one season of this show for the Month of Spooks. And today we reach the third and final season. It’s been an interesting journey. So let’s travel to this frozen town one last time.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Fortitude” season 3.

With the remaining survivors in the town of Fortitude still reeling from the traumatic events of season 2, one would think things would calm down a bit. But it doesn’t take long for new people to show up, stirring up new horrors, all while the local Sheriff (Richard Dormer) seems to be going a bit mad. The story has a lot of potential for greatness here. But it sadly doesn’t reach that potential. As a matter of fact, it’s nowhere even close to succeeding. What was one a slowly burning, off-kilter, and creepy narrative that engaged for most of the runtime, season 3 is bafflingly insane. It’s four episodes of eyebrow raising, gasping, and exclaiming “What in the actual fuck just happened!?”. It’s one insane and nonsensical event after the other, and I find myself constantly baffled at what is going on before my eyes. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

The characters in this are a mixed bag. On one hand, I know who they are because I watched the other seasons. But on the other, their arcs this season are so bizarre and poorly written that I just can’t find myself that engaged with it. The only one I can kind of care about is Dan Anderssen, Fortitude’s currently mad Sheriff, and that’s mainly because Richard Dormer gives us a wonderfully hammy performance. The rest of the cast give it their all, even if they don’t get to be quite as… delightfully expressive. But the returning actors like Dennis Quaid, Luke Treadaway, Darren Boyd, Björn Hlynur Haraldsson, Sienna Guillory, Mia Jexen, and more, all do the best they can with the material. And the newcomers are… fine, they don’t get much to chew on here.

As with previous seasons, the score for season 3 was composed by Ben Frost, and it was a strange downstep. Sometimes it was close to the dramatic and emotionally resonant stuff we’ve heard before… but then there are songs that use a smooth lounge trumpet… and I don’t know what they’re trying to convey, but it just feels really fucking off.

Season 3 of “Fortitude” was written by series creator Simon Donald, with Kieron Hawkes handling direction on all episodes. And as you may have expected from the previous sections, this stuff is a bit of a mixed bag. The writing is insane and nonsensical, whereas the direction tries to fix everything… keyword being “tries”. You can tell that Hawkes does his best in trying to make all the madness work. Not even Gary Shaw’s great cinematography can help make it work.

This show/season has had some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 80% critics rating, but a 52% rating from audiences. On Metacritic it exists with no rating at all. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.4/10.

Season 3 of “Fortitude” is an absolute trainwreck, and not even Richard Dormer’s delightfully hammy performance can save the season. The story is a strange mess, the characters have no compelling arcs, the performances are fine, the music is meh, and the directing/cinematography is alright. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for season 3 of “Fortitude” is a 3.22/10. So I’d recommend skipping it.

My review of “Fortitude” season 3 is now completed.

Were they on drugs? It feels like they were on drugs.

Movie Review: Frankenstein (1931)

Greetings, friends. As promised every other review will be of a classic Universal monster movie from a snazzy blu-ray set I bought. So yeah… today we’re doing one of those.

Ladies and gents… IT’S ALI- I mean, “Frankenstein”.

With the help of his assistant Fritz (Dwight Frye), Dr. Henry Frankenstein (Colin Clive) aims to perform one of the biggest scientific feats ever seen… stitching together body parts and try to animate it into a living creature. And as we all know by now, this experiment succeeds. We all know the story at this point. But how good is the execution of it? I would argue it is fantastic. You get that dark, gothic, spooky goodness, but you also get a surprisingly nuanced exploration of the line between genius science and mad science, and I am honestly surprised how much relative depth there is in here, while still being an accessible and enjoyable monster movie.

The characters in this are, much like the narrative, a lot deeper and more interesting than they have any right to be. For example, seeing the duality of Dr. Frankenstein is quite interesting, as he often teethers the line between a little mad and quite compelling and relatable. And Colin Clive is really good in that role. And let’s not dilly-dally, Boris Karloff plays the reanimated creature. And his performance is amazing. It does have some of the monster menace one expects from that look, but there is also a childlike innocence to him, making him kind of a tragic figure. Dwight Frye (who also was in “Dracula”) is really good as Fritz, the humpback assistant of Frankenstein. And in supporting roles we have Mae Clarke, John Boles, Edward Van Sloan, and more, and they all do well in their respective roles.

Like with “Dracula”, this movie doesn’t really have a score. And that works well here. There is music in like the opening and end credits, but between that there’s really nothing. And for those asking “If there is no music, why still have a music section?”. Because if nothing else, I am consistent… also, I gotta find a way to waffle that word count up somehow, ya know.

Based on the 1818 novel of the same name by Mary Shelley, “Frankenstein” was directed by James Whale, and I think he knocked it out of the park. He shows here how to build a quiet intimacy with his characters, while still being able to create haunting and eerie images that add to the drama of movie. And when you mix this with Arthur Edeson’s frankly beautiful cinematography, you get one of the most visually inspired and gothically stunning movies ever.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 100% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 91/10. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7.8/10.

So yeah, “Frankenstein” holds up marvelously nearly 90 years later (blimey). It has a great story, good characters, great performances, and excellent directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *IT’S ALI-*, no not yet. My final score for “Frankenstein” is a 9,78/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Frankenstein” is now completed.

Now? Okay, cool. AHEM… IT’S ALIVE!!!